Accepted paper:

Traitors to the Nation: Labor Migrants and Socialist Citizenship in Guinea's First Republic


John Straussberger (Florida Gulf Coast University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how the Republic of Guinea's government cast labor migrants as anti-national traitors and the antithesis of an emerging construction of ideal socialist citizenship. In doing so, it points to migrants as key figures in debates surrounding belonging both abroad and at home.

Paper long abstract:

After gaining independence in 1958, the government of the Republic of Guinea put into place an ambitious plan to remake its national economy based upon the principles of self-sufficiency and the ideology of African Socialism. This paper explores how seasonal labor migrants became "troublesome" figures in the state construction of a socialist economy and national identity. Labor migration, most notably emanating in the mountainous Futa Jallon region of Guinea, had a deep history in pre-colonial and colonial Senegambia, stretching back to the region's increasing integration into the Atlantic economy in the early 19th century. After independence, however, the ruling party of Guinea, the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), cast these migrants as neo-colonial traitors to their nation, more interested in working for profit in the peanut fields of Senegal and docks in Dakar than laboring to build their home country. Through a series of border raids, arrests, and show trials, labor migrants became key figures against which the PDG constructed their vision of an ideal Guinean citizen. Using a combination of state media and internal security reports, this paper illuminates the unique case of the marginalization of migrants not in their host countries, but rather in their homes. In doing so, it demonstrates that migrants were interstitial figures in post-colonial West Africa, marginalized and home and abroad yet central to state and popular articulations of citizenship and belonging.

panel His20
Who belongs to the new nations? Inclusion, expulsion and xenophobia in early post-independence West Africa (1957-1973)