African Studies Review

Research Article

From the Margins of the State to the Presidential Palace: The Balanta Case in Guinea-Bissau

Marina Padrão Temudo


Balanta farmers of Guinea-Bissau are often regarded by neighboring communities as “backward” and as a people who have refused modern life-worlds. Despite the fact that these farmers played a very important role in the making of Guinea-Bissau, they were progressively removed from power after independence. However, they also developed original forms of contesting marginality. This article portrays the Balanta as complex historical subjects with strategic agendas. It examines the tensions between centrality and marginality in today's Guinea-Bissau and in the Balanta's own ways of imagining their place in the nation.

Marina Padrão Temudo is a senior research fellow at the Tropical Research Institute (IICT) in Lisbon, Portugal. She has conducted extensive field research in Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Mozambique, S. Tomé and Príncipe, and the Republic of Guinea. She has published articles on the impact of rural development interventions, NGOs, and natural resources management, the effect of war on rural societies, and the way agrarian tensions have fed conflicts. E-mail: