9780226925097

Unmasking the State: Making Guinea Modern

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780226925097

  • ISBN10:

    0226925099

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2012-11-29
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
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Summary

When the Republic of Guinea gained independence in 1958, one of the first policies of the new state was a village-to-village eradication of masks and other ritual objects it deemed "fetishes." The Demystification Program, as it was called, was so urgent it even preceded the building of a national road system. In Unmasking the State,Mike McGovern attempts to understand why this program was so important to the emerging state and examines the complex role it had in creating a unified national identity. In doing so, he tells a dramatic story of cat-and-mouse where minority groups cling desperately to their important-and outlawed-customs. Primarily focused on the communities in the country's southeastern rainforest region-people known as Forestiers -the Demystification Program operated via a paradox. At the same time it banned rituals from Forestiers' day-to-day lives, it appropriated them into a state-sponsored program of folklorization. McGovern points to an important purpose for this: by objectifying this polytheistic group's rituals, the state created a viable counterexample against which the Muslim majority could define proper modernity. Describing the intertwined relationship between national and local identity-making, McGovern showcases the coercive power and the unintended consequences involved when states attempt to engineer culture.

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