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The People, the Power and the Public Service: Political Identification during Guinea's General Strikes in 2007


  • Anita Schroven

    1. is a researcher at Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Germany (email: She has conducted research on the local state, governance, decentralization and oral tradition in Guinea as well as on gender and post-conflict integration in Sierra Leone and Liberia. She is the author of the book Women after War (LIT Verlag, 2006).
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  • The research on which this article is based was conducted as part of the project ‘Integration through Marginality: Local state and oral tradition in Guinea’ at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Halle/Saale, Germany). The author would like to thank the editors of this volume, the anonymous reviewers of Development and Change and Christian Højbjerg for their valuable comments on previous drafts.


In francophone West Africa, the term fonctionnaire unambiguously identifies public servants as integral parts of the state apparatus. Yet during general strikes in Guinea in 2006/7 this self-evident association was called into question by the polarization of the public discourse which forced Guineans into associating either with the state or with the protesting people. Based on empirical data from ethnographic fieldwork, this contribution explores how public servants negotiated this tension during and after the upheavals. Their professional (historic) trajectories are constituted by ideological and institutional characteristics of post-colonial state building and are fundamental for the participation of public servants in the changing dynamics of the local political arena. At the same time, these trajectories play an important and pertinent role in the everyday production of state that stabilizes society even during governance crises such as those experienced in Guinea.