Accepted Paper:

The idea of self in traditional political power of Guinea Bissau  


Claudia Favarato (Universidade de Lisboa)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses foundations of the political within traditional powers of Guinea Bissau, tightly embedded in the local animist cosmology. The criança-irân (spirit-children) belief provide the means for the reading of the relational we-self and its consequences on the political configuration.

Paper long abstract:

This paper aims to unveil foundations of political power in Guinea Bissau, departing from the features of political orders in selected ethnical groups. The criança-irân infanticide, cultural practice underpinned in the local animist cosmology, provides the reading lenses to understand such scenario.

For rejecting uniformity and universality on the concept of humanness, the conception underneath the spirit-baby belief challenges the ontology of being, and the boundaries between nude and political life. In Bissau-Guinean animist tradition, the conceptual category of humanness is embedded in epistemology grounded in rational and metaphysical notions. The engendered idea of human life, as individual and as a plurality - the political - reflects these foundational tenets. We argue that the conceptual bedrocks for power, institutions and legitimacy discard individualistic premises, according preference to one's relational ties in the process self-individualization, hence prompting the formation of a we-self, for one recognize oneself through the others.

This self-recognition moves far and beyond Western-tailored immunological tenets of ego versus alter individualization, thus necessarily framing the conditions of living a humanly dignified, political life as an individual and as a we-self.

This paper is based on fieldwork and literature review, considering the contributions of African (political) philosophy as a conceptual frame. Keeping in mind which the foundations of state power in Guinea Bissau, throughout the paper we aim to unveil the boundaries of the political sphere in the traditional setting, and to shed some light on the definition of political life, considering especially peculiar categories of beings such as the spirit-children.

Panel Pol02
Normative politics in Africa