In September 1958, the people of Guinea voted for immediate independence from France, overwhelmingly rejecting a constitution that would have granted the territory junior partnership in a French-dominated community. Throughout the vast French empire, Guinea, with a population of only 2.5 million people, was the only territory to vote “No” to the proposition offered by Prime Minister Charles de Gaulle. The referendum’s outcome was a major victory for the Guinean branch of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (RDA), a political party with affiliates in the fourteen territories of French West Africa, French Equatorial Africa, and the United Nations trusts of Togo and Cameroon. While every other RDA branch had fallen into line behind de Gaulle, the Guinean RDA, under the leadership of a charismatic young trade unionist named Sékou Touré, had spearheaded the drive for complete and immediate independence.
The decision to oppose the constitution was made two weeks before the ref- erendum, at a territorial conference attended by some 680 party militants from RDA subsections, neighborhood committees, and village committees from across Guinea. Although Sékou Touré articulated the party’s position, he did not determine it. The final decision was made by the delegates attending the conference, who voted solidly against de Gaulle’s proposition. Sékou Touré’s endorsement of the “No” vote was, in fact, the result of massive pressure from the grassroots.
While the RDA position was elaborated and its victory lauded in La Liberté, the party newspaper read by Western-educated elites, nonliterate women celebrated their triumph in songs they had created for the occasion. Guinean scholar Idiatou Camara recorded one such song during interviews conducted in 1976–1977:
Guinea says “No”
De Gaulle says “Yes”
One must vote “No”
Comrade Sékou Touré, one must choose the “No”
Yes, one must choose the “No,” Sékou Touré
In any case, we have voted “No.”
One month before the referendum, Prime Minister de Gaulle had traveled to Guinea in a futile attempt to sway the vote. At the airport, he was welcomed by Sékou Touré, president of Guinea’s recently established local government, who was attired in the flowing white uniform of the RDA. Hundreds of party militants, dressed in handmade uniforms of cheap white percale, lined the road for fifteen kilometers, from the airport to the city center. As the motorcade approached, they cried, “Syli! Syli!” [“Elephant! Elephant!”]—the symbol of the RDA, and by extension of Sékou Touré personally. Partisans waved homemade posters emblazoned with elephants and plastered them on buildings throughout the capital. As the women danced, accompanied by traditional tam-tams, balafons, and coras, the crowd sang, “The elephant has entered the city!” In his memoirs, de Gaulle recalled: “from the airport to the center of the town the crowd [was] evenly distributed in well-drilled battalions along both sides of the road … The women were lined up in front in their hundreds, each group wearing dresses of the same cut and color, and all, as the procession passed by, jumping, dancing and singing to order.” Later that day, Sékou Touré officially received the French prime minister and addressed the Territorial Assembly, providing colonial authorities with an advance copy of his roneotyped speech.
This confluence of popular and elite nationalism was characteristic of the Guinean RDA, a broad-based ethnic, class, and gender alliance that incorporated Muslims, Christians, and practitioners of indigenous religions. The movement embraced Guinean speakers of Maninka, Susu, Pulaar, Kissi, Kpelle, and Loma, as well as those who spoke languages indigenous to other French African territories. As the RDA struggled to build an independent nation from this heterogeneous base, its message, conveyed by both masses and elites, was simultaneously anticolonial and nationalist.
Although Guinea was alone in its embrace of independence in 1958, it was not unique. In the post–World War II era, nationalist movements burgeoned across the African and Asian continents, resisting imperialism of diverse origins. Other African territories followed Guinea’s lead, and by 1960, most French “possessions” had regained their sovereignty. The Guinean RDA was thus one among scores of African and Asian movements that waged successful struggles for national independence in the postwar period. So, why study the Guinean nationalist movement, and why study it now? Decades after the fact, the Guinean case warrants scholarly consideration for the important lessons it can teach us about anticolonial nationalism in the non-Western world—lessons with enduring relevance. What we learn from the Guinean case will help to push nationalist historiography in new directions.
The study of African and Asian nationalism is not new. In recent years, however, there have been significant shifts in scholarly approach. The wave of anticolonial nationalism that swept Africa and Asia after World War II sparked new interest in what previously had been considered a uniquely European phenomenon. Many of the first studies approached nationalism from the perspective of intellectual history. Exploring the interaction of indigenous and Western ideas, early scholars of Asian nationalism generally focused on religious and secular intellectuals and political elites. Although the history of ideas remains a forceful current in the field, recent studies have paid greater attention to popular mobilization and the importance of peasant and worker movements. While many of these works note that nationalist leaders focused on local grievances and manipulated indigenous symbols and traditions to appeal to mass audiences, most perpetuate the top-down perspective of their predecessors. According to this view, the masses were but recipients of the nationalist message. They were mobilized by the elites; they were not a mobilizing force.
While a number of recent studies make reference to the generation of mass appeal, only a handful scrutinize the actual mechanisms of popular mobilization. Gail Minault and Sandria Freitag examine the ways in which Indian Muslim leaders used religious and cultural symbols and events to unite a heterogeneous Muslim population, mobilizing the literate classes through the vernacular press, leaflets, pamphlets, and poetry, and the nonliterate masses through speeches, slogans, songs, religious processions, and demonstrations. Peter van der Veer has made similar claims for mobilization among Indian Hindus as well as Muslims, while James Gelvin has investigated these issues in Syria, and Nels Johnson and Ted Swedenburg in Palestine. Some of the most insightful work in this area has focused not on anticolonial nationalism, but on internal cultural resurgence in multiethnic, postcolonial nation-states. Pamela Price, for instance, argues in her investigation of Tamil nationalism in India that the Federation for the Progress of Dravidians “developed a new cosmology, a vision of a new society and polity, which was deeply immersed in Tamil images and themes.” Its appeal resonated more strongly among the Tamil population “than the more secular, pan-Indian message of Nehru or the ascetic image of Gandhi.”
While the majority of recent studies continue to treat nationalist mobilization as a one-way street, there are striking exceptions to this trend. Israel Gershoni points out that most works that focus on the dissemination of nationalist ideas from elites to women and “subaltern socioeconomic strata such as the lower middle classes, the working classes, and various levels of the peasantry” tell us very little about the receptivity of these groups to nationalist ideas. We remain ignorant of “the modes in which women, the poor, and the illiterate—constituting the overwhelming majority of the societies in question—reacted to the radicalized upper middle stratum’s struggle against the Westernized `ancien régime.’” Gershoni argues that future studies “must encompass the strains of nationalism from below percolating upward as a supplement to the research on [educated urban elite]-driven nationalism trickling downward.”
The nationalist historiography of Africa, like that of Asia, has changed dramatically in recent years. Since the early 1950s, scholars of Africa have investigated nationalist movements and nation-building endeavors that were both heir to the European revolutionary and liberal traditions of 1789 and 1848 and the product of indigenous grassroots movements. The earliest studies emphasized the leadership role of Western-educated elites who organized political movements grounded in Western concepts of democracy and national self-determination. To be successful, these movements had to be able to generate mass support, which they did by mobilizing around preexisting grievances and promising to resolve them through the attainment of national independence. While acknowledging the critical nature of mass involvement, pioneers in this field, like their counterparts in Asia, generally focused on the political leadership.
In the late 1960s, as social history gained prominence in the discipline, scholars of African nationalism began to shift their focus to “the role of ordinary … Africans.” John Lonsdale, an eminent member of this group, argued that “scholarly preoccupation with élites will only partially illumine the mainsprings of nationalism.” He claimed that “the pressures of the peasantry at the periphery were at least as important in breaking down the colonial governments’ morale as the demands of the élite at the centre.” In the post–World War II era, increased government intrusion into the lives of ordinary Africans “resulted in a national revolution coalescing from below, co-ordinated rather than instigated by the educated élite.” According to Lonsdale, it was the grassroots that “provided much of [the nationalist movement’s] dynamism and direction.”
It was left for later generations to show how “ordinary Africans” accomplished this spectacular feat. In her pathbreaking work on nationalism in colonial Tanzania, Susan Geiger focused on the role of nonliterate women. She argued that these women did not “learn nationalism” from the Western-educated male elites who dominated party politics. Instead, women without formal education brought to the party “an ethos of nationalism already present as trans-ethnic, trans-tribal social and cultural identity. This ethos was expressed collectively in their dance and other organizations, and reflected in their families of origin as well as in marriages that frequently crossed ethnic divisions.” Such women were “a major force in constructing, embodying, and performing Tanzanian nationalism.” Thus, Tanzanian women were a driving force behind a movement in which African and European ideas interacted to form a new synthesis, one that was uniquely suited to the African context. Geiger’s work on Tanzanian women inspires similar questions about the role of other grassroots actors. What part did military veterans, urban workers, and rural agriculturalists play in shaping nationalist movements from the bottom up?
The importance of mass mobilization to the Guinean nationalist endeavor has been noted by several scholars. However, few have examined the popular aspects of the movement in detail. Ruth Schachter Morgenthau, Jean Suret-Canale, Claude Rivière, Victor Du Bois, and L. Gray Cowan have commented on the popular foundations of the Guinean RDA, but their primary focus has been on colonial reforms, electoral politics, and male party leaders. Their works do not explore the mechanisms by which people were mobilized or the ways in which the rank and file influenced party methods and programs. Guinean historian Sidiki Kobélé Kéïta has written the most comprehensive, if largely uncritical, account of the Guinean nationalist movement. His two-volume study devotes considerable attention to elite electoral politics, and some to the movement’s popular roots. However, the specific tactics of mass mobilization are not scrutinized. The central role of women is mentioned, but the dynamics of their participation are not explored in depth.  Although some other works remark upon the crucial nature of women’s involvement, few offer an analysis of women’s motivations, methods, and visions of a transformed society or discuss their role in shaping the nationalist movement and defining the terms of the debate. A notable exception is Idiatou Camara’s unpublished undergraduate thesis, which demonstrates the ways in which urban women helped to construct Guinea’s nationalist movement and were critical to its success. Unfortunately, this unique work, preserved in Guinea’s national archives, is available only in that country.
If the focus on popular mobilization is one trend in recent nationalist scholarship, criticism of the negative qualities of nationalism is another. In the 1950s and 1960s, nationalism in Africa and Asia was associated positively with anticolonialism and popular liberation. A generation later, however, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, and internal struggles in a number of African and Asian countries, nationalism acquired a highly negative connotation. Ethnic chauvinism and ethnically motivated atrocities overwhelmed the positive characteristics associated with earlier nationalist movements. Increasingly, nationalism was deemed a negative force, promoting ethnic, linguistic, and religious homogeneity, brutally excluding—or eliminating—those considered outsiders. These illiberal, counterrevolutionary forces had much in common with the right-wing nationalisms of Europe in the “Age of Empire” (1880–1914), when, in the words of E. J. Hobsbawm, “ethnicity and language became the central … or even the only criteria of potential nationhood.” In the case of Europe, and later Africa and Asia, “a concept associated with liberalism and the left [mutated] into a chauvinist, imperialist and xenophobic movement of the right, or more precisely, the radical right.” In Guinea, the RDA was forced to confront these narrow, ethnically exclusive tendencies, both within its own ranks and in those of the ethnic associations promoted by the colonial government and its African supporters.
Nationalism thus remains a hotly debated topic with undeniable relevance to the contemporary world. We revisit the case of Guinea, a small West African nation that won its independence from France in 1958, because its local lessons enhance our understanding of global trends. While earlier studies have reevaluated particular aspects of the African nationalist experience, none has attempted to integrate these parts into a fully reconceptualized whole. Building upon these works, this article elaborates a new framework in which to consider the nationalist movement of postwar Guinea. It raises theoretical and methodological issues that fundamentally alter the way in which we understand anticolonial nationalism in the non-Western world.
An examination of the Guinean case leads to three theoretical conclusions. First, anticolonial nationalism, in many instances, embraces heterogeneous populations that are ethnically and religiously diverse. As such, it belongs to a progressive political tradition that one might call “inclusive nationalism.” Second, while anticolonial nationalist movements have been led by educated elites, often inspired by European ideals, elites did not instigate the anticolonial protests. Rather, they built their base among popular groups already engaged in struggle against the colonial state. They identified issues around which the masses were already mobilizing and incorporated them into the nationalist agenda. These agendas were successful largely because they were deeply rooted in mass concerns, rather than imposed from above or outside. Third, conceptualizing the nation was a two-way street. Masses as well as elites had an impact on the ideas, objectives, strategies, and methods of the nationalist leaders. While elites brought European ideas and models of nationalism to the table, the nonliterate majority brought others that were embedded in indigenous histories, practices, and beliefs.
Finally, an assessment of the Guinean case leads to an important observation about mobilizing methods. It shows us how people were mobilized—the mechanisms and processes by which mass mobilization occurred. While some indigenous cultural practices and images were co-opted by elites and presented to the populace, the people themselves brought others to the movement. Again, we see that the masses were not simply an “audience” for elite-inspired nationalism, nor the “transmitters” of a message formulated for them. The songs and slogans employed by nonliterate people to communicate the nationalist message were not composed by party leaders on their behalf. Rather, people without formal education created these devices to communicate among themselves, to transmit their own messages to the elites, and to interpret elite messages in terms meaningful to themselves.
The postwar Guinean movement, spearheaded by the RDA, was not only vehemently anticolonial, but also nationalist and inclusive. It was the conscious struggle to bridge ethnic, class, and gender differences that made the Guinean movement so effective and placed it squarely in the progressive political tradition of the European revolutionary era (1789–1848). Much of the Guinean population shared a precolonial history. A large proportion shared a religion. All had mutually understood experiences and grievances resulting from French colonialism. Together, these formed a common basis that allowed a nation to be forged from a multilingual, ethnically heterogeneous population.
While the movement’s leadership was composed of Western-educated elites whose views of democracy and national self-determination were derived largely from European models, its strength lay in its solid support among peasants, workers, veterans, and women. The Guinean nationalist movement was successful because it built its base among these groups, which were already engaged in anticolonial protest. It was their grievances that drove the nationalist agenda and their energies that were harnessed in the struggle for national independence.
If grassroots activists shaped Guinea’s nationalist agenda, they also influenced its form. Indigenous cultural practices were adapted—by elites and nonelites alike—to transmit the new nationalist message. While print media contributed to the spread of nationalist ideas in nineteenth-century Europe, books and newspapers were less significant in Guinea, where mass education had yet to be realized. Mobilizing the largely nonliterate population required new methods of communication, notably songs, symbols, and uniforms. The majority of songs were composed by nonliterate women, who sang their nationalist message at public water taps, taxi stands, and marketplaces. Symbols and uniforms also had popular origins that spoke to mass sentiments and were integral to grassroots organizing efforts.
If nationalist historiography has undergone a major transformation, so, too, has the meaning of “the nation.” In 1882, the French philosopher Ernest Renan contested the nineteenth-century German romantic notion of the nation as a primordial, ethnically and culturally bound entity. The nation is not based upon race, ethnicity, language, or religion, he wrote, but rather on a shared past and a vision of a common future. More than a century later, Miroslav Hroch built upon these ideas, arguing that the nation is not an “eternal category, but … the product of a long and complicated process of historical development” that cannot be reduced to an ethnicity or language group. Rather, Hroch claims, the nation is “a large social group integrated not by one but by a combination of several kinds of objective relationships (economic, political, linguistic, cultural, religious, geographical, historical), and their subjective reflection in collective consciousness.” Similarly, Benedict Anderson describes the nation as “an imagined political community” that is sovereign and contained within defined territorial boundaries. The community is “imagined” because most of its members are strangers to one another, yet they consider themselves bound together in emotional solidarity as well as in a sovereign political entity.
According to these definitions of “the nation,” broader and more nuanced than some that had previously prevailed, Guinea in the postwar period was unquestionably a nation-in-the-making. More than any other Guinean party, the RDA consciously and successfully shaped a national rather than an ethnic identity. Although characterized by its opponents as a party of Malinke and Susu with strong anti-Peul undercurrents, the Guinean RDA prided itself on its multiethnic membership and its particular appeal to the lower classes of all ethnic groups. The party’s allure for Néné Diallo is a case in point. A low-status cloth-dyer, Diallo was among the first Peul women to join the RDA. “The RDA welcomed everyone,” she claimed. “It treated everyone like family. It did not discriminate against the downtrodden or the poor.” While many of her family members joined opposing parties such as the Bloc Africain de Guinée and Démocratie Socialiste de Guinée, both of which were led by Peul notables, Diallo was adamant in her support for the RDA. Likening members of her ethnic group to family, Diallo contended,
It all depended upon who helped me. The other ones did nothing for me … Diawadou [leader of the Bloc Africain de Guinée] is my kin. Barry III [leader of the Démocratie Socialiste de Guinée] is my kin … Even if they were my mother, I would not support them … Sékou worked for us. Allah and his Envoy are my witness. He told us he had no material things to offer, but he stood up for us and respected us. That is why we followed him … Although Sékou did not give us anything, he cared for us.
To build an inclusive nation, the Guinean RDA, under the leadership of Western-educated elites, constructed a broad ethnic, class, and gender alliance that was heir to a long European, and particularly French, tradition. With its emphasis on individual rights and liberties and government by the governed, it was, in part, a product of the European Enlightenment. As a mass movement for “the self-determination of peoples,” popular sovereignty, and citizenship, led by an aspiring intellectual elite against an oppressive, hierarchical state, it was also an outgrowth of the French Revolution and influenced by subsequent European nationalist movements. Rather than rejecting the modern nation-state as an alien institution imposed on African society by colonial rule, nationalist leaders charged that the state had failed because its work was incomplete. The colonial state was, in Partha Chatterjee’s words, “restricting and even violating the true principles of modern government” by denying inalienable rights to colonized peoples.
The presence of European ideas in African political thought was a product of French colonialism—the unintended outcome of French assimilationist policies. When Guinea was colonized in 1891, the colonial administration, along with its missionary assistants, embarked upon a self-described “civilizing mission” with the goal of transforming an elite corps of Africans into “Black Frenchmen.” This small group of assimilated Africans, or évolués, would serve as intermediaries between the government and the populace and work in European-owned enterprises. With a strong emphasis on “practical” education, especially in the poorly funded, lower-echelon rural schools, the African curriculum was designed to be devoid of subjects that might develop thought and hone analytical skills. However, some European ideas infiltrated the curriculum, as colonial educators denigrated African cultures, deplored African customs, and ignored African history—in favor of that which was French.
While many évolués embraced French civilization, some of the most assimilated challenged French cultural hegemony with their own. As schoolchildren, they had been prohibited from speaking their own languages and denied the opportunity to explore their own pasts. The most successful among them were rewarded with higher education abroad. On the eve of World War II, an elite group of African and Caribbean intellectuals in Paris rebelled against their growing sense of rootlessness and alienation. Under the leadership of Léopold Senghor of Senegal and Aimé Césaire of Martinique, they launched the Négritude movement. While Europeans championed Western civilization as the epitome of human achievement, practitiotioners of Négritude pointed to the West’s legacy of brutality, exploitation, and alienation. In contrast, they posited African cultures, which, they claimed, promoted peace, harmony, and community. Through poetry, essays, novels, and plays, these cultural nationalists stressed a common African essence, a system of shared values and beliefs that laid the foundations for nationalist movements in the political realm.
Although few Guineans achieved the educational qualifications necessary to study in France, the ideas of Négritude reached elites in Guinea through Senghor’s literary and scholarly journal, Présence Africaine. Published simultaneously in Dakar and Paris, the journal was circulated among Western-educated intellectuals in Guinea. While the ideas promoted by Senghor and his colleagues certainly influenced some Guinean nationalists, proponents of class analysis, including Sékou Touré and interterritorial RDA leader Gabriel d’Arboussier, rejected the racially based theories of Négritude, claiming that they obscured the socioeconomic roots of oppression and distracted the masses from the class struggle.
On the eve of World War II, Négritude was joined by other critiques of colonialism that had germinated on African soil. These, too, were influenced by European ideas. Just as African intellectuals in France challenged the premises of assimilation, French intellectuals in Africa defied the mandate to only partially educate their African charges. During the Popular Front government of 1936–1938, a growing number of French teachers pushed the boundaries of the African curriculum, extolling the republican principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity and championing the universal rights of man. Moving onto terrain considered dangerous by both previous and subsequent governments, they taught the history of the French Revolution along with practical skills and the elements of literacy.
The belief in the universal rights of man, as embodied in French civilization, was the cornerstone of French assimilationist policies. The 1789 “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen” promoted radical ideas that bolstered the Guinean nationalist cause. Those exposed to the text learned that “Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights.” In striking contrast to their experience under French colonialism, they read that “The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man,” including “liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.” While their people were ruled by governmental decree, Guinean students learned that “Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to take part personally or through his representative in its formation.” Thus, the rows of African schoolchildren who dutifully chanted, “Nos Ancêtres les Gaulois” imbibed revolutionary lessons as well. Embracing the notion of French universalism, African elites incorporated many of its tenets into their nationalist ideology. African trade unionists and military veterans, who seized upon French claims of universalism to demand equal treatment, were a critical component of the Guinean nationalist movement.
If the Enlightenment and the French Revolution of 1789 laid the foundations for European nationalist endeavors, the continent-wide revolutions of 1848 resulted in the widespread building of modern nation-states based on liberal republican ideals. Struggling against the tyranny of monarchs ruling over large multiethnic empires, proponents of European nationalism supported their claims for national independence by asserting that “no people ought to be exploited and ruled by another.” While concurring that certain fundamental features distinguished one people from another, they contended that those differences were not reducible to ethnic or linguistic traits. According to Hobsbawm, “French nationality was French citizenship: ethnicity, history, the language or patois spoken at home, were irrelevant to the definition of `the nation.’” It was assumed that small ethnic groups would necessarily be joined into larger, economically and politically viable territorial states. It was this broad-based, multiethnic nationalism that took root in Guinea a century later. In Guinea, as in France, nationality was equated with citizenship, rather than ethnicity or language.
The foundations laid by the European Enlightenment and subsequent revolutions were built upon by French Communists. Because their opposition to imperialism resonated strongly with African intellectuals, members of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) had a tremendous influence on African elites educated during the 1930s and 1940s. Since the establishment of the Popular Front government in 1936, French Communists had worked in French West and Equatorial Africa as teachers, technicians, and military officers. They had taught at the prestigious federal school École Normale William Ponty in Senegal, and at the upper primary and vocational schools in Conakry and other major cities. They had helped to establish a number of Groupes d’études Communistes (GECs), where African intellectuals studied Marxist-Leninist theories and applied them to the political, economic, and social conditions of their own territories. Leadership and organizational training were also provided by the Communist-affiliated trade union movement, the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT). Numerous RDA stalwarts, including Sékou Touré, emerged from the GEC/CGT milieu, which deeply influenced their organizing skills, strategies, and ideology. They consciously modeled the RDA’s structure and orientation on those of the PCF. It was to French Communists, as much as to nineteenth-century nationalists, that the RDA owed the notion of a broad-based nationalist alliance forged from a heterogeneous, sometimes divided, population.
The construction of an inclusive nationalist alliance was the product of struggle. Guinea in the 1950s was anything but a homogeneous society. It was multilingual and multiethnic and included people of diverse religious backgrounds. Despite the nation-building efforts of party leaders, the battle to forge an ethnic, class, and gender alliance was fraught with tensions and marred by setbacks. Female emancipation, regional and ethnic inclusiveness, and the growing role of Western-educated elites were heavily contested at the grassroots. While RDA leaders remained deeply committed to inclusive nation-building, they struggled to convince the swelling grassroots membership on this point. While tensions sometimes percolated to the surface, there existed in Guinea what Karl Deutsch calls a “wide complementarity of social communication,” which allowed Guineans to “communicate more effectively” among themselves than with others who might speak the same languages and belong to the same ethnic groups.
The “complementarity of social communication” in Guinea was predicated on the territory’s shared history. Parts of Guinea had been incorporated into multiethnic political, economic, religious, and cultural systems long before European conquest. For centuries, Malinke trading networks and their associated Muslim communities had connected diverse parts of what would become modern Guinea. Jallonke (Susu, Limba, Landuma, Baga, Bassari) and Fulbe (Peul and Tukulor) residents of the Futa Jallon traded extensively with coastal peoples.[65[ In the eighteenth century, the Fulbe jihads brought the Futa Jallon under unified political and religious control. In the nineteenth century, the politico-religious empires of the Tukulor leader, El-Hadj Umar b. Said Tall, and the Malinke leader, Samori Touré, brought together vast expanses of territory that included much of modern Guinea and its neighbors. Many Guineans had, in Hobsbawm’s words, “the consciousness of … having belonged to a lasting political entity.” This legacy of political, economic, religious, and cultural interaction linked Guineans to one another and to peoples in neighboring territories.
Precolonial African political leaders, particularly those who had resisted French conquest, were championed by the postwar nationalist movement—their subjugation and enslavement of African peoples minimized, if not erased from historical memory. Samori Touré was particularly revered for his seventeen-year conflict with the French, which had staved off colonial rule for nearly two decades. To Guineans during the nationalist period, Samori was promoted not as a Malinke leader, but as a common ancestor who belonged to all Guineans.
The Guinean RDA skillfully used the history of resistance to colonial conquest to rally people to the leadership of its secretary-general, Sékou Touré, a great-grandson of Samori Touré, and to inspire renewed resistance to colonial rule. Making a veiled reference to Samori’s enslavement of conquered peoples, the RDA noted, “If Samory Touré can make you slaves, Sékou Touré can make you free.” The party also promoted other historic resisters, consciously selecting representatives from Guinea’s major regions and ethnic groups. Among the most prominent were rival Peul politico-religious leaders from the Futa Jallon, Almamy Bokar Biro Barry of Timbo and Chief Alfa Yaya Diallo of Labé; N’Zébéla Togba Pivi, a Loma war chief from the forest region; and Cerno Aliou, the Wali of Gumba, a Peul religious leader whose egalitarian Islamic movement attracted the lower classes and was crushed by the colonial administration.
If a common past was one unifying factor in Guinea, shared religion—at least by a substantial majority—was another. Nearly three-quarters of the Guinean population was Muslim, while a significant minority was Christian. Christian missionaries had attracted some converts among the Baga (subsequently incorporated into the Susu) in the coastal areas. They had had some success in the forest region, which, apart from Malinke trading communities, Islam had failed to penetrate. However, they had made little headway among devout Muslims in Upper Guinea and the Futa Jallon. Other Christians in Guinea included civil servants from diverse parts of the French empire, along with their descendants. Apart from Muslims and Christians, a minority of the population, particularly in the coastal and forest regions, continued to practice indigenous religions.
Despite the fact that the colonizers were largely Christian, the nationalist movement did not assume an anti-Christian fervor. Rather than lashing out at Christian infidels, RDA leaders, like others in Africa and Asia, stressed the positive attributes of Islam and their compatibility with the nationalist program. An article in the Guinean RDA newspaper, La Liberté, noted “the total identity of the RDA’s programme of emancipation with the liberating principles of justice and hope in Islam.” A regular attendee at Friday religious services, Sékou Touré frequented a different mosque each week, widely publicizing his relationship with Islam. During Friday prayers, worshipers were reminded of the commonalities between adherents of Islam and the RDA. Prayers such as the following drew parallels between the struggles of the two communities:
God is great
It is hard
To bring unbelievers
Into the brotherhood of believers
But we need the die-hards
To spur us on.
Verses from the first chapter of the Qurn (the fatiha) were commonly recited at RDA meetings and for workers during highly politicized strikes.  Islamic practices—including Qurnic readings, the daily regimen of prayers, and religious festivals and holy days—provided the common symbols, rituals, and collective practices that, in Hobsbawm’s words, gave “a palpable reality to otherwise imaginary community.” 
If some of these practices were initiated by RDA leaders, others clearly emanated from the grassroots. In a manuscript based largely on interviews with female militants, Idiatou Camara notes that at baptisms and other gatherings, RDA women recited verses from the fatiha to “curse the traitors of the fatherland” and to bind loyalists to the party. Whenever a member of a rival party was converted to the RDA, he or she ate the “bread of fatiha,” over which those assembled had intoned Qurnic verses “to express their firm conviction and faith in the RDA.” 
The close association of Sékou Touré’s work with Allah’s Will was another politico-religious practice of local origin. Grassroots activists readily linked the names of Sékou Touré, Allah, and Mohammed. Recalling the day she was recruited into the RDA, Aissatou N’Diaye reminisced that she and Mafory Bangoura had been called to a meeting with Sékou Touré:
Upon our arrival, he asked us to help him mobilize women … He also said that he had nothing material, not money or gold, to offer in return. If the women would help him, they would do it for the love of Allah, his Envoy, and their cause … He asked us to do this work in the name of Allah and his Prophet, Mohammed.
Similarly, police reports describe groups of RDA members crisscrossing the capital city, “singing praises to the Blessed of Allah, Sékou Touré.” In one song, women beseeched Allah to bless Sékou Touré, “savior of the orphans and the Muslims.” In another, party members proclaimed that both God and his Prophet favored the elephant—the emblem of both Sékou Touré and the RDA:
God wants the elephant
Muhammad the Prophet wants the elephant
You went to Paris
You returned from Paris
Your face shows
That even the people of Paris
Want the elephant.
At the funeral of M’Balia Camara, the RDA’s first woman martyr, party officials were followed by a procession of men, women, and children singing RDA songs and chanting verses of the Qurn mingled with the name of Sékou Touré. 
If Islam was a binding force, so too were pre-Islamic religious practices. Grassroots activists, rather than party leaders, first associated indigenous religious beliefs and symbols with the nationalist cause.  Numerous accounts link the RDA to Bassikolo, a spirit represented by a sacred tree in the Conakry neighborhood of Tumbo. Revered as the guardian of women and children, Bassikolo was believed to grant them wishes, to protect them from illness, and to ensure women’s fertility. Just as some women read from the Qurn to convene RDA and trade union meetings, others began by asking for Bassikolo’s assistance. They also sought his help during electoral campaigns, beseeching him to aid in the party’s triumph.  After sweeping electoral victories in 1956, for instance, the RDA neighborhood committee in Tumbo organized a dance in Bassikolo’s honor. Before a crowd of some two thousand people, speakers thanked the spirit for helping the party realize its electoral goals and requested his continued assistance in the future. 
According to Fatou Khimely, women who invoked Bassikolo customarily assumed male garb and social roles. To call forth the spirit for the new political endeavor, women also “wore trousers and cursed the enemies of the RDA.” Women’s assumption of male clothing and gender roles in times of crisis was rooted in precolonial cultural practices. In the forest region, for instance, women historically took collective action against men who abused their wives and failed to mend their ways. Dressed as male warriors and armed with sharp knives they called “penis cutters,” women surrounded the offending parties’ homes. While the women pounded on the buildings with clubs, no man dared to show his face. This precolonial gender practice, and its extension to the political realm under colonial rule, bears a striking resemblance to that of Igbo women in southeastern Nigeria, where, Judith Van Allen notes, “making war” or “sitting on a man” was women’s “ultimate sanction.”
If many Guineans shared a precolonial history and religious and cultural practices, all were bound by the common history of French colonialism. Even before Guinea’s colonization, Renan recognized that “suffering in common unifies more than joy does.” He noted that shared grievances are the critical constituent of national memories because “they impose duties, and require a common effort.” In fact, he claimed, a nation is “a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future.”
Despite Renan’s prescient words, French officials failed to recognize the uniunifying power of shared suffering under colonialism. To the government, “Guinea” was merely an “administrative unit,” with no natural claim to nation-statehood. From the perspective of ethnicity, linguistics, and geography, its borders were arbitrary. Historically, the logic of its boundaries corresponded with nothing more than the extent of imperial conquest and “effective occupation,” legitimized by the General Act of the 1884–1885 Berlin Conference. However, Hobsbawm writes, “The unity imposed by conquest and administration might … produce a people that saw itself as a `nation.’” Such was the case in Guinea.
The people of Guinea experienced French colonialism as Guineans—not as Malinkes, Susus, or Peuls. They were subjected to taxation, forced labor, military conscription, and the arbitrary “justice” of the indigénat as Africans, not as members of particular ethnic groups. As Guineans, they participated in the same political and economic systems, within geographic boundaries created by the colonial power. Despite their variety in language and ethnicity, they shared symbols, memories, and historical experiences that permitted them to communicate more effectively with other Guineans than with outsiders. Increasingly during the 1950s, this shared experience was reflected in their collective consciousness of themselves as Guineans.
The Guinean RDA was by no means the only postwar African movement to promote national over regional and ethnic identity and to root national identity in shared suffering under colonialism. However, it was among the first. Kevin Dunn’s observations concerning the nationalist ideology of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba are apt for the Guinean RDA, which led Guinea to independence nearly two years before the Congo achieved its own. Influenced by the anticolonial, nationalist, and Pan-African ideas that prevailed at the All-African People’s Conference convened by Sékou Touré, Kwame Nkrumah, and others in December 1958, Lumumba emphasized national over ethnic and regional identity, accepting “the colonially constructed space of the Congo” as the basis of an independent nation-state. While his rivals “privileged smaller, fragmented spaces bound by ethnicity, language, or regional memories, Lumumba tied Congolese identity to the larger colonially demarcated space of the Congo.” In an effort to create a unified identity for people of diverse ethnic origins from all parts of the territory, Lumumba “ground[ed] Congolese identity in the collective social memories of suffering at the hands of Belgian colonizers.” In Guinea, the RDA had promoted a similar inclusive nationalist philosophy.
If the shared history of the Guinean people was rooted in the precolonial past and strengthened by the common experience of colonialism, the identity of Guinea as a nation was still developing in the late colonial period. France, like other colonial powers, maintained control through policies of divide and rule. Existent social cleavages were reinforced, and new ones created, through colonial policies. Layers of African intermediaries—government-appointed chiefs, colonial soldiers, and police—became the focal point of popular anger, diverting attention from the Europeans at the reins of power. It was the task of Guinea’s nationalist leaders to shift the focus and demonstrate common cause.
Although Guinea had the makings of a nation-state, the postwar anticolonial movement was not automatically a nationalist one. Rather, it was consciously molded as such. Nation-building was a long, arduous process that began during the anticolonial struggle and continued after political independence. According to John Breuilly, “the nation” was not only “a body of citizens claiming independence on the basis of universal human rights,” it was also “a project, a unity to be fashioned out of the fight for independence and in the new era of freedom.” It was the conscious struggle to bridge ethnic, class, and gender divisions—and the ultimate success of that endeavor—that made the nationalist movement in Guinea so extraordinary.
Who were the actors in this remarkable movement of masses and elites? Guinea’s nationalist leaders, who articulated the broad-based progressive nationalism of revolutionary Europe, were the product of French assimilation policies, as well as a colonial educational system that was limited in both scope and substance. Graduates of programs designed to create an elite cadre—rather than a mass—of “Black Frenchmen,” they belonged to a select, almost exclusively male, fraternity. While most went no further than primary school in their home regions, those who progressed to more advanced schooling in the capital found peers of diverse ethnic origins from across the territory. As new friendships were cemented through the new vernacular (French), ethnic barriers were weakened and cast aside. These new Western-educated elites increasingly thought of themselves as Guinean, rather than Malinke, Susu, or Peul.
In postwar Guinea, formal education remained the luxury of a few, and that education was rudimentary. There was no schooling beyond lower primary (sixth grade) in most parts of the country, and no education beyond upper primary (ninth grade) anywhere in the territory. The largest administrative districts were equipped with lower primary schools (écoles primaires élémentaires), which provided a maximum of six years of schooling to those who could afford it. Possession of a lower primary school certificate, certificat d’études primaires élémentaires (CEP), was sufficient for employment in the cadre subalterne, the lowest rung of the French civil service. Another three years of education were provided by the upper primary school (école primaire supérieure [EPS]) in the capital city. EPS graduates joined the middle-level government cadres (cadres moyens or cadres locaux). At the end of World War II, Guinea possessed only one upper primary school and one vocational school, both in Conakry. In 1945, with a population of just over two million, Guinea had only 7,900 pupils in upper and lower primary and vocational schools. Of the total, 7,417 were in the lower primary grades, and only 606 of these were girls. Thus, at the end of World War II, the number of Guinean évolués was minuscule—and virtually all of them were male.
Students seeking education beyond the primary grades had to leave Guinea. Each year, a small number of EPS graduates won the right to attend one of the highly selective federal schools, which drew the best and the brightest from all the territories of French West Africa. The most prestigious of the federal schools was the école Normale William Ponty, located near Dakar, Senegal. Ponty students were trained to be teachers, assistant doctors, and assistant pharmacists, and for other civil service posts in the cadre commun secondaire. Although they constituted the elite among African civil servants, Ponty graduates could never rise to the top of the civil service system. Their diplomas had no equivalence outside French West Africa. Thus, they could not accede to the cadre supérieur, reserved for those with French diplomas. With its relatively undeveloped educational system, postwar Guinea boasted very few Ponty graduates. In 1948, for instance, only eleven new Guinean students were admitted to the school.
Given the paucity of private investment, discrimination by European-owned enterprises, and obligations stemming from state-subsidized studies, most Western-educated Africans joined the colonial bureaucracy. They served in a wide range of civil service positions, as teachers, clerks, and accountants; postal, telegraph, and telephone workers; and assistant doctors, pharmacists, and veterinarians. Because they were invested in the colonial system—and risked their livelihoods if they contested state policies—many civil servants, especially those in the highest ranks, joined officially sanctioned regional and ethnic parties and supported government directives. Most Ponty graduates fell within this category. Hence, Morgenthau notes, Guinean RDA leaders frequently “accused the Ponty graduates of betraying the masses, and called them the valets of the administration.”
The relatively privileged position of federal school graduates in the colonial system was one reason that they were generally hostile to the RDA. Class snobbery was another. Many considered the Guinean RDA leader, Sékou Touré, to be beneath them.  Sékou Touré had attended Qurnic school, lower primary school, and the vocational school in Conakry. When he entered the civil service, he became a postal clerk. Continuing his studies by correspondence, he ultimately qualified to work as an accountant in the Treasury.  Despite his comparatively advanced level of education, Sékou Touré was derided by his more credentialed rivals as an “illiterate,” or at most a man with “a sixth-grade education.” Even among his supporters, there was sometimes a note of disdain. A Peul aristocrat, Ponty graduate, and teacher, Bocar Biro Barry was unusual in his support for the RDA.  When he discussed Sékou Touré, however, his assessment was tinged with elitism: “Sékou was practically illiterate. He only had the CEP … [His rivals] said, `Sékou, who is that? That’s an illiterate. He doesn’t know anything.’ Because, effectively, he was self-taught. You know, as a diploma, he only had the certificat d’études [primaires élémentaires].” 
Although some Ponty graduates joined the RDA, most Guinean RDA leaders were the product of lower state schools. Equipped with only primary school certificates, they staffed the lower echelons of the colonial bureaucracy. Accorded a modicum of privilege that distinguished them from the nonliterate masses, but not enough to render them equal to Frenchmen, this class of intended collaborators grew increasingly frustrated by their unequal treatment and inability to rise above the lowest ranks of government service. Commenting on the uncertain loyalty of these lower-level elites, the governor of Guinea observed, “The most dubious elements are found among the semi-évolués, who sometimes have a fault-finding, duplicitous attitude, and who are on the lookout for any occasion to criticize and make demands.” It was these angry intellectuals who first agitated for a greater voice in political affairs and then spearheaded opposition to colonial rule.
If elites are the first to imagine a nation, they cannot make their vision a reality without the support of a mass movement. The nationalist program, by its very nature, requires an alliance of divergent interests—an “imagined community” of comrades that masks any exploitation and inequality within it. In Guinea, the RDA’s success was due to its ability to form a formidable ethnic, class, and gender alliance. It was this broad-based alliance that made the Guinean RDA a mass movement and permitted it to trump rivals that were constrained by their narrow ethnic, regional, and elite male focus.
While the nationalist movement in Guinea was led by intellectual elites with their own vision of “the nation,” it was first and foremost a movement of the masses—of peasants, workers, veterans, and women. The RDA did not introduce these actors to politics. Rather, during World War II and its aftermath, these groups instigated a panoply of anticolonial actions. Here I take issue with Breuilly, who contends that nationalist leaders generally “forge links with large parts of the population hitherto uninvolved in politics,” and Tom Nairn, who asserts that the emergence of modern nationalism “was tied to the political baptism of the lower classes.” I argue instead that the Guinean RDA targeted social groups already engaged in struggle against the colonial state: military veterans and urban workers fighting for equality with their metropolitan counterparts; male and female peasants burdened by the war effort and the demands of government-appointed chiefs; and urban women unable to provide for their families during the postwar economic crisis. Embracing the particular causes of these social groups, the RDA harnessed their energies and enticed them into the broader nationalist movement.
Key to the RDA’s success was its focus on groups that had already mobilized themselves. It forged an unlikely alliance through consistent focus on areas of common interest determined by the groups involved: forced labor in the rural areas; abuses by government-appointed chiefs; racial discrimination in wages, benefits, and social services; and the promotion of health, sanitation, and educational programs and facilities. While other political parties concentrated on so-called “traditional” elites—chiefs, notables, and their allies—the RDA consciously focused on the majority of the population, polling their grievances and channeling their discontent.
In the case of labor, active opposition to state demands began during the war, when thousands of forced laborers resisted the impositions of the war effort by deserting their workplaces. When forced labor was officially abolished in April 1946, tens of thousands of rural workers vacated their stations en masse. Official records reveal an extraordinary picture of labor unrest throughout the territory. This rural-based labor activity predated the trade union organizing that swept the urban areas in the late 1940s and early 1950s. While they focused on the urban rather than the rural areas, trade unions attempted to harness the popular discontent of workers that emanated from the grassroots. The RDA, in turn, built a powerful base in the urban working class.
Likewise, it was the rural populace, rather than RDA leaders, who initiated popular resistance to the colonial chieftaincy. Serving as local agents of the colonial administration, canton and village chiefs forcibly recruited labor and military conscripts, requisitioned cash crops, and exacted onerous taxes from the rural population. They frequently abused their powers for personal ends, extorting labor, cash, crops, and livestock for their own use. Rural women, who were forced to perform much of the chiefs’ unpaid labor and frequently were subjected to sexual abuse, were among the most vociferous and active opponents of the chieftaincy. So, too, were returning military veterans. Forcibly conscripted from the rural areas, these men had suffered devastating wartime experiences and postwar deprivations. Inspired by anti-fascist and anti-Nazi rhetoric, angered by their unequal treatment in comparison to their French counterparts, many veterans were deeply resentful of colonial authorities—be they European or African.
For the most part, colonial chiefs staunchly opposed the RDA, which seriously undermined their power base. With significant coercive powers at the local level, they were the primary obstacle to RDA expansion in the rural areas. Capitalizing on preexisting rural sentiment, the RDA helped to articulate grievances against the chiefs and coordinate the spontaneous actions of the population. Although it was the RDA, within the framework of limited self-government, that abolished the institution of the chieftaincy in 1957, it was a decade-long popular revolt that made that action possible. Had the institution survived, the referendum that brought national independence in 1958 might well have had a different outcome.
The first Guinean leaders to understand the importance of mass politics and the necessity of building a popular base were not the Ponty-educated intellectuals. Rather, they were trade union leaders, whose lives were closely linked to those of the nonliterate masses. Few of these men had advanced beyond lower primary or technical school. Even fewer had had opportunities to study outside of Guinea. The most prescient of these leaders was Sékou Touré. In 1945, Sékou Touré, then a young postal clerk, helped to establish a trade union for African postal, telegraph, and telephone workers. The following year, he organized the Union des Syndicats Confédérés de Guinée, which brought together all the Guinean affiliates of the French Communist Party–linked CGT. The CGT unions united workers of various ethnicities and civil service rankings, as well as previously neglected “auxiliaries,” who had no permanent civil service status. In 1948, Sékou Touré toured the territory, making contact with skilled and unskilled workers and Western-educated civil servants. He instigated the establishment of CGT branches in most of the major administrative districts. By 1952, the Guinean CGT boasted some three thousand members in twenty affiliated unions.
While the CGT unions included Western-educated civil servants, they were dominated numerically by nonliterate workers. It was the deep involvement of Sékou Touré with the latter that distinguished him from many of his peers. According to Bocar Biro Barry, Sékou Touré “created his trade union from the illiterates.” He organized domestic servants, dock workers, laundrymen, and orderlies. Gradually, he added low-level government clerks. The CGT unions, in turn, served as the base for his political organizing. According to Barry,
It was in this way that he created his trade union. It was in this way that he created his party. He found the elements of his party through the trade union—because the party was created from domestic servants, dock workers, and orderlies … He first put himself at the level of the lowliest people in order to try to climb … He was much smarter than [his opponents]. He began with nothing. He said, “We are the poor. I am with the poor. The teachers, they are bourgeois. The doctors, they are bourgeois. They are the big intellectuals. They speak a language that you don’t understand. I come, we speak in Susu. We speak in Maninka. We understand one another.” This is how, little by little, he won the little man of the streets. He launched his party from his trade union.
The Guinean RDA, like the CGT, was built from a mass base. Despite periodic internal struggles stemming from conflicting interests brought together in a single alliance, the party remained united throughout the preindependence period.
Although the masses were rallied to the nationalist cause by intellectual elites, the process was not unidirectional. Masses as well as elites conceptualized and mobilized the nation. Nairn is correct in his claim that common people were “the ultimate recipients of the new message”—and responsible for much of its content. Their languages had to be spoken, their cultural forms respected, and their grievances addressed, or intellectual appeals would fall on deaf ears. Unlike rival parties, the Guinean RDA attained its strength by addressing preexisting popular grievances and promoting solutions for them. Thus, it was local-level actors who determined many of the basic claims on the nationalist agenda.
Just as the concerns of the African masses influenced the demands of the African elites, nationalist thought was transformed on African soil. Africans did not simply import European concepts and adopt them as their own.133 Like its European counterpart, African nationalism was rooted in indigenous “cultural systems” that predated the nationalist struggle. On both continents, indigenous “cultural and political traditions,” as well as “memories, myths, symbols and vernacular forms of expression,” were harnessed to the nationalist agenda. Obviously, those in Africa differed significantly from those in Europe.
African models diverged from European in other ways as well. Hobsbawm, Anderson, and Ernest Gellner stress the importance of mass education and “print capitalism” to the success of European nationalist movements. During the “Age of Revolution” (1789–1848), Europe experienced a dramatic growth in popular education. Books and newspapers increasingly were written in vernacular languages, rather than foreign tongues understood by only a tiny minority. According to Anderson, the widespread availability of printed material—and people’s ability to read it—”made it possible for rapidly growing numbers of people to think about themselves, and to relate themselves to others, in profoundly new ways.” These phenomena generated large literate populations who could imagine new kinds of communities, along with the technical means to mobilize them.
Critiquing Anderson, Anne McClintock contends that “mass national commodity spectacle,” rather than print capitalism, has been modern nationalism’s driving force. Nationalism is “invented and performed” through spectacle, she argues. It “takes shape through the visible, ritual organization of fetish objects” such as flags, uniforms, anthems, and mass rallies—in other words, “the myriad forms of popular culture.” It is this mass spectacle that creates “a sense of popular, collective unity.”
McClintock’s analysis is particularly apt for the colonized world, where print capitalism and mass education were significantly less important than in Europe. In the case of Guinea, party tracts and newspapers, written exclusively in French, were not widely circulated outside the urban areas. Yet the population was predominantly rural-based and non-French-speaking. Moreover, the percentage of the population that could actually read was minute—and overwhelmingly male. Grievances, demands, and calls for popular mobilization, while articulated in the party press, had to be carried to the masses through other, largely aural and visual, means.
Mass spectacle was a critical feature of Guinean nationalism. Party elites and nonliterate militants constructed a vision of national unity through enormous rallies and intensive campaigning in the rural areas. Party slogans, symbols, uniforms, and, most importantly, song were the critical means by which the population communicated the anticolonial message and created an imagined political community. The party color (white) was sported at large public rallies, which often numbered two thousand or more. Speakers appealed to popular sentiment through culturally rooted images, anecdotes, and parables. In order to promote unity between people of diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, the Guinean RDA adopted a uniform. It selected as its party symbol Syli, the powerful elephant “who does not forget,” the mighty king of the beasts. The elephant was featured in countless songs, and on RDA women’s bracelets, necklaces, and wrappers. Posters sporting hand-drawn elephants were plastered on walls and waved in demononstrations. Ballot designs were also aimed toward the nonliterate population, the white RDA ballot emblazoned with an elephant.
While Gellner, Anderson, and Anthony D. Smith imply that it was the party elites who devised popular means to appeal to the masses, evidence from Guinea indicates that the nonliterate population created as well as received the nationalist message. Local activists inspired the party color and produced the uniforms and songs. Former RDA militants Léon Maka and Mira Baldé contend that the party color and uniform were primarily popular in origin. Maka attributed them to the RDA women’s leader, Mafory Bangoura—a cloth-dyer and seamstress without formal schooling—and to rank-and-file members of the RDA women’s committees; the role of Sékou Touré’s wife was only tertiary. Uniforms brought people together and strengthened their sense of collective identity, Maka claimed. How ever, because RDA members were generally from the lower classes, they could not afford expensive material. “There was no money. Cloth cost a lot,” Maka recalled. “RDA women—market women—wore inexpensive cloth, while our adversaries wore large boubous made from luxury cloth, like silk.” Since RDA women could not afford silk—or large quantities of any material—Maka observed,
Andrée Touré and Mafory Bangoura made blouses that went just to the waist. These were called temuray. They were made out of percale, an inexpensive cloth. The wrapper was dyed in the fashion of the country. The [women] cloth-dyers did this with indigo. They gathered the indigo leaves in the bush and beat them with pestles. It was the women who decided that the blouse should be white. When the men saw that the women had adopted white, they, too, automatically began to wear it. Eventually, it became the national color of the RDA. Everyone wore it on public occasions. This was not done by decree from above. No, it was the people who decided to do it.
Mira Baldé concluded, “And white was easy, because it was common. Percale was white. It did not cost much. So it was easy for the masses to obtain.”
Grassroots actors brought ideas, practices, and methods to the nationalist movement that dramatically reshaped the whole. As the above example illustrates, African women were central to this process. While women’s formative influence on African nationalist movements has been the subject of some scholarly inquiry, these studies have had little impact on nationalist theory more generally. As McClintock notes, “theories of nationalism have tended to ignore gender as a category constitutive of nationalism itself.” And yet nationalisms emerge “through social contests that are … always gendered.” Proposing a feminist theory of nationalism, McClintock advocates “bringing into historical visibility women’s active cultural and political participation in national formations.”
Making women’s participation visible requires a shift in focus from the literate elite to the nonliterate base, where women were the preeminent creators and performers of mass national spectacle. As Geiger demonstrates for the nationalist movement in colonial Tanzania, “women’s work” included the creation and performance of nationalism through song and dance. Similarly, in Guinea, RDA women proudly wore their party uniforms as they sang and danced the nationalist message. Oral transmission of information was crucial to the success of the RDA, which targeted the large mass of Guineans who had little or no formal education. As traditional storytellers and singers, women were deemed the best sloganeers. They were the practiced creators of ideas, images, and phrases that appealed to the nonelite population.
Most significantly, it was nonliterate women who composed the songs that spread the nationalist message throughout the territory. “The women composed these songs,” claimed Fatou Kéïta, a Susu seamstress. “They did it spontaneously. There was not one author. When somebody found a song, they sang it. The next person heard it and sang it, and so on. It spread like that.” Néné Diallo, a Peul cloth-dyer, agreed: “There were countless songs Day after day, songs were made up. Everyone sang songs. We repeated the songs of others as they did ours.” Fatou Diarra, a former militant of Malinke and Senegalese descent, recalled precisely how women mobilized through song:
Women went to the markets every day If there was a new song, all the women learned it and sang it in the taxis, teaching one another. When there was an event, the leader went to the market with the song to teach it to the other women.
After the 1954 elections, women sang at the markets that the colonial authorities had rigged the elections. “You women who go up, You women who go down. The other party has stolen our votes, Stolen the votes of Syli.” All the women sang this song, so by the time they heard the election results, they already knew that they had been cheated, that the election had been rigged.
The June 1954 National Assembly elections, which pitted Sékou Touré against Barry Diawadou, were deemed fraudulent by independent outside observers. The official pronouncement of Barry Diawadou as the winner fueled public anger against the state. The message of betrayal—and steadfast adherence to the people’s choice—was spread through song. Aissatou N’Diaye, an RDA activist of Tukulor-Senegalese ancestry, remembered the intense local reaction to the official results:
When it was said that Sékou had lost, there was a popular revolt … Sékou was not in Conakry; he was campaigning in the interior … We prepared songs for his return. We gathered at Fanta Camara’s to prepare the songs. We asked the crowd to make up a song that would be sung … He came at dusk or late afternoon … By then the song was known to everyone in town, even to vagabonds. The song went like this:
The saboteurs said they were the leaders
Whereas Mr. Touré said he is not the leader
But he gets to lead the country
Look, people, at the RDA
Look, people, at the RDA
RDA women, unite
Laugh with me, Touré
Laugh with me, Touré.
Another song composed for the occasion, which was punctuated by mooing cows, derided Barry Diawadou’s alleged victory as a fraud effected by inflated voter rolls. Vote rigging was deemed particularly notorious in the Futa Jallon, the candidate’s home and bastion of the Peul aristocracy. Swaying and mooing like a cow, N’Diaye demonstrated how the people had sung:
Look, people, at Barry Diawadou
Look, people, at Barry Diawadou
The cows have voted for you in the Futa
“Mbu, mbe,” we don’t want you.
When Sékou Touré arrived in Conakry, a crowd of some 30,000 supporters received him, crying, “Syli! Syli!” and singing:
The elephant has entered the city
Yes, the elephant has arrived
The city is full
Because the elephant has arrived.
Women sang and danced all night in front of Sékou Touré’s home, informing the world that despite the official results, Sékou Touré—the mighty elephant—was the people’s choice.
With song as their chosen medium, RDA women praised the party, ridiculed the opposition, and commented on recent political events. The songs’ idiom and content provide a window into the popular culture that sustained the nationalist movement. Sexually charged lyrics were common. Some were meant to shame political laggards, others to mock political rivals. Publicly disgracing hesitant or retrograde men, women humiliated them through songs that questioned their virility. Police reports describe RDA women, in groups of a hundred or more, parading through the capital city, carrying banners, singing political songs, and casting aspersions on Sékou Touré’s chief rival, Barry Diawadou. Diawadou frequently was derided as being cowardly and uncircumcised—a mere boy rather than a real man. In one such song, he was accused of having fled from the capital city, an RDA stronghold, to the relative safety of the interior:
Barry Diawadou left Conakry
To go to Upper Guinea
Because he found
That Syli is always in the lead
Barry was slapped like a dog
The penis of Barry
Is circumcised this time!
Although their political content was new, songs that ridiculed the virility of their male targets were in keeping with long-standing practices among Susu women. Historically, Susu women had used sexually explicit songs and dances to publicly humiliate and sanction men who had abused their wives. Party leaders—generally Western-educated male elites—were embarrassed by these practices and tried, unsuccessfully, to discourage them. The popular origin of this critical means of communication is thus beyond dispute.
The waves of anticolonial protest that swept the African and Asian continents in the postwar decade were an amalgamation of elite and popular politics. Manifold acts of anticolonial resistance contributed to the development of full-fledged movements for national self-determination and independence. Many of these movements belonged to the progressive political tradition of “inclusive nationalism,” in which ethnically and religiously diverse peoples were mobilized into a single nationalist movement. The product of both European and indigenous ideals, the nationalist movements were led by educated elites, but they were firmly grounded in the urban and rural populace. Only those movements that generated mass support were successful in bringing about national independence. Their leaders focused on population groups already engaged in anticolonial resistance and mobilized around grievances that these groups had previously identified. The momentum galvanized by the grassroots was thus directed toward the nationalist cause. While the lower classes responded to elite appeals, they also brought their own ideas and objectives to the anticolonial struggle. They employed strategies and methods that spoke to their concerns and images that resonated with their cultures. Thus, nationalist mobilization was neither top down nor bottom up. It was, unequivocally, both.
Guinea’s postwar nationalist movement, led by the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain, was emblematic of these trends. The Guinean RDA strove to build a nation from a population that was ethnically and linguistically heterogeneous. Party leaders focused on that which was common to the largest number of people: a shared precolonial history, religion, and experience of French colonialism. From this common past, a future as one nation was imagined, and the struggle to realize it was launched. Although they were mobilized by elites into the nationalist movement, “ordinary Guineans” were not passive recipients of ideas instilled from above. They brought their own ideas and experiences to the table, informing the ways in which nationalism was understood. The methods of mobilization, like the contents of the message, were influenced by the grassroots. Lower classes as well as elites adapted indigenous cultural forms for new purposes and made imported ones their own.
Why revisit the case of Guinea nearly five decades after its independence? Because Guinea’s postwar nationalist movement provides the raw material that allows us to better understand the interaction between leaders and the rank and file in imagining and creating a nation. It helps us to construct a new theoretical and methodological framework for nationalist mobilization throughout the colonized world. In this regard, Guinea’s significance far outstrips its size.
I would like to thank Mark Peyrot for urging me to write this article, and the Research and Sabbatical Committee at Loyola College for providing financial support. I am grateful to Timothy Scarnecchia, my colleagues in the Loyola College History Department, and anonymous AHR reviewers for their extremely helpful comments. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations from French language sources are mine, and I conducted all interviews, in collaboration with Siba N. Grovogui. I transcribed and translated the interviews that were conducted in French; those conducted in Susu and Malinke were transcribed and translated by Siba N. Grovogui.
Elizabeth Schmidt is Professor of History at Loyola College in Maryland. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1987. Her books include Mobilizing the Masses: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Nationalist Movement in Guinea, 1939–1958 (2005); Peasants, Traders, and Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbabwe, 1870–1939 (1992); and Decoding Corporate Camouflage: U.S. Business Support for Apartheid (1980). Her 1992 book was a finalist for the African Studies Association’s Herskovits Award and was named an Outstanding Academic Book for 1994 by Choice. Schmidt is currently working on a book entitled Cold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946–1958, which examines the decade-long struggle between grassroots activists and nationalist leaders for control of the political agenda, in the context of Cold War repression. Her research on Guinea has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, and the Fulbright program.
1 Patrick Manning, Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 1880–1985 (New York, 1988), 148–149; Ruth Schachter Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa (Oxford, 1964), 400.
2 Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer, Archives Nationales (de France) (CAOM), Carton 2181, dos. 6, Gouverneur, Guinée Française, Conakry, à Ministre, F.O.M., Paris, “Discours Prononcé par le Président Sékou Touré, le 14 Septembre 1958,” September 15, 1958, #0191/CAB; Carton 2181, dos. 6, Gouverneur, Guinée Française, Conakry, à Ministre, F.O.M., Paris, “Motion du Parti Démocratique de la Guinée en Date du 14 Septembre 1958,” September 15, 1958, #0191/CAB; Carton 2181, dos. 6, Gouverneur, Guinée Française, Conakry, à Ministre, F.O.M., Paris, “Nouvelles Locales Reçues de l’A.F.P. en Date du 19 Septembre 1958,” September 19, 1958, #2276/CAB; “La Résolution,” La Liberté, September 23, 1958, 2; Georges Chaffard, Les Carnets Secrets de la Décolonisation, 2 vols. (Paris, 1967), 2: 204, 206; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 219.
3 Interview with Bocar Biro Barry, Conakry, January 21, 1991. In his September 14 address, Sékou Touré made reference to the proindependence positions already taken by trade union, student, and youth organizations. CAOM, Carton 2181, dos. 6, “Discours Prononcé par le Président Sékou Touré, le 14 Septembre 1958.” See also “Unanimement le 28 Septembre La Guinée Votera NON,” La Liberté, September 23, 1958, 1–2. Former university student leader Charles Diané also claims that Sékou Touré opted for the “No” vote in the eleventh hour—pushed by the student movement. Charles Diané, La F.E.A.N.F. et Les Grandes Heures du Mouvement Syndical étudiant Noir (Paris, 1990), 128–129.
4 See, for instance, “Unanimement le 28 Septembre,” 1–2; “Les Résultats du Scrutin,” La Liberté, October 4, 1958, 5.
5 Archives de Guinée (AG), AM-1339, Idiatou Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme de Guinée à la Lutte de Libération Nationale (1945–1958),” Mémoire de Fin d’études Supérieures, IPGAN, Conakry, 1979, 111.
6 Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 108; Chaffard, Les Carnets Secrets, 2: 177, 193–194, 196; Lansiné Kaba, Le “Non” de la Guinée à De Gaulle (Paris, 1989), 80–86; Pierre Messmer, Après Tant de Batailles: Mémoires (Paris, 1992), 234; Charles de Gaulle, Memoirs of Hope: Renewal and Endeavor, trans. Terence Kilmartin (New York, 1971), 55.
7 De Gaulle, Memoirs of Hope, 55.
8 Chaffard, Les Carnets Secrets, 2: 194.
9 See, for instance, Sylvia G. Haim, ed., Arab Nationalism: An Anthology (Berkeley, Calif., 1962); Patrick Seale, The Struggle for Syria: A Study of Post-War Arab Politics, 1945–1958 (New Haven, Conn., 1965); Ray T. Smith, “The Role of India’s `Liberals’ in the Nationalist Movement, 1925–1947,” Asian Survey 8, no. 7 (July 1968): 607–624; David G. Marr, Vietnamese Anticolonialism, 1885–1925 (Berkeley, Calif., 1971).
10 Ayesha Jalal and Anil Seal, “Alternative to Partition: Muslim Politics between the Wars,” Modern Asian Studies 15, no. 3 (1981): 415–454; Farzana Shaikh, “Muslims and Political Representation in Colonial India: The Making of Pakistan,” Modern Asian Studies 20, no. 3 (1986): 539–557; Youssef M. Choueiri, Arab History and the Nation-State: A Study in Modern Arab Historiography, 1820–1980 (New York, 1989); Youssef M. Choueiri, Arab Nationalism—A History: Nation and State in the Arab World (Malden, Mass., 2000); David E. F. Henley, “Ethnogeographic Integration and Exclusion in Anticolonial Nationalism: Indonesia and Indochina,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 37, no. 2 (April 1995): 286–324; Bassam Tibi, Arab Nationalism: Between Islam and the Nation-State, 3rd ed. (New York, 1997); Robert H. Taylor, The Idea of Freedom in Asia and Africa (Stanford, Calif., 2002).
11 Rajat Ray, Urban Roots of Indian Nationalism: Pressure Groups and Conflict of Interests in Calcutta City Politics, 1875–1939 (New Delhi, 1979); Nasir Islam, “Islam and National Identity: The Case of Pakistan and Bangladesh,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 13, no. 1 (February 1981): 55–72; Philip S. Khoury, Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920–1945 (Princeton, N.J., 1987); Dilip M. Menon, Caste, Nationalism and Communism in South India: Malabar, 1900–1948 (Cambridge, 1994); Sanjay Seth, “Rewriting Histories of Nationalism: The Politics of `Moderate Nationalism’ in India, 1870–1905,” AHR 104, no. 1 (February 1999): 95–116; Hanna Batatu, Syria’s Peasantry, the Descendants of Its Lesser Rural Notables, and Their Politics (Princeton, N.J., 1999); Taj-ul-Islam Hashmi, “Peasant Nationalism and the Politics of Partition: The Class-Communal Symbiosis in East Bengal, 1940–1947,” in Ian Talbot and Gurharpal Singh, eds., Region and Partition: Bengal, Punjab and the Partition of the Subcontinent (New York, 1999), 6–41.
12 See Gail Minault, “Urdu Political Poetry during the Khilafat Movement,” Modern Asian Studies 8, no. 4 (October 1974): 459–471; Gail Minault, “Islam and Mass Politics: The Indian Ulama and the Khilafat Movement,” in Donald E. Smith, ed., Religion and Political Modernization (New Haven, Conn., 1974), 168–182; Gail Minault, The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilization in India (New York, 1982); Sandria B. Freitag, “The Roots of Muslim Separatism in South Asia: Personal Practice and Public Structures in Kanpur and Bombay,” in Edmund Burke, III and Ira M. Lapidus, eds., Islam, Politics, and Social Movements (Berkeley, Calif., 1988), 115–145.
13 Peter van der Veer, Religious Nationalism: Hindus and Muslims in India (Berkeley, Calif., 1994); James L. Gelvin, Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the Close of Empire (Berkeley, Calif., 1998); Nels Johnson, Islam and the Politics of Meaning in Palestinian Nationalism (Boston, 1982); Ted Swedenburg, “The Role of the Palestinian Peasantry in the Great Revolt (1936–1939),” in Burke and Lapidus, Islam, Politics, and Social Movements, 169–203.
14 Pamela Price, “Revolution and Rank in Tamil Nationalism,” Journal of Asian Studies 55, no. 2 (May 1996): 365.
For the use of indigenous cultural and religious symbols and practices by resurgent Asante nationalists in independent Ghana, see Jean M. Allman, “The Youngmen and the Porcupine: Class, Nationalism and Asante’s Struggle for Self-Determination, 1954–1957,” Journal of African History 31, no. 2 (1990): 263–264, 272, 274–277; Jean Marie Allman, The Quills of the Porcupine: Asante Nationalism in an Emergent Ghana (Madison, Wis., 1993), 6, 9–10, 16–17, 19, 28, 41–46, 49, 62, 65, 97, 131, 140, 160, 183–184; Pashington Obeng, “Gendered Nationalism: Forms of Masculinity in Modern Asante of Ghana,” in Lisa A. Lindsay and Stephan F. Miescher, eds., Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa (Portsmouth, N.H., 2003), 203–206.
15 Israel Gershoni, “Rethinking the Formation of Arab Nationalism in the Middle East, 1920–1945,” in James Jankowski and Israel Gershoni, eds., Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East (New York, 1997), 25.
16 See, for instance, James S. Coleman, “Nationalism in Tropical Africa,” American Political Science Review 48, no. 2 (June 1954): 404–426; James S. Coleman, Nigeria: Background to Nationalism (Berkeley, Calif., 1958); Thomas Hodgkin, Nationalism in Colonial Africa (New York, 1957); David Apter, Ghana in Transition (Princeton, N.J., 1963); Robert I. Rotberg, The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The Making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873–1964 (Cambridge, Mass., 1965); Robert I. Rotberg, “African Nationalism: Concept or Confusion?” Journal of Modern African Studies 4, no. 1 (May 1966): 33–46; Carl G. Rosberg, Jr., and John Nottingham, The Myth of “Mau Mau”: Nationalism in Kenya (Stanford, Calif., 1966); John Lonsdale, “The Emergence of African Nations: A Historiographical Analysis,” African Affairs 67, no. 266 (1968): 11–28; J. M. Lonsdale, “Some Origins of Nationalism in East Africa,” Journal of African History 9, no. 1 (1968): 119–146.
17 See, for instance, Coleman, “Nationalism in Tropical Africa,” 407–408; Lonsdale, “Some Origins of Nationalism in East Africa,” 119–120, 140–141, 146; Lonsdale, “Emergence of African Nations,” 11, 25.
18 Coleman, for instance, maintained that “the student of political nationalism is concerned mainly with the attitudes, activities, and status of the nationalist-minded Western-educated elite.” Coleman, “Nationalism in Tropical Africa,” 425.
19 Lonsdale, “Some Origins of Nationalism in East Africa,” 146.
20 Lonsdale, “Emergence of African Nations,” 25; see also Lonsdale, “Some Origins of Nationalism in East Africa,” 119.
21 Lonsdale, “Some Origins of Nationalism in East Africa,” 140–141, 146.
22 Susan Geiger, “Tanganyikan Nationalism as `Women’s Work’: Life Histories, Collective Biography and Changing Historiography,” Journal of African History 37, no. 3 (1996): 468–469.
23 Susan Geiger, TANU Women: Gender and Culture in the Making of Tanganyikan Nationalism, 1955–1965 (Portsmouth, N.H., 1997), 14, 66.
24 See Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 219–254; Jean Suret-Canale, La République de Guinée (Paris, 1970), 141–146, 159–172; Claude Rivière, Guinea: The Mobilization of a People, trans. Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff (Ithaca, N.Y., 1977), 51–82; Victor D. Du Bois, “Guinea,” in James S. Coleman and Carl G. Rosberg, Jr., eds., Political Parties and National Integration in Tropical Africa (Berkeley, Calif., 1970), 186–215; L. Gray Cowan, “Guinea,” in Gwendolen M. Carter, ed., African One-Party States (Ithaca, N.Y., 1962), 149–236. Other well-known works perpetuate the top-down approach of earlier scholars. Yves Person, for example, conflates the Guinean RDA with the person of Sékou Touré, erroneously assuming that the party leader had “autocratic power” in the preindependence period and that he imposed his will on the party. Sylvain Soriba Camara and ‘Ladipo Adamolekun present grand narratives of events, once again focusing on governing and party structures, policies, and leaders. Yves Person, “French West Africa and Decolonization,” in Prosser Gifford and William Roger Louis, eds., The Transfer of Power in Africa: Decolonization, 1940–1960 (New Haven, Conn., 1982), 141–172; Sylvain Soriba Camara, La Guinée Sans La France (Paris, 1976); ‘Ladipo Adamolekun, “The Road to Independence in French Tropical Africa,” in Timothy K. Welliver, ed., African Nationalism and Independence (New York, 1993), 66–79; ‘Ladipo Adamolekun, Sékou Touré’s Guinea: An Experiment in Nation Building (London, 1976).
25 Sidiki Kobélé Kéïta, Le P.D.G.: Artisan de l’Indépendance Nationale en Guinée (1947–1958), 2 vols. (Conakry, 1978). Unfortunately, Kéïta’s two-volume work has not been circulated widely outside of Guinea.
26 See, for instance, Margarita Dobert, “Civic and Political Participation of Women in French-Speaking West Africa” (Ph.D. dissertation, George Washington University, 1970); Claude Rivière, “La Promotion de la Femme Guinéenne,” Cahiers d’études Africaines 8, no. 31 (1968): 406–427. Dobert does not focus exclusively on Guinea or the postwar nationalist period. Rivière focuses primarily on Guinea’s postindependence period.
27 Camara, “Contribution de la Femme.”
28 Studies of Muslim-Hindu violence and the partition of India are notable exceptions to this generalization.
29 See, for instance, Walker Connor, Ethnonationalism: The Quest for Understanding (Princeton, N.J., 1993); Michael Ignatieff, Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism (New York, 1994); Michael Ignatieff, The Warrior’s Honor: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience (New York, 1998).
30 E. J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Program, Myth, Reality, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 1992), 102, 121; E. J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 1875–1914 (New York, 1987), 143, 146; E. J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Capital, 1848–1875 (New York, 1975), 84, 89. See also Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse? (Minneapolis, 1993), 9.
31 Henley refers to this phenomenon as “integrative,” as opposed to “inclusive,” nationalism, which he contrasts with “exclusive” nationalism. See Henley, “Ethnogeographic Integration,” 286, 289–290.
32 These themes are expanded upon in my recent book. See Elizabeth Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Nationalist Movement in Guinea, 1939–1958 (Portsmouth, N.H., 2005).
33 Geiger, TANU Women, 14.
34 See E. J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: Europe, 1789–1848 (London, 1962).
35 For an in-depth discussion of this subject, see Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses.
36 For further elaboration, see Elizabeth Schmidt, “`Emancipate Your Husbands!’ Women and Nationalism in Guinea, 1953–1958,” in Jean Allman, Susan Geiger, and Nakanyike Musisi, eds., Women in African Colonial Histories (Bloomington, Ind., 2002), 282–304; Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses, chap. 5.
37 First delivered as a lecture in 1882, this essay has been published in English as Ernest Renan, “What Is a Nation?” in Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny, eds., Becoming National: A Reader (New York, 1996), 42–55.
38 Miroslav Hroch, “From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation: The Nation-Building Process in Europe,” in Eley and Suny, Becoming National, 61; Miroslav Hroch, Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe: A Comparative Analysis of the Social Composition of Patriotic Groups among the Smaller European Nations, trans. Ben Fowkes (Cambridge, 1985), 4–5. See also Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 87.
39 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, 2nd ed. (New York, 1991), 6–7. See also Anthony D. Smith, State and Nation in the Third World: The Western State and African Nationalism (New York, 1983), 6.
40 Guinea is a classic example of Breuilly’s “idea of the nation as a project, a unity to be fashioned out of the fight for independence.” John Breuilly, Nationalism and the State, 2nd ed. (Chicago, 1994), 7.
41 Interview with Néné Diallo, Conakry, April 11, 1991. When discussing party policies or initiatives, informants frequently attributed them personally to Sékou Touré, secretary-general of the Guinean branch of the RDA.
42 Hobsbawm, Age of Revolution, 145; Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 18–19; Thomas Hodgkin, African Political Parties: An Introductory Guide (Gloucester, Mass., 1971), 163–164.
43 Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, N.J., 1993), 10, 26, 74.
44 Jean Suret-Canale, French Colonialism in Tropical Africa, 1900–1945, trans. Till Gottheiner (New York, 1971), 383, 391. See Sékou Touré’s critique of African education under French colonialism: Sékou Touré, “Le Leader Politique Considéré Comme le Représentant d’une Culture,” Présence Africaine, nos. 24–25 (February–May 1959): 104–115; Sékou Touré, “L’élite Africaine Dans Le Combat Politique,” Discours Enregistré du Président Sékou Touré Adressé aux Membres du Congrès des Hommes de Culture Noire, March 26, 1959, in Sékou Touré, L’Action Politique du Parti Démocratique de Guinée (Paris, 1959), 161–176.
45 Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (New York, 2000), 31–78; Sékou Touré, “L’élite Africaine Dans Le Combat Politique,” 161–176; Eileen Julien, “African Literature,” in Phyllis M. Martin and Patrick O’Meara, eds., Africa, 3rd ed. (Bloomington, Ind., 1995), 297–298; Manning, Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 110, 179; Smith, State and Nation in the Third World, 55; Hodgkin, African Political Parties, 163.
46 Sékou Touré, “L’élite Africaine Dans le Combat Politique,” 161–176; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 11, 14, 137–138, 144–146; Manning, Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 110, 179; Hodgkin, Nationalism in Colonial Africa, 172, 174–176; Smith, State and Nation in the Third World, 54–55.
47 Archives Nationales du Sénégal (ANS), 2G47/121, Guinée Française, Affaires Politiques et Administratives, “Revues Trimestrielles des événements, 3ème Trimestre 1947,” December 5, 1947, #389 APA; Manning, Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 3, 179.
48 While studying in France in 1952, Fodéba Kéïta established Les Ballets Africains, which consciously borrowed dance forms and themes from all the Guinean ethnic groups, blending them into a new “Guinean” whole. Kéïta was also an accomplished playwright and poet in the Négritude tradition. In 1960, Guinean scholar D. T. Niane committed to writing the legendary oral epic “Sundiata,” which celebrated the founding of the thirteenth-century Mali empire. See Muriel Devey, La Guinée (Paris, 1997), 290; Aly Gilbert Iffono, Lexique Historique de la Guinée-Conakry (Paris, 1992), 98; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 14, 251; Manning, Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 176; D. T. Niane, Soundjata, ou l’Epopée Mandingue (Paris, 1960).
49 Gabriel d’Arboussier, “Une Dangereuse Mystification de la Théorie de la Négritude,” La Nouvelle Critique, no. 7 (June 1949): 34–47; Peter S. Thompson, “Negritude and a New Africa: An Update,” Research in African Literatures 33, no. 4 (2002): 143, 146, 148; R. W. Johnson, “Sekou Touré and the Guinean Revolution,” African Affairs 69, no. 277 (October 1970): 351. After independence, Sékou Touré developed his own theories of African socialism and the African personality—and continued his vehement critique of Négritude. See, for instance, Sékou Touré, “Le Leader Politique Considéré Comme le Représentant d’une Culture,” 104–115; Sékou Touré, “L’élite Africaine Dans Le Combat Politique,” 161–176; Sékou Touré, “The Republic of Guinea,” International Affairs 36, no. 2 (April 1960): 169; Ahmed Sékou Touré, Revolution, Culture and Panafricanism (Conakry, 1978), 11, 13, 71, 97, 175–177, 190–191, 196–204.
50 Suret-Canale, French Colonialism in Tropical Africa, 380–382, 387, 391, 487; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 14–15, 23, 85; Cowan, “Guinea,” 153–154, 157–158. See also Anderson, Imagined Communities, 115–116, 140.
51 “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789),” in John A. Maxwell and James J. Freidberg, eds., Human Rights in Western Civilization: 1600 to the Present (Dubuque, Iowa, 1991), 26.
52 Suret-Canale, French Colonialism in Tropical Africa, 387, 391; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 14; ANS, 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Kankan, “Renseignements A/S Conférence Publique du R.D.A. du 30 Oct. 1954,” November 5, 1954, #2894/1119, C/PS.2. See also Anderson, Imagined Communities, 118, 140–141; Smith, State and Nation in the Third World, 31; Hodgkin, Nationalism in Colonial Africa, 170; Hugh Seton-Watson, Nations and States: An Enquiry into the Origins of Nations and the Politics of Nationalism (Boulder, Colo., 1977), 328–330, 436.
53 For an in-depth discussion of these issues, see Frederick Cooper, Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (New York, 1996); Myron Echenberg, Colonial Conscripts: The Tirailleurs Sénégalais in French West Africa, 1857–1960 (Portsmouth, N.H., 1991); Nancy Ellen Lawler, Soldiers of Misfortune: Ivoirien Tirailleurs of World War II (Athens, Ohio, 1992); Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch, “Nationalité et Citoyenneté en Afrique Occidentale Français\[e\]: Originaires et Citoyens dans Le Sénégal Colonial,” Journal of African History 42, no. 2 (2001): 285–305; Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses, chaps. 2 and 3.
54 Hobsbawm, Age of Capital, 85.
55 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 88.
56 Hobsbawm, Age of Capital, 84–86, 88–89; Hobsbawm, Age of Empire, 144, 146–147; Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 19–20, 33, 63, 87–88, 102. See also Anderson, Imagined Communities, 135.
57 ANS, 21G13, “état d’Esprit de la Population,” December 1–15, 1950; Kéïta, P.D.G., 1: 233.
58 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 14–15, 85.
59 Ibid., 23, 25–26; Kéïta, P.D.G., 1: 169, 233; Cooper, Decolonization and African Society, 159.
60 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 227.
61 AG, 2Z27, “Syndicat Professionnel des Agents et Sous-Agents Indigènes du Service des Transmissions de la Guinée Française,” Conakry, March 18, 1945; Personal Archives of Joseph Montlouis: Letter from Joseph Montlouis, Conakry, to Jean Suret-Canale, Conakry, April 5, 1983; interviews with Mamadou Bela Doumbouya, Conakry, January 26, 1991, and Joseph Montlouis, Conakry, March 3 and 6, 1991; Kéïta, P.D.G., 1: 176, 180, 186; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 229; Johnson, “Sekou Touré and the Guinean Revolution,” 351–353.
62 ANS, 17G573, “Les Partis Politiques en Guinée, 1er Semestre 1951”; 17G573, Gendarmerie, A.O.F., “En Guinée Française,” September 12, 1951, #174/4; 17G573, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Conakry, “Rapport de Quinzaine du 1er au 15 Octobre 1951,” #1847/1019, C/PS.2; 17G573, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Revue Trimestrielle, 3ème Trimestre 1951,” November 24, 1951; 17G573, Comité Directeur, P.D.G., “Analyse de la Situation Politique en Afrique Noire et des Méthodes du R.D.A. en Vue de Dégager un Programme d’Action,” ca. January 14, 1952; Kéïta, P.D.G., 1: 241–242; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 26, 98; Hodgkin, Nationalism in Colonial Africa, 147.
63 See Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses, chaps. 5, 6, and 7. For a more general discussion of this phenomenon, see Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (Princeton, N.J., 1996), 183–217.
64 Karl W. Deutsch, Nationalism and Social Communication: An Inquiry into the Foundations of Nationality, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1966), 97. See also Hroch, “From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation,” 61.
65 Walter Rodney, “Jihad and Social Revolution in Futa Djalon in the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria 4, no. 2 (June 1968): 269–274. The Malinke (Mandinka/Mandinga/Mandingo) are part of the greater Mande social formation. Their language is called Maninka. The Fulbe are sometimes referred to as “Fulani,” a Hausa term, or “Fula,” a Mande term. In Guinea, the Fulbe are divided into Tukulor, originally from the Futa Toro (Senegal), and Peul, from the Futa Jallon (Guinea). The term “Peul” is a French corruption of the word “Pullo” (singular form of “Fulbe”), which is the term used by the people to describe themselves. The language of the Fulbe is Fulfulde; that of the Peul is Pulaar. The term “Jallonke,” or “men of the Jallon,” refers to the people of a region, rather than an ethnic group. The Jallonke trace their roots to several populations. The Susu, part of the greater Mande group, settled in the Futa Jallon in the thirteenth century. They displaced or absorbed most of the original inhabitants, including the Limbas, Landumas, Bagas, and Bassaris. The resulting population was referred to collectively as the Jallonke. See Andrew F. Clark, From Frontier to Backwater: Economy and Society in the Upper Senegal Valley (West Africa), 1850–1920 (Lanham, Md., 1999), 41, 44–47; Jacques Richard-Molard, Afrique Occidentale Française (Paris, 1952), 93; Rodney, “Jihad and Social Revolution,” 270.
66 Rodney, “Jihad and Social Revolution,” 269–284.
67 Umar Tall’s mid-nineteenth-century empire extended eastward from French military bases on the lower Senegal River to the ancient city of Timbuktu on the Niger River. His capital, Dinguiraye, was in the Futa Jallon. Some decades later, Samori Touré built an empire that included Upper Guinea and the forest region and extended eastward to modern Ghana. See Rodney, “Jihad and Social Revolution,” 269–284; A. S. Kanya-Forstner, “Mali-Tukulor,” in Michael Crowder, ed., West African Resistance: The Military Response to Colonial Occupation (New York, 1971), 53–79; Yves Person, “Guinea-Samori,” trans. Joan White, in Crowder, West African Resistance, 111–143; Daniel R. Headrick, The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1981), 119–120; Philip Curtin, Steven Feierman, Leonard Thompson, and Jan Vansina, African History: From Earliest Times to Independence, 2nd ed. (New York, 1995), 343–351.
68 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 73. Duara makes similar claims for premodern China, India, and Japan; see Prasenjit Duara, “Historicizing National Identity, or Who Imagines What and When,” in Eley and Suny, Becoming National, 152.
69 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 234; see also Lonsdale, “Emergence of African Nations,” 28.
70 For a general discussion of this tendency, see Renan, “What Is a Nation?” 52–53; Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny, “Introduction,” in Eley and Suny, Becoming National, 8; Duara, “Historicizing National Identity,” 164–165; Breuilly, Nationalism and the State, 161; Lonsdale, “Some Origins of Nationalism in East Africa,” 143. For alternative, more critical readings of precolonial African political leaders, see Jean Suret-Canale, “La Fin de la Chefferie en Guinée,” Journal of African History 7, no. 3 (1966): 459–493; Martin Klein, Slavery and Colonial Rule in French West Africa (New York, 1998).
71 Person, “Guinea-Samori,” 112; Headrick, Tools of Empire, 119–120; interview with Bocar Biro Barry, Conakry, January 21, 1991. For more critical views of Samori Touré, see the following papers, which were presented on the panel “Samori Toure One Hundred Years On: Exploring the Ambiguities,” Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association, Philadelphia, Pa., November 13, 1999: David C. Conrad, “Victims, Warriors, and Power Sources: Portrayals of Women in Guinean Narratives of Samori Toure”; Saidou Mohamed N’Daou, “Almamy Samory Toure: Politics of Memories in Post-Colonial Guinea (1958–1984)”; Emily Osborn, “Samori Toure in Upper Guinea: Hero or Tyrant?”; Jeanne M. Toungara, “Kabasarana and the Samorian Conquest of Northwestern Cote d’Ivoire.”
72 Smith notes that ethnicity “is more about cultural perceptions than physical demography.” What is at issue is not actual descent, but “the sense of ancestry and identity that people possess.” Anthony D. Smith, “The Origins of Nations,” in Eley and Suny, Becoming National, 117, 122. See also Hroch, “From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation,” 65; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 234–235.
73 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 234–235; Sidiki Kobélé Kéïta, Ahmed Sékou Touré: L’Homme et son Combat Anti-Colonial (1922–1958) (Conakry, 1998), 22–24, 28–29; Hodgkin, African Political Parties, 30; Hodgkin, Nationalism in Colonial Africa, 174; Smith, “Origins of Nations,” 121.
74 Quoted in Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 235. The orthography of African names was inconsistent during the colonial period. While “Samori” is now the preferred spelling, “Samory” is an accepted variant.
75 Historic “resisters” at times collaborated with the colonial administration, usually to forge alliances against rival African rulers. This more complicated reality was rarely acknowledged by the RDA. For a discussion of the ambiguous roles played by Bokar Biro Barry and Alfa Yaya Diallo, see Suret-Canale, “Fin de la Chefferie en Guinée,” 465–467; Klein, Slavery and Colonial Rule, 147–148.
76 Interview with Bocar Biro Barry, Conakry, January 21, 1991; Siba N. Grovogui, personal communication, April 26, 1999; Suret-Canale, “Fin de la Chefferie en Guinée,” 464–471; Klein, Slavery and Colonial Rule, 46, 143, 147–148, 189; Iffono, Lexique Historique de la Guinée-Conakry, 19, 119–120, 134–136, 171–172; Thomas E. O’Toole, Historical Dictionary of Guinea (Republic of Guinea/Conakry), 2nd ed. (Metuchen, N.J., 1987), 16, 30.
77 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 235; O’Toole, Historical Dictionary of Guinea, 34.
78 Interviews in Conakry with Léon Maka, February 20, 1991, and Joseph Montlouis, February 28, 1991; Siba N. Grovogui, personal communication, 1991.
79 For similar trends elsewhere, see Minault, Khilafat Movement; Burke and Lapidus, Islam, Politics, and Social Movements; Gelvin, Divided Loyalties.
80La Liberté, December 28, 1954, quoted in Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 235.
81 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 236–237. See also Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 61; ANS, 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements Objet: Réunion Publique R.D.A. à Conakry et ses Suites,” September 8, 1954, #2606/942, C/PS.2; 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements Objet: Fêtes Musulmanes à Conakry,” May 26, 1955, #1054/439, C/PS.2; Hodgkin, African Political Parties, 136.
82 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 71.
83 Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 61.
84 Interview with Aissatou N’Diaye, Conakry, April 8, 1991. See also interview with Néné Diallo, Conakry, April 11, 1991.
85 ANS, 17G586, “Fêtes Musulmanes,” May 26, 1955. See also Hodgkin, Nationalism in Colonial Africa, 162–163.
86 ANS, 17G573, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements Objet: Incidents à Conakry,” October 26, 1954, #2850/1094, C/PS.2.
87 Quoted in Hodgkin, African Political Parties, 138.
88 ANS, 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements Objet: Suite aux Incidents de Tondon,” February 18, 1955, #389/160, C/PS.2. M’Balia Camara, an officer of the RDA women’s committee and wife of the RDA president in Tondon (Dubréka circle), was killed by a canton chief during a rampage against RDA supporters. The day she was struck, February 9, 1955, was subsequently commemorated by the RDA and set aside to honor women’s role in the struggle for national emancipation. “Incidents Graves à Tondon, Canton de Labaya, Cercle de Dubréka,” La Liberté, February 15, 1955, 1; “Les Grandioses Obsèques de Camara M’Ballia,” La Liberté, March 1, 1955, 1; Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 132; interview with Aissatou N’Diaye, Conakry, April 8, 1991.
89 For similar use of indigenous symbols by Asante nationalists in colonial Ghana, see Allman, “Youngmen and the Porcupine,” 263–264, 267, 272, 274–277; Allman, Quills of the Porcupine, 6, 9–10, 16–17, 19, 28, 41–46, 49, 62, 65, 97, 131, 140, 160, 183–184.
90 Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 59–60; ANS, 17G613, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Conakry, “Renseignements A/S Situation en Guinée, à la Veille du Dépot des Listes aux élections Cantonales du 31 Mars Prochain,” March 9, 1957, #555/247, C/PS.2; 17G613, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Conakry, “Renseignements A/S Réunions Diverses tenues à Conakry,” May 29, 1957, #1223/480, C/PS.2.
91 ANS, 17G613, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Conakry, “Renseignements A/S Fête R.D.A. Donnée en l’Honneur de Bassikolo dans la Nuit du 26 au 27 Janvier 1957,” n.d., #235/107, C/PS.2; 17G613, “Situation en Guinée,” March 9, 1957. See also 17G586, “Fêtes Musulmanes,” May 26, 1955.
92 Quoted in Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 60. See also ANS, 17G613, “Situation en Guinée,” March 9, 1957.
93 Siba N. Grovogui, personal communication, October 1991.
94 Judith Van Allen, “`Aba Riots’ or Igbo `Women’s War’? Ideology, Stratification, and the Invisibility of Women,” in Nancy J. Hafkin and Edna G. Bay, eds., Women in Africa: Studies in Social and Economic Change (Stanford, Calif., 1976), 60–62, 71–73. For a similar practice among Ga women in colonial Ghana, see John Parker, Making the Town: Ga State and Society in Early Colonial Accra (Portsmouth, N.H., 2000), 52, 60–61.
95 Renan, “What Is a Nation?” 53.
96 See Anderson, Imagined Communities, 52–53, 113–114; Smith, State and Nation in the Third World, Preface.
97 “General Act of the Conference of Berlin (1885),” in Bruce Fetter, ed., Colonial Rule in Africa: Readings from Primary Sources (Madison, Wis., 1979), 38.
98 Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 138. See also Smith, State and Nation in the Third World, 27.
99 Selecting names and regions associated with particular ethnic groups, RDA leader Moricandian Savané wrote, “The misery which kills TOGBA of Macenta is the same as that of Samba of Upper Guinea, Soriba of lower Guinea, or Diallo of the Fouta Djallon.” Moricandian Savané, La Liberté, August 18, 1954, quoted in Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 233.
100 See Smith, “Origins of Nations,” 107, 113, 116; Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 20, 33, 63; Breuilly, Nationalism and the State, 6.
101 Kevin C. Dunn, Imagining the Congo: The International Relations of Identity (New York, 2003), 75–76.
102 Ibid., 76.
103 For a more general discussion of these issues, see Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 136–137; Mamdani, Citizen and Subject, 21–25, 33, 37–61.
104 Breuilly, Nationalism and the State, 7.
105 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 20. See also Anderson, Imagined Communities, 121–122. Anderson makes the crucial point that imperial languages become the new vernaculars of colonized peoples. In Guinea, the common vernacular was French. It was the sole language of education, beginning in primary school. For the educated elite, speaking in French was second nature. Anderson, Imagined Communities, 113, 133–134, 138; Suret-Canale, French Colonialism in Tropical Africa, 341, 380–382, 487; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 11, 39; Kéïta, P.D.G., 1: 73.
106 ANS, 2G43/109, Guinée Française, Chef du Service de l’Enseignement, “Rapport Statistique Annuel sur l’Enseignement, Année Scolaire 1942–1943,” Conakry, August 1943; 2G45/131, Guinée Française, Chef du Service de l’Enseignement, “Rapport de Rentrée, Année Scolaire, 1944–1945,” Conkary, January 13, 1945. See also AG, 5B47, Guinée Française, Gouverneur, Conakry, à Ministre, F.O.M., Paris, October 25, 1947, #711/APA; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 10–13, 20, 219; Kéïta, Ahmed Sékou Touré: L’Homme et son Combat, 11, 30–31; Suret-Canale, République de Guinée, 147; Manning, Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 100–101.
107 Suret-Canale, République de Guinée, 147; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 12–23; Kéïta, Ahmed Sékou Touré: L’Homme et son Combat, 11, 30.
108 Suret-Canale, République de Guinée, 142, 147; Suret-Canale, French Colonialism in Tropical Africa, 373–374, 377–378, 388; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 11–13, 15; Manning, Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa, 80, 81, 84, 101.
109 Suret-Canale, République de Guinée, 147.
110 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 12–13″>
111 Suret-Canale, République de Guinée, 142–143; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 20, 251; ANS, 17G573, “Rapport Général d’Activité 1947–1950,” presenté par Mamadou Madéïra Kéïta, Secrétaire Général du P.D.G. au Premier Congrès Territorial du Parti Démocratique de Guinée (Section Guinéenne du Rassemblement Démocratique Africain), Conakry, October 15–18, 1950. For a more general discussion of this phenomenon, see Breuilly, Nationalism and the State, 48. Notable RDA adversaries among Ponty alumni in Guinea included several members of the French parliament: National Assembly deputies Yacine Diallo, Mamba Sano, and Barry Diawadou and Council of the Republic senator Fodé Mamadou Touré. Another Ponty graduate was Framoï Bérété, president of the anti-RDA ethnic association Union du Mandé, and a member of the equally hostile Comité d’Entente Guinéenne. The vehemently anti-RDA secretary-general of the Guinean teachers’ union, Koumandian Kéïta, was a graduate of école Normale de Katibougou, the Ponty equivalent in the French Soudan. Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 222, 224–225; R. W. Johnson, “The Parti Démocratique de Guinée and the Mamou `Deviation,’” in Christopher Allen and R. W. Johnson, eds., African Perspectives: Papers in the History, Politics and Economics of Africa Presented to Thomas Hodgkin (Cambridge, 1970), 368; interviews in Conakry with Bocar Biro Barry, January 21, 1991; Léon Maka, February 20, 1991; and Fodé Mamdou Touré, March 13, 1991.
112 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 20–21.
113école Normale de Katibougou graduate Koumandian Kéïta, an arch-rival of the RDA and secretary-general of Guinea’s powerful African teachers’ union, was a case in point. The deep antipathy that he and Sékou Touré shared was both personal and political. ANS, 2G53/187, Guinée Française, Secrétaire Général, “Revues Trimestrielles des événements, 1953: 3ème Trimestre,” September 12, 1953, #862/APA; 2G55/150, Guinée Française, Gouverneur, “Rapport Politique Mensuel, Août 1955,” September 28, 1955, #487/APAS/CAB; 2G57/128, Guinée Française, Police et Sûreté, “Synthèse Mensuelle de Renseignements Novembre 1957,” Conakry, November 25, 1957, #2593/C/PS.2; AG, 2D297, Guinée Française, Secrétaire Général du Comité de Coordination des Syndicats de l’Enseignement Primaire Public de l’A.O.F., Conakry, à Gouverneur, Conakry, October 11, 1954, #1/CCE; interview with Bocar Biro Barry, Conakry, January 21, 1991.
114 Suret-Canale, République de Guinée, 147; Kéïta, Ahmed Sékou Touré: L’Homme et son Combat, 24, 29, 32, 36; Sidiki Kobélé Kéïta, Ahmed Sékou Touré: L’Homme du 28 Septembre 1958, 2nd ed. (Conakry, 1977), 29, 31; B. Ameillon, La Guinée: Bilan d’une Indépendance–(Paris, 1964), 49; AG, 1E41, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Fiche de Renseignements Biographiques Relative à M. Sékou Touré,” January 2, 1956.
115 Bocar Biro Barry is a grandson of Almamy Bokar Biro Barry. However, he spells his first name differently.
116 Interview with Bocar Biro Barry, Conakry, January 21, 1991; Kéïta, Ahmed Sékou Touré: L’Homme et son Combat, 10–11, 30; Suret-Canale, République de Guinée, 142. Morgenthau contends that strains between the more and less educated Guinean elites were comparable to those that existed in colonial Ghana. Basil Davidson writes that those who mobilized for the Convention People’s Party, which ultimately became the ruling party of independent Ghana, were derisively referred to by more educated opponents as “Standard VII Boys” or, in reference to homeless youths who organized for the party by night and slept on porches, “verandah boys, hooligans, flotsam and jetsam, town rabble.” Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 20–21; Basil Davidson, Black Star: A View of the Life and Times of Kwame Nkrumah, 2nd ed. (Boulder, Colo., 1989), 68, 70. See also Apter, Ghana in Transition, 167, 207–208; Hodgkin, African Political Parties, 30–31.
117 Suret-Canale, République de Guinée, 142–143; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 12, 20, 251. See also Breuilly, Nationalism and the State, 48–49; Hobsbawm, Age of Empire, 151; Coleman, “Nationalism in Tropical Africa,” 412.
118 AG, 5B49, Guinée Française, Secrétaire Général chargé de l’Expédition des Affaires Courantes, pour le Gouverneur, Conakry, à Haut Commissaire, Dakar, “Revue des événements du Quatrième Trimestre 1947,” February 17, 1948, #35/APA.
119 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 7. See also Hroch, “From National Movement to the Fully-Formed Nation,” 67.
120 Breuilly, Nationalism and the State, 19–20; Tom Nairn, The Break-up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-Nationalism (London, 1977), 41.
121 For further elaboration, see Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses.
122 ANS, 2G43/25, Guinée Française, “Rapport de Tournée Effectuée du 27 Janvier au 9 Février par M. Chopin, Administrateur des Colonies, Inspecteur du Travail, dans les Cercles de Conakry-Kindia-Forécariah,” Conakry, April 2, 1943; 2G43/25, Guinée Française, Gouverneur, “Rapport sur le Travail et la Main d’Oeuvre de la Guinée Française Pendant l’Année 1943,” Conakry, July 24, 1944, #994/IT; 2G46/50, Guinée Française, Inspecteur des Colonies (Pruvost), Mission en Guinée, “Rapport sur la Main d’Oeuvre en Guinée,” Conakry, July 13, 1946, #116/C; 2G46/50, Guinée Française, Inspecteur du Travail, “Rapport Annuel du Travail, 1946,” Conakry, February 15, 1947, #66/IT.GV.
123 ANS, 2G46/50, “Rapport sur la Main d’Oeuvre,” July 13, 1946; 2G46/50, “Rapport Annuel du Travail, 1946.” See also Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff, French West Africa (New York, 1969), 492.
124 See Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses; ANS, 2G41/21, Guinée Française, “Rapport Politique Annuel, 1941”; 2G42/22, Guinée Française, “Rapport Politique Annuel, 1942”; 2G46/50, “Rapport sur la Main d’Oeuvre,” July 13, 1946; 2G47/121, “Revues Trimestrielles des événements, 3ème Trimestre 1947”; AG, 1E42, Guinée Française, “Renseignements,” Cercle de Kankan, January 26, 1945, #66/C/APAN/31/1/46; 1E37, Guinée Française, Cercle de Gaoual, Subdivision Centrale, “Rapport Politique Annuel, Année 1947”; Suret-Canale, “Fin de la Chefferie en Guinée,” 462, 464, 467, 470, 479–480; Suret-Canale, République de Guinée, 95–98, 137–139; Suret-Canale, French Colonialism in Tropical Africa, 80, 322–325, 327, 341–342; Kéïta, P.D.G., 1: 87–88, 99–102, 331; Klein, Slavery and Colonial Rule, 212–213; Babacar Fall, Le Travail Forcé en Afrique-Occidentale Française (1900–1945) (Paris, 1993), 279.
125 For further discussion of rivalry between “traditional” and “modern” elites in African nationalist movements, see Seton-Watson, Nations and States, 328–329, 341, 437.
126 Suret-Canale, “Fin de la Chefferie en Guinée,” 459–460, 492; Kéïta, P.D.G., 2: 147; interview with Mamadou Bela Doumbouya, Conakry, January 26, 1991.
127 AG, 2Z27, “Syndicat Professionnel des Agents et Sous-Agents Indigènes du Service des Transmissions de la Guinée Française,” Conakry, March 18, 1945; interviews with Joseph Montlouis (assistant secretary-general, postal, telegraph, and telephone workers’ union), Conakry, March 3 and 6, 1991; Kéïta, Ahmed Sékou Touré: L’Homme du 28 Septembre, 41.
128 Kéïta, P.D.G., 1: 180.
129 ANS, 17G573, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements A/S Activité de Certains Africains R.D.A.,” February 24, 1948, #229/76 C; AG, 1E38, Guinée Française, Cercle de Kankan, “Rapport Politique Annuel, Année 1948”; 1E38, Guinée Française, Cercle de N’Zérékoré, “Rapport Politique Annuel, Année 1948.” See also AG, 5B49, Guinée Française, Inspecteur des Affaires Administratives, pour le Gouverneur, Conakry, à Haut Commissaire, Dakar, September 11, 1948, #596/APA.
130 ANS, 17G529, Guinée Française, “Liste des Organisations Professionnelles,” 1952; 17G271, Gouverneur de Guinée Française, Conakry, à Haut Commissaire, Dakar, “A/S Activité Syndicale,” February 25, 1952, #85/APA; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 414.
131 Interview with Bocar Biro Barry, Conakry, January 21, 1991.
132 Tom Nairn, “Scotland and Europe,” in Eley and Suny, Becoming National, 84–85; see also Nairn, Break-up of Britain, 100; Anthony D. Smith, Nations and Nationalism in a Global Era (Cambridge, 1995), 40.
133 See Chatterjee’s critique of Anderson in this regard. Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World, 19–22; Chatterjee, Nation and Its Fragments, 4–5. See also Anderson, Imagined Communities, 67, 113, 116, 135, 140–141.
134 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 12. See also Smith, “Origins of Nations,” 111, 124.
135 Smith, Nations and Nationalism in a Global Era, 40, 47. See also Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca, N.Y., 1983), 49.
136 Hobsbawm, Age of Revolution, 135–136; Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 63, 89; Anderson, Imagined Communities, 36–40.
137 Hobsbawm, Age of Revolution, 133, 135–136; Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 59.
138 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 24–25, 36–37, 40.
139 Anne McClintock, “`No Longer in a Future Heaven’: Women and Nationalism in South Africa,” in Eley and Suny, Becoming National, 260, 273–274. See also Breuilly, Nationalism and the State, 64, 67–68.
140 See Anderson, Imagined Communities, 23. For a discussion of these issues in Africa more generally, see Hodgkin, African Political Parties, 134–139.
141 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 238–239, 243–244; interview with Léon Maka and Mira Baldé (Mme. Maka), Conakry, February 20, 1991; ANS, 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Kankan, “Renseignements A/S Arrivé Kankan, Sékou Touré et Conférence Publique du 9 Novembre 1954,” November 13, 1954, #2936/1142, C/PS.2; 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Kindia, “Renseignements A/S Passage à Kindia du DéputéDiallo Sayfoulaye et Compte-Rendu de Mandat de ce Parlementaire,” July 17, 1956, #1396/503, C/PS.2; 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Mamou, “Renseignements A/S Visite Parlementaire à Mamou,” July 23, 1956, #1444/512, C/PS.2; 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Conakry, “Renseignements A/S Réunion Publique d’Informations tenue le Jeudi 30 Août 1956, par le DéputéDiallo Saï foulaye, à Conakry, Salle de Cinéma `VOX,’” August 31, 1956, #1761/619, C/PS.2; 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Conakry, “Renseignements A/S Conférence Publique d’Information, tenue le 16 Septembre 1956 par le P.D.G.-R.D.A. au Cinéma `VOX’ à Conakry,” September 17, 1956, #1907/658, C/PS.2. See also Hodgkin, Nationalism in Colonial Africa, 150, 159; Hodgkin, African Political Parties, 134–139; Thompson and Adloff, French West Africa, 60.
142 Interviews in Conakry with Léon Maka and Mira Baldé, February 20, 1991; Fatou Kéïta, April 7, 1991; and Aissatou N’Diaye, April 8, 1991. See also Barbara A. Moss, “Clothed in Righteousness and Respect: The Use of Uniforms within Zimbabwean Women’s Ruwadzano in the Methodist Church,” paper presented to the Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association, Atlanta, Ga., November 3, 1989.
143 Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 238; Hodgkin, African Political Parties, 36, 38; Messmer, Après Tant de Batailles, 234.
144 ANS, 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements Réunion Privée des Femmes R.D.A. à Conakry,” October 7, 1954, #2765/1033, C/PS.2; 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, Labé, “Renseignements Objet: Situation Politique à Labé dans la Première Quinzaine de Novembre 1954,” November 23, 1954, #2999/1180, C/PS.2; Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 77; Chaffard, Les Carnets Secrets, 2: 177; Ruth Schachter-Morgenthau, Le Multipartisme en Afrique de l’Ouest Francophone Jusqu’aux Indépendances: La Période Nationaliste (Paris, 1998), photograph 29, following 230; Kéïta, Ahmed Sékou Touré: L’Homme et son Combat, photograph “Carte de Voeux 1955 de Sékou Touré,” following 136.
145 See Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, 49; Smith, Nations and Nationalism in a Global Era, 40, 47; Smith, “Origins of Nations,” 120; Anderson, Imagined Communities, 140.
146 Interview with Léon Maka and Mira Baldé, Conakry, February 20, 1991. For Mafory Bangoura’s background, see “Les Femmes s’Organisent,” La Liberté, August 18, 1954, 4; Kéïta, P.D.G., 1: 340, 345; Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 43–44; interviews in Conakry with Bocar Biro Barry, January 29, 1991; Léon Maka, February 20, 1991; Aissatou N’Diaye, April 8, 1991.
147 Interview with Léon Maka and Mira Baldé, Conakry, February 20, 1991. See also interview with Aissatou N’Diaye, Conakry, April 8, 1991.
148 See Geiger, “Tanganyikan Nationalism as `Women’s Work’”; Geiger, TANU Women; LaRay Denzer, “Constance A. Cummings-John of Sierra Leone: Her Early Political Career,” Tarikh 7, no. 1 (1981): 20–32; LaRay Denzer, “Women in Freetown Politics, 1914–61: A Preliminary Study,” Africa 57, no. 4 (1987): 439–456; Cheryl Johnson, “Grassroots Organizing: Women in Anti-Colonial Activity in Southwestern Nigeria,” African Studies Review 25, no. 2 (September 1982): 137–157; Cheryl Johnson, “Madam Alimotu Pelewura and the Lagos Market Women,” Tarikh 7, no. 1 (1981): 1–10; Nina Emma Mba, Nigerian Women Mobilized: Women’s Political Activity in Southern Nigeria, 1900–1965 (Berkeley, Calif., 1982); Cora Ann Presley, Kikuyu Women, the Mau Mau Rebellion, and Social Change in Kenya (Boulder, Colo., 1992); Timothy Scarnecchia, “Poor Women and Nationalist Politics: Alliances and Fissures in the Formation of a Nationalist Political Movement in Salisbury Rhodesia, 1950–6,” Journal of African History 37, no. 2 (1996): 283–310; Cherryl Walker, Women and Resistance in South Africa (London, 1982). Many studies emphasize women’s contributions to male-dominated nationalist movements—rather than their fundamentally formative roles. In the case of Guinea, Margarita Dobert’s 1970 doctoral dissertation skims the surface of women’s anticolonial activities. Far more insightful and analytical is Idiatou Camara’s unpublished undergraduate thesis, “La Contribution de la Femme de Guinée à la Lutte de Libération Nationale (1945–1958).” See Dobert, “Civic and Political Participation of Women”; Camara, “Contribution de la Femme.”
149 Quoted in Eley and Suny, Becoming National, 259.
150 McClintock, “`No Longer in a Future Heaven,’” 260.
151 Ibid., 261.
152 Geiger, “Tanganyikan Nationalism as `Women’s Work,’” 467, 469, 471–472; Geiger, TANU Women, 162. For further discussion of women’s involvement in the “ideological reproduction of the collectivity” and of women as “transmitters of its culture,” see Nira Yuval-Davis and Floya Anthias, “Introduction,” in Nira Yuval-Davis and Floya Anthias, eds., Woman-Nation-State (London, 1989), 7, 9–10.
153 Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 65; Mamadou Tounkara, “Autour d’une Musique,” La Liberté, November 9, 1954, 3; interview with Fatou Diarra, Conakry, March 17, 1991.
154 See Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 80; Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses, chap. 5; Schmidt, “`Emancipate Your Husbands!’”; interviews in Conakry with Léon Maka, February 20, 1991; Fatou Diarra, March 17, 1991; Néné Diallo, April 11, 1991; Fatou Kéïta, May 24, 1991.
155 Interviews with Fatou Kéïta, Conakry, April 7 and May 24, 1991. See also interview with Léon Maka, Conakry, February 20, 1991.
156 Interview with Néné Diallo, Conakry, April 11, 1991.
157 Interview with Fatou Diarra, Conakry, March 17, 1991. See also Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 80.
158 Centre de Recherche et de Documentation Africaine (CRDA), Claude Gerard, “Incidents en Guinée Française, 1954–1955,” Afrique Informations, no. 34 (March 15–April 1, 1955): 5–7; Morgenthau, Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa, 103, 106, 240.
159 Interview with Aissatou N’Diaye, Conakry, April 8, 1991.
160 Ibid. See also interviews with Fatou Kéïta, Conakry, April 7 and May 24, 1991.
161 CRDA, Gerard, “Incidents en Guinée Française, 1954–1955,” 9; Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 78. See also interview with Fatou Kéïta, Conakry, May 24, 1991.
162 Camara, “La Contribution de la Femme,” 79.
163 Interviews in Conakry with Léon Maka, February 20, 1991; Léon Maka and Mira Baldé, February 25, 1991; Fatou Kéïta, April 7, 1991; ANS, 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements,” September 8, 1954. For similar use of song elsewhere in Africa, see Shirley Ardener, “Sexual Insult and Female Militancy,” in Shirley Ardener, ed., Perceiving Women (London, 1975), 29–30, 36–37; Caroline Ifeka-Moller, “Female Militancy and Colonial Revolt: The Women’s War of 1929, Eastern Nigeria,” in Ardener, Perceiving Women, 132–133; Van Allen, “`Aba Riots’ or Igbo `Women’s War’?” 60–61; Mba, Nigerian Women Mobilized, 150; Geiger, “Tanganyikan Nationalism as `Women’s Work,’” 473. Asante and Ga women in colonial Ghana also challenged men they deemed cowardly—and thus effeminate—in the face of British colonialism; see Obeng, “Gendered Nationalism,” 193, 202–204; Parker, Making the Town, 52, 71. The feminization of colonized males, and women’s ridicule of them, is discussed in Chatterjee, Nation and Its Fragments, 69–71.
164 ANS, 17G586, “Réunion Publique R.D.A. à Conakry,” September 8, 1954; 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements A/S R.D.A. Conakry,” April 19, 1955, #811/332, C/PS.2; 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements Objet: RDA à Conakry,” April 27, 1955, #867/353, C/PS.2; 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements Objet: Incidents en Guinée,” June 3, 1955, #1095/463, C/PS.2; 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements Objet: R.D.A. à Conakry,” June 6, 1955, #1106/469, C/PS.2. See also 17G573, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements A/S Attroupement R.D.A. devant le Commissariat de Police de Mamou, le 15 Mai 1956,” May 19, 1956, #929/324, C/PS.2; AG, 1E41, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements A/S Conférence Publique tenue le Lundi 14 Janvier 1957 à Conakry, Salle du Cinéma `VOX,’ par le P.D.G.-R.D.A.,” January 15, 1957, #89/50/C/PS.2.
165 ANS, 17G586, Guinée Française, Services de Police, “Renseignements Objet: R.D.A. Conakry,” June 14, 1955, #1158/490, C/PS.2. The Susu song was transcribed and translated into French by the police. The English translation is mine.
166 Siba N. Grovogui, personal communication, 1991.
By ELIZABETH SCHMIDT