Accepted Paper:

From an exclusive elite to nation-builders: the various faces of creoledom in Guinea-Bissau  


Wilson Trajano Filho (University of Brasilia)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how the strategies of social reproduction and the self-image of the Creole elite in Guinea-Bissau have changed from the late nineteenth century up to the present, in response to new societal contexts.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the polymorphic character of the Creole elite in Guinea-Bissau. In the nineteenth century it was organized as a group of autonomous patrimonial extended families involved in trade with Guinean indigenous societies. The new conditions brought about by the colonial regime forced these families to change their strategies of social reproduction and public presentation if they wanted to survive as elites. They managed to present themselves as an exclusivist elite that championed Christian values and Western manners. They distinguished themselves from the bulk of indigenous groups, to whom they were, at the same time, strategically linked through matrimonial alliances, adoption of African children, and patron-client relations. However, they had to compete with newcomers better equipped to take over the higher and middle positions in the colonial apparatus and to control colonial commerce, namely Cape Verdeans and metropolitan Portuguese. Consequently, they became a kind of subaltern elite that played the role of intermediaries between Africans and colonial rulers. However, by the late 1950s, this strategy was no longer successful, and they now engaged in the nationalist movement, projecting themselves as Africans, and builders of a Guinean nation. They achieved independence, but did not develop efficient mechanisms in order to fully incorporate the indigenous groups in the new nation. The paper ends by analysing the current predicaments of the Creole elite.

Panel W025
Elite strategies of distinction and mutuality