Making a living in Kassumba, Guinea-Bissau
Lundy, Brandon Daniel
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Development initiatives in Africa have proven largely ineffective. Neoliberal policies promoted by international aid agencies have done little to improve the livelihoods of civil society. For example, a push for cashew nut production and the opening of fishing grounds to foreigners have left Guinea-Bissau's citizenry with fewer fish, neglected rice fields, and little capital. In addition, the colonial legacy exacerbates underdevelopment in a hierarchical world-system. Therefore, development, as it is understood today, is inherently flawed and in need of serious alternatives. This study examines the socio-economic milieu of a rural community and investigates unfolding negotiations between everyday activities, conceptions of cultural identity, globalization, and national politics. Through the use of ethnographic methods including household surveys, interviews, local histories and participant observation, the researcher describes and analyses the southern village of Kassumba divided between Islamic Nalú landowners and the majority, spiritist Balanta immigrants. This work demonstrates how the local inhabitants understand their historical realities and political economy, meet their subsistence needs, and modify their household livelihood strategies in order to adapt to poorly understood economic deprivations. This study finds that socio-economic cooperation and flexibility play important roles in adjusting to rapidly changing circumstances. Traditional field methods are once again proving effective in response to new and pressing needs for fresh research on the changes today's peripheral economies are being forced to make. This thesis is intended to be a policy paper, local history, and ethnography.