Skip to main content

Anti-Colonialism and Social Science: Georges Balandier, Madeira Keita, and “the Colonial Situation” in French Africa

  • Gregory Mann (a1)

Two young men met on a quay at the port in Conakry, Guinea in 1946. One, waiting dockside, was Mamadou Madeira Keita, a low-level civil servant and archivist. Years later, when he was a political prisoner in the Malian Sahara, some would argue that he was “the first francophone African ethnographer.” The other, descending the gangplank, was the Frenchman Keita had come to meet. Georges Balandier was unknown then, but would soon become a leading figure in the fields of sociology and anthropology. The encounter between Keita and Balandier was foundational for both men. Conakry incubated a canonical intervention—Balandier's 1951 article “La Situation Coloniale”—that some attribute an ancestral role in a particular francophone tradition of postcolonial thought. Conakry, and Guinea at large, was also the crucible in which a powerful anti-colonial politics were forged by Madeira Keita and his allies. In this particular corner of West Africa, anti-colonial politics and an emergent, politically engaged social science conditioned each other, like the two strands of a double helix, each a necessary yet ultimately contingent element of the other's structure. Though these links did not last long, they had important effects. This article, by emphasizing the contingencies of the two men's intertwined biographies, seeks to carry out Balandier's dictate to emphasize the “concrete” nature of this particular situation in order to understand how and why anti-colonial politics and an innovative sociology converged and ultimately diverged.

Corresponding author
Hide All

1 Balandier Georges, Ambiguous Africa: Cultures in Collision, Weaver Helen, trans. (New York: Pantheon, 1966), 228.

2 Guiart Jean, “A Propos de ‘Critiques et Politiques de l'Anthropologie,’l'Homme 41, 1 (1976): 151–55, see 153.

3 Recent contributions to that discussion include Tilley Helen, Africa as Living Laboratory: Empire, Development and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011); Sibeud Emmanuelle, ed., “Décolonisation et Sciences Humaines,” special issue of Revue d'Histoire des Sciences Humaines 24 (2011).

4 This finding complements that of Schumaker Lynn in Africanizing Anthropology: Fieldwork, Networks, and the Making of Cultural Knowledge in Central Africa (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), and echoes to some degree that of el Shakry Omnia in The Great Social Laboratory: Subjects of Knowledge in Colonial and Postcolonial Egypt (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), in which the focus extends to human geography and demography, in addition to anthropology. My approach differs from that of Jean-Hervé Jézéquel, who concentrates on the “social history of agents and institutions of research”; see Jézéquel , “Les Professionels Africains de la Recherche dans l'Etat Colonial Tardif: Le Personnel Local de l'Institut Français d'Afrique Noire entre 1938 et 1960,” Revue d'Histoire des Sciences Humaines 24 (2011): 3560, see 53.

5 Balandier refers to himself as “pré-post” in “Préface,” Smouts M-C., ed., La Situation Postcoloniale: Les Postcolonial Studies dans le Débat Français (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2007), 17.

6 I use language referents here somewhat heuristically. Postcolonial scholarship and literature, like the intellectual project of Présence Africaine, have long been bilingual; Hayes Brent Edward, The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003); Fulton Dawn, Signs of Dissent: Maryse Condé and Postcolonial Criticism (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), Conclusion. Balandier himself rejects the idea that this intellectual genealogy can be contained in a national, and implicitly linguistic, frame (“Préface,” 18). Nonetheless, the recent body of work that has been dubbed “postcolonial studies” in France is often considered an Anglophone phenomenon, and its reception has clearly been affected by the timing, sequence, and selection of translations.

7 Balandier G., “La Situation Coloniale: Approche Théorique,” Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie 9 (1951): 4479. On the article's canonical status, see Copans Jean, ed., “Georges Balandier, Lecture et Re-lecture,” special issue of Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie 110 (2001); Smouts, ed., La Situation Postcoloniale; Saada Emmanuelle, ed., “Regards croisés: Transatlantic Perspectives on the Colonial Situation,” special issue of French Politics, Culture and Society 20, 2 (2002), which includes Georges Balandier's “La Situation Coloniale: Ancien Concept, Nouvelle Réalité” (pp. 4–10); Conklin Alice, “The New ‘Ethnology’ and ‘La Situation Coloniale’ in Interwar France,” French Politics, Culture and Society 20, 2 (2002): 2946; and Frederick Cooper, “Decolonizing Situations: The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Colonial Studies, 1951–2001,” pp. 47–76, republished as chapter two of Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 3355. On Balandier and his influence, a sample of work representative of different decades and approaches might include Adler Alfred and Balandier Georges, eds., Afrique Plurielle, Afrique Actuelle: Hommage à Georges Balandier (Paris: Karthala, 1986); Maffesoli Michel and Rivière Claude, eds., Une Anthropologie des Turbulences: Hommage à Georges Balandier (Paris: Berg International, 1985); Meillassoux Claude, Maidens, Meal, and Money: Capitalism and the Domestic Community (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), Preface; Moore Sally Falk, Anthropology and Africa: Changing Perspectives on a Changing Scene (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1994), 99104; J. Copans, ed., “Georges Balandier”; Balandier Georges, Steinmetz George, and Sapiro Gisèle, “Tout parcours scientifique comporte des moments autobiographiques,” Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales 185 (2010): 4461. The article also inspired “in part” the joint project that became Cooper Frederick and Stoler Ann Laura, eds., Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); see Stoler Ann Laura, “Colonial Aphasia: Race and Disabled Histories in France,” in Janet Roitman, ed., “Racial France,” a special issue of Public Culture 23, 1 (2011): 121–56, see 134–35.

8 Tshimanga Charles, Gondola Didier, and Bloom Peter J., eds., Frenchness and the African Diaspora: Identity and Uprising in Contemporary France (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009). In addition to the works cited in the pages to follow, two other significant interventions are Blanchard Pascal, Bancel Nicolas, and Lemaire Sandrine, eds., La Fracture Coloniale: La Société Française au Prisme de l'Héritage Colonial (Paris: la Découverte, 2005); and Mbembe Achille, Vergès Françoise, Bernault Florence, Boubeker Ahmed, Bancel Nicolas, and Blanchard Pascal, eds., Ruptures Postcoloniales: Les Nouveaux Visages de la Société Française (Paris: la Decouverte, 2010).

9 Sibeud Emmanuelle, “Post-Colonial et Colonial Studies: Enjeux et Débats,” Revue d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine 2004 (51, 4): 8795; Bayart Jean-François, Les Etudes Postcoloniales: Un Carnaval Académique (Paris: Karthala, 2011), see esp. 7–8, 26–31; Coquery-Vidrovitch Catherine, Enjeux Politiques de l'Histoire Coloniale (Marseille: Agone, 2009), 1718; Cooper, “Decolonizing Situations”; Smouts, ed., La Situation Postcoloniale. Scholars have produced a considerable number of reflections on postcolonial studies in France in recent years; those discussions have been consistently political, often polemical, sometimes parochial, and occasionally insightful. Excellent reviews are offered by Sibeud, “Post-Colonial”; and Smouts, ed., La Situation Postcoloniale. See, most recently, Roitman, ed., “Racial France.” For a bracing critique of this debate as a whole, see Mbembe Achille, Sortir de la Grande Nuit: Essai sur l'Afrique Décolonisée (Paris: la Découverte, 2010), ch. 4., an abridged version of which has been published as “Provincializing France?” in Roitman, ed., “Racial France,” 85–120. It bears mentioning that in francophone scholarship, the term “postcolonial” generally refers less to a critique of the nationalist, progressivist, modernist project as such than to the hypothesis that modern European imperialism played an important role in molding contemporary societies and that its ramifications continue to be felt.

10 Mbembe, Sortir. Balandier himself underscores the contributions of Césaire, Senghor, and Sartre; Situation Postcoloniale, 267–68.

11 Mbembe, Sortir, ch. 4. See also the introduction to Mbembe et al., Ruptures, which is more nuanced.

12 See Bayart, Etudes Postcoloniales, much of the argument of which is represented in translation as “Postcolonial Studies: A Political Invention of Tradition?” in Roitman, ed., “Racial France,” 55–84; and Romain Bertrand, “Faire Parler les Subalternes ou le Mythe de Dévoilement,” in Smouts M-C., ed., La Situation Postcoloniale: Les Postcolonial Studies dans le Débat Français (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2007), esp. 278. Read also the much more measured reply of Foucher Vincent, “Achille Mbembe et l'Hiver Impérial Français: Politiques de la Différence et Sciences du Fragment,” Politique Africaine 120 (2010): 209–21.

13 Cooper, “Decolonizing Situations”; Stoler, “Colonial Aphasia.”

14 Stoler, “Colonial Aphasia,” 125.

15 I draw the workshop analogy from Schumaker, Africanizing Anthropology. The distinction between Africa as a site for the working out of scientific models developed elsewhere and as a site of scientific production in, of, and for itself merits further reflection; see Bernault Florence, “l'Afrique et la Modernité des Sciences Sociales,” Vingtième Siècle 70 (2001): 127–38; Cooper, Colonialism; Mbeme Achille, On the Postcolony (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); and Tilley, Africa as Living Laboratory.

16 Balandier G., Conjugaisons (Paris: Fayard, 1997), 254–55, 257–61. Studies on Balandier generally overlook his Guinean sojourn and Keita's role in it. However, two articles touch briefly on that: de Suremaine Marie-Albaine, “Faire du Terrain en AOF dans les Années Cinquante,” Ethnologie Française 34, 4 (2004): 651–59; Jézéquel, “Les Professionels Africains,” 57.

17 Notice de Renseignement Concernant Madeira Keita, 1960, Numérique 3, 1C1542, ANM; Activités du Centre IFAN,” Etudes Guinéennes 7 (1951); Autra Mamadou Traoré Ray [hereafter Ray Autra], “L'Institut National de Recherches et de Documentation de la République de Guinée,” Recherches Africaines [formerly Etudes Guinéennes] 14 (1964): 535, see 14–16. “Ray Autra” is a moniker based on reversing the syllables of Traoré's family name in the French slang style known as verlane. Since he appeared in archival records and signed his own publications as Ray Autra, I use that name here.

18 Suret-Canale Jean, Les Groupes d'Etudes Communistes (G.E.C.) en Afrique Noire (Paris: l'Harmattan, 1994), 5759. Letter of Madeira Keita to Jean Suret-Canale, 17 Apr. 1987, Fonds Suret-Canale, 229J65, Archives Départmentales de la Seine-Saint Denis (ADSSD).

19 Announcement, La Guinée Française, 6 Mar. 1947, #3014.

20 Renseignement, Conakry, Destinataire: Haut-Commissaire de la République, Gouverneur Général de l'AOF (Direction des Affaires Politiques et Administratives, 10 Mar. 1947, 17G573v152, Archives Nationales du Senegal (henceforth ANS); Madeira Keita, Secretary-General, “la Vie de la Section,” Phare de Guinée 1, 1 (27 Sept. 1947), 2. The RDA in Guinea became the PDG in 1950, although it is frequently referred to as the RDA through Guinea's independence in 1958; Rapport politique, Guinée 1950, 17G573v152, ANS; Morgenthau R. S., Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964), 234.

21 On the women's movement, see Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses: Gender, Ethnicity, and Class in the Nationalist Movement in Guinea, 1939–1958 (Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2005), ch. 5; Pauthier Céline, “Tous Derrière, les Femmes Devant! Femmes, Représentations Sociales et Mobilisation Politique en Guinée (1945–2006),” in Goerg Odile, ed., Perspectives Historiques sur le Genre en Afrique (Paris: l'Harmattan, 2007), 219–38. An image of Madame Madeira Keita's carte d'electeur can be found in Keita Sidiki Kobele, Le PDG: Artisan de l'Indépendance Nationale en Guinée (1946–1958), 2 vols. (Conakry: I.N.R.D.G. et Bibliothèque nationale, 1978). Her status as a teacher apparently gave her the right to vote several years before other West African women obtained it. Mme Keita was a leader of the RDA women's wing in Guinea and Mali, which sent her as a delegate to many international meetings and conferences through the mid-1960s. According to one of her sons, the demands of her family eventually took precedence over her international activism; interview with Papa Madeira Keita, Bamako, 21 June 2008.

22 E. Schmidt's work is symptomatic, according Keita a minor role, occluded by that of Sékou Touré, and failing to recognize the inter-territorial basis of French West African politics. Schmidt's focus on “the masses” and Sékou Touré tends to obscure the collective leadership of the PDG-RDA and the role of leaders other than Touré; see Mobilizing the Masses; Cold War in Guinea: The Rassemblement Démocratique Africain and the Struggle over Communism, 1950–1958,” Journal of African History 48, 1 (2007): 95122. Schmidt'sCold War and Decolonization in Guinea, 1946–58 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2007) recognizes Keita's role more systematically, but sends him offstage after his 1952 transfer to Dahomey, which merely marked the end of his Guinean sojourn (pp. 38, 64). It is no surprise that work published in Conakry while Touré was in power also diminishes Keita's role: Camara Sikhe, La Guinée vers la Socialisme: De l'Empire au Referendum Gaulliste de 1958, 2 vols. (Conakry: n.p., 1973); Keita, Artisan.

23 Pierre Ottavy, Chef de Service de la Sûreté de la Guinée Française to M. l'Inspecteur Général de la Sûreté en AOF, 5 Nov. 1948, #1176/PS, 17G573v152, ANS.

24 The phrase “stroke of bamboo” refers to the fatal sunstroke the French believed might befall those who went without a pith helmet; Bianchini Pascal, Jean-Suret Canale, de la Résistance à l'Anticolonialisme (Paris: l'Esprit Frappeur, 2011), 3233. The newspaper redefined it as a fatal blow to colonialism; Coup de Bambou 1 (5 Apr. 1950), 1.

25 Lewin André, Ahmed Sékou Touré (1922–1984), Président de la Guinée. Vol. 1. (1922–fév. 1955) (Paris: l'Harmattan, 2009), 76, 157.

26 Lewin, Ahmed Sékou Touré, 159–60; Schmidt, Mobilizing the Masses, 69–73.

27 Lewin, Ahmed Sékou Touré, 143–44, 160–63, 185; Cooper Frederick, Decolonization and African Society: The Labor Question in French and British Africa (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 308–10.

28 Notice de Renseignement Concernant Madeira Keita, 1960, N3, 1C1542, ANM; Premier Congrès Territorial du PDG (Section Guinéen du RDA), Rapport Général d'Activité 1947–1950, Présenté au Nom du Comité Directeur par Mamadou Madeira Keita, Secretaire-Général, 17G573v152, ANS; Lewin, Ahmed Sékou Touré, 160, n. 308.

29 Semaine Politique et Sociale en Guinée, 13–20 Nov. 1950, 17G573v152, ANS. The article in question appears to have been Erdéa, “Montout, Colonialist Nègre,’ Coup de Bambou 6, 14 (Apr. 1950).

30 “En Correctionelle,” la Voix de la Guinée 29 (10–17 Aug. 1950); 32 (24 Aug.–7 Sept. 1950); also, Lewin, Ahmed Sékou Touré, 142–43.

31 Lewin states that Touré signed articles under that name; Ahmed Sékou Touré, 142–43.

32 After the PDG broke its ties with the French Communist Party on the orders of the inter-territorial RDA and of Félix Houphuët-Boigny, in 1950, Keita contested Touré's accommodationist alliance with Houphuët-Boigny; Note sur la Position Politique Actuelle de Madeira Keita, n.d. (13 Dec. 1951), 17G573v152, ANS. The maneuvering behind this disaffiliation is detailed most recently in Schmidt, Cold War, ch. 2.

33 Cooper, Decolonization, 311, 412–13.

34 Ruth Morgenthau notes that “in French law, trade unionists had special legal protection”; Political Parties, 227.

35 On his position within the PDG, see Territoire du Niger, Renseignements a/s Copie Document PDG, 3 July 1952, #530/C/355/PS, 17G573v152, ANS. On the transfer to Dahomey, see Notes Africaines (Dakar) 57 (1953): 32. Riven by regionalism and skeptical of federation (the raison d’être of the RDA), Dahomey lacked a strong RDA affiliate party; Morgenthau, Political Parties, 315–16. I have found no trace of political activities on Keita's part while in Dahomey, but this question requires further research.

36 Other Soudanese active in both the RDA and IFAN were Mamby Sidibe and Dominique Traoré. Sidibe established IFAN in Niamey in 1944, and Traoré became “head of the ethnography laboratory” in Bamako; Jean-Hervé Jézéquel, “Voices of Their Own? African Participation in the Production of Colonial Knowledge in French West Africa, 1910–1950,” in Tilley Helen with Gordon Robert, eds., Ordering Africa: Anthropology, European Imperialism, and the Politics of Knowledge (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 145–72, see 161. Sidibe was an early, leading member of the RDA in Niger and Soudan and the doyen of Soudan's Territorial Assembly, an important point in West African politics; Assemblée Territorial, Soudan Français—Procés-Verbaux, Session Ordinaire, Mar.–Apr. 1953. He was also a proponent of reforming the chieftaincy by marginalizing the powerful canton chiefs and submitting the village chiefs to elections. This policy was in keeping with US-RDA's drive towards the gradual abolition of the chieftaincy. See Mamby Sidibé, “Soudan: Justice ou Bon Plaisir?” Afrique Noire (Dakar) 7 (17 Jan. 1952); Snyder Frank Gregory, One-Party Government in Mali: Transition toward Control (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), 1113, 40–41. Belonging to an older generation, Traoré's political career was more limited. However, at the founding RDA congress in 1946, he served as president of the Commission on Social Issues, for which Madeira Keita served as secretary; Lisette Gabriel, Le Combat du Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1983), 3641. Another important figure in the early RDA, the Dahomeyan S. A. Adande, worked for IFAN in Dakar, and became Minister of Justice in independent Dahomey (later Benin); Adedze Agbenyega, “In the Pursuit of Knowledge and Power: French Scientific Research in West Africa, 1938–65,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 23, 1–2 (2003): 335–44, see 338–39.

37 The best work on youth and urbanization in this period remains Meillassoux Claude, Urbanization of an African Community: Voluntary Associations in Bamako (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1968). Marriage reform under the US-RDA was immensely important politically; see Emily Burrill, “‘Il a dit qu'on fasse le mariage [à la manière des] blanc[s]’: Gendered and Generational Struggles over Labor, Marriage, and Autonomy in Sikasso, 1938–1960,” paper presented at the Seventh International Conference on Mande Studies, MANSA, Lisbon, 26 June 2008. Here mention should be made of two of Keita's early publications: La Famille et le Marriage chez lez Tyapi,” Etudes Guinéennes 2 (1947): 6366; and Aperçu Sommaire sur les Raisons de la Polygamie chez les Malinké,” Etudes Guinéennes 4 (1950): 4955.

38 Only one African in French West Africa held a higher rank than Bâ and Keita. On IFAN's hierarchy, see Décision Constatant les Passages d'Echelon des Fonctionnaires du Cadre Superieur de l'IFAN, 17 Apr. 1958, N3 2G1317, ANM. On Cardaire and Bâ, see Brenner L., Controlling Knowledge: Religion, Power, and Schooling in a West African Muslim Society (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001); and Amadou Hampâté Bâ: Tijânî Francophone,” in Triaud J.-L. and Robinson D., eds., La Tijâniyya: Une Confrérie Musulmane à la conquête de l'Afrique (Paris: Karthala, 2000), 289326. Bâ went on to direct Mali's Institut des Sciences Humaines, which succeeded IFAN-Soudan, before serving as ambassador to Cote d'Ivoire and dedicating himself to his literary career.

39 Here my interpretation of IFAN-Conakry diverges sharply from those of Benoît de l'Estoile and Agbenyega Adedze, who see the IFAN organization as a whole as an instrument centralized in Dakar to practice a social science designed to further colonial rule; see de l'Estoile, “Rationalizing Colonial Domination: Anthropology and Native Policy in French-Ruled Africa,” in de l'Estoile Benoît, Neiburg Frederico, and Sigaud Lygia, eds., Empires, Nations, and Natives: Anthropology and State-Making (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), 3057; Adedze, “In the Pursuit of Knowledge.”

40 Moving the African cemetery to a more accommodating site was one of the RDA's first successful initiatives; Autra, “L'Institut National de Recherches,” 14, n. 18; Balandier, “Erreurs Noires,” Présence Africaine 1, 3 (1948): 392404, see 401.

41 Notes Africaines 37 (Jan. 1948). Keita appears to have been acting director of the institute from its founding early in 1944 until the botanist Raymond Schnell arrived that November. Schnell served as director for one year. A three-month interval separated Schnell's departure and the arrival of his replacement, Jean Joire, who served from February to July 1946. Balandier arrived in November 1946; he left the following August. Keita appears to have served as acting director during each moment of transition until Balandier's arrival, even if he did not hold that title. The best account of IFAN-Guinea in these years is Autra, “L'Institut National de Recherches.” See also IFAN-Guinea A1/17, Collection IFAN-Dakar. I thank Dr. Jean-Hervé Jézéquel for sharing his photographs of this collection with me.

42 Mamadou Madeira Keita to M. le Directeur de l'IFAN-Dakar (Théodore Monod), 15 Nov. 1946, IFAN-Guinea A1/17, Collection IFAN-Dakar.

43 Balandier, Ambiguous Africa, 230; Balandier, Steinmetz, and Sapiro, “Tout parcours,” 53.

44 “Activités du Centre (2’ semestre 1947),” Etudes Guinéennes 2 (1947): 77; “CentrIFAN ‘Guinée,’” Notes Africaines 37 (1948): 12, 16.

45 Balandier, “les Etudes Guinéennes,” Etudes Guinéennes 1 (1947): 56, see 5; Balandier, Histoire d'Autres (Paris: Stock, 1977), 64. Adedze misapprehends this journal and its stance, assuming, like de l'Estoile, that its financing and institutional structure entirely predicated its politics. He fails to note the evolution of Etudes Guinéennes after the departure of Balandier and Keita, when it became much weaker; Adedze, “In the Pursuit of Knowledge,” 342.

46 The pairing was a crucial element of the original argument. The perspective behind it can be seen in “Le Noir Est un Homme.” It juxtaposes rather sharply with a contemporary concern to reassert the historicity of diverse “colonial situations,” both in their particularity and in their broadly comparative dimensions, including across the longue durée. In other words, in a strand of work conversant with avowedly postcolonial work but skeptical of both its novelty and the ambition of some of its claims, historical reasoning is now assigned a task similar to that once given to psychology. See Bayart, Etudes Postcoloniales; Burbank Jane and Cooper Frederick, “Empire, Droits et Citoyenneté, de 212 à 1946,” Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales 63, 3 (2008): 495531; Cooper, Colonialism; Schaub Jean-Frédéric, “La Catégorie ‘Etudes Coloniales’ est-Elle Indispensable?Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales 63, 3 (2008): 625–46; and Benjamin Stora, “Un Besoin d'Histoire,” in Smouts M-C., Postcolonial Studies dans le Débat Français (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2007), 293–97. As Emmanuelle Sibeud has observed, the preeminent role accorded to history, rather than to literature, distinguishes a predominantly francophone conversation around postcolonial scholarship from a predominantly Anglophone one; Du Postcolonialisme au Questionnement Postcolonial: Pour un Transfert Critique,” Revue d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine 54, 4 (2007): 142–55; Smouts, La Situation Postcoloniale. The volume edited by Patrick Weil and Stéphane Dufoix represents a significant and relatively early intervention in this regard; L'Esclavage, la Colonisation, et après…: France, Etats-Unis, Grande Bretagne (Paris: Presses Universitaires de la France, 2005).

47 Balandier, “Ethnologie et Psychologie,” Etudes Guinéennes 1 (1947): 4754 (original emphasis).

48 Keita Madeira, “Le Noir et le Secret,” Etudes Guinéennes 1 (1947): 6978, see 77.

49 Keita, “Le Noir,” 78. Part of Keita's duties at IFAN included transcribing the discourse of griots; “Activité du Centre (1'semestre 1948),” Etudes Guinéennes 3 (1949): 84.

50 Keita, “La Famille,” 66.

51 Indeed, two other articles in the same number were the work of a colonial administrator, A. Delacour, who had written them in 1910. Keita and Balandier drew them from the archives, and Balandier made minor adjustments to “Sociétés Secrètes.” See Delacour, “La Propriété et ses Modes de Transmission chez les Coniagui et les Bassari,” Etudes Guinéennes 2 (1947): 5356; and Sociétés Secrètes chez les Tenda,” Etudes Guinéennes 2 (1947): 3752.

52 Keita, “Aperçu Sommaire.”

53 Keita Madeira, “Tombouctou: notes de voyage (septembre–octobre 1937),” Bulletin d'Information et de Renseignments du GGAOF 192 (9 May 1938): 142–44.

54 Guinean anti-colonialism also played a role in their creation. After Balandier's departure from the editorial board of Présence Africaine, Ray Autra joined it, beginning with the new series in 1955. Autra became directeur adjoint of IFAN-Conakry, and in 1965, director of the renamed Institut National de Recherches et de Documentation. In 1960, he re-launched Etudes Guinéennes as Recherches Africaines; Autra, “L'Institut National de Recherches.” In 1961, he was imprisoned by Sékou Touré. On his release he returned to the institute before being named ambassador to Algeria.

55 Keita Madeira, “Le Parti Unique en Afrique,” Présence Africaine 30 (1960): 324.

56 Here my reading differs from that of Hassan Salah D., “Inaugural Issues: The Cultural Politics of the Early Présence Africaine, 1947–55,” Research in African Literatures 30, 2 (1999): 194221.

57 Keita is identified elsewhere by name, but here by his initials; Balandier, “Erreurs Noires,” 400, 403–4.

58 Balandier returned to this theme and this research in Ambiguous Africa, 65–75.

59 It is also possible that this fieldwork was conducted with Ray Autra or another Malinké-speaking IFAN research assistant. However, Traoré does not figure prominently in Balandier's memoirs. By contrast, Keita does, and the publications of Keita and Balandier suggest very strongly that they conducted their research in the same places and times, as do Keita's other activities.

60 Balandier Georges, “L'Or de la Guinée Françaises [sic],” Présence Africaine 1, 4 (1948): 539–48, see 543.

61 Ibid., 547.

62 M. K. [sic; Keita Madeira], “Notes,” Etudes Guinéennes 1, 1 (1947). The mines were then producing only a small fraction of what they had before the war; “Siguiri: Reprise de l'Activitié des Mines d'Or,” la Guinée Française, 11 Feb. 1947, #2094; Balandier, “L'Or de la Guinée Françaises,” 539.

63 Union du Mandé, “A Propos de la Coopérative de l'Orpaillage,” La Phare de Guinée, #7, Feb. 1948 (article dated 2 Jan. 1948). Keita had briefly succeeded in incorporating this regionalist party, of which Sékou Touré had been an early member, into the Guinean RDA; Renseignements, Origine: Conakry, 13 July 1947, 17G573v152, ANS. The party soon joined an anti-RDA coalition; Voix de la Guinée, #1, 7 Aug. 1949; Coup de Bambou, #5, 12 Apr. 1950.

64 Here Balandier would have disagreed. Capital-intensive, industrial mining had never proven profitable in the area; “L'Or de la Guinée Françaises, ” 542, 545.

65 Lisette, Combat, 175.

66 In a letter, Pléah characterized the Union du Mandé as a regionalist party holding contradictory positions; Pléah to Doudou Guèye, 12 Oct. 1948, BPN 136d528, ANM.

67 Pléah to Doudou Guèye, 12 Oct. 1948; Pléah to S.-G. du Symepharsa [sic, union of medical workers], 7 Mar. 1949, BPN 136d528, ANM.

68 Renseignements, Origine Kankan, a/s Activités du Médecin Africain Koniba Pléah, en Service à Siguri, 19 Dec. 1948, 17G573v152, ANS.

69 Voix de la Guinée, #24, 6–13 July 1950; #27, 27 July–3 Aug. 1950; #31, 24–31 Aug. 1950.

70 Balandier, Steinmetz, and Sapiro, “Tout parcours,” 53.

71 Suremain, “Faire du Terrain,” 654–55. Diop, Balandier's host, was a founder and long-time editor of Présence Africaine. Senghor later elaborated the theory of negritude partly in its pages and dominated Senegal's political life for decades, inheriting a mantle briefly worn by Guèye, who represented Senegal in the French Assembly and in the Constituent Assembly of 1946.

72 On the context of Balandier's training, see Conklin, “The New ‘Ethnology.’”

73 Balandier Georges, Tous Comptes Faits (Paris: Pavois, 1947), 154–55, 234–35. This text is dated March 1946, before Balandier's first departure for Africa, which marks its climax.

74 Balandier, Steinmetz, and Saprio, “Tout parcours,” 48–49; Balandier, Tous Comptes Faits, 9.

75 It has been argued that Balandier adopted the concept of the “situation” from Max Gluckman while being informed by the sociology of Marcel Mauss; Naepels Michael, “l'Anthropologie Face aux Temps,” Annales 65, 4 (2010): 873–84; Cooper, Colonialism, 35–36. See Gluckman, Analysis of a Social Situation in Modern Zululand, originally published in Bantu Studies 14, 1 (March 1940), and 14, 2 (June 1940), and African Studies 1, 4 (Dec. 1942), and only later republished in book form (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1958). However, Balandier's sources for the phrase and the concept were multiple, and Gluckman does not seem to be the most important of them. In both the eponymous article and in a forerunner to it published in the same journal one year earlier, Balandier cites the psychologist Octave Mannoni as his source for the phrase “la situation coloniale,” while tracing it back to Louis Wirth; “La Situation Coloniale,” 46; “Aspects de l’Évolution Sociale chez les Fang du Gabon (Afrique Équatoriale Française),” Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie 9 (1950): 76106, see 77. Indeed, one section of Mannoni's Psychologie de la Colonisation (Paris: Seuil, 1950) is entitled “La Situation Coloniale et le Racisme” (pp. 108–20, see also 10–11). Balandier was originally less hostile to Mannoni's project than some readings of “La Situation Coloniale” suggest; Cooper, Colonialism, 41. In a review of the book, he proclaimed it “brilliant” if deeply flawed and lacking specificity and methodological rigor, and it inspired a second article by him as well; see his review, O. Mannoni: Psychologie de la Colonisation, ” Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie 9 (1950): 183–86; and Balandier, “Contribution à une Sociologie de la Dépendance,” Cahiers Internationaux de Sociologie 12 (1952): 4769. Finally, the concept of the “situation” played an important role in the existentialist philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, who published the first of a series of collected writings under the title Situations in 1947 (Paris: Gallimard). Sartre's influence on Balandier's writing is apparent in the young social scientist's first articles in Présence Africaine, for which both men sat on the editorial board. Balandier discusses the existentialist influence in La Situation Coloniale: Ancien Concept, Nouvelle Réalité” and in Civilisés, Dit-On (Paris: Presses Universitaires de la France, 2003), 2526.

76 Balandier, “La Situation Coloniale: Approche Théorique,” 45–46, 76. For astounding evidence of this impasse, see “la Parenté et l'Histoire: Entretien avec Maurice Godelier,” Afrique et histoire 4, 2 (2005): 247–81, see 252.

77 De l'Estoile, “Rationalizing Colonial Domination,” 51–53. De l'Estoile's analysis of the competition between the two men reduces politics to academic politics, to the question of why Lévi-Strauss defeated Balandier to be elected to the Collège de France. He also argues that Balandier's work was both “applied” and “colonial.” I argue that it was in some respects anti-colonial, and that Balandier's position working for the colonial administration was no more isomorphic with his politics than was that of Keita, Touré, Autra, Pléah, or any of the other West African activists who were also employees of the colonial state.

78 Balandier G., Sociologie des Brazzavilles Noires (Paris: A. Colin, 1955 [2d ed., 1985]), ix. See also Balandier, Sociologie Actuelle de l'Afrique Noire: Dynamique Sociale en Afrique Centrale (Paris: Presses Universitaires de la France, 1955); and Problématique des Classes Sociales en Afrique Noire,” Cahiers Internationaux de la Sociologie 38 (1965): 131–42; Copans Jean, Un Demi-siècle d'Africanisme Africain: Terrains, Acteurs et Enjeux des Sciences Sociales en Afrique Indépendante (Paris: Karthala, 2010), 8889.

79 Balandier, Steinmetz, and Sapiro, “Tout parcours,” 57.

80 Copans, Un Demi-siècle. Ironically, Balandier made precisely this point in a note on a 1949 conference of Africanists in Ibadan, Nigeria, the AEF delegation to which included no Africans; Balandier Georges, “La Participation de l'AEF à la Conférence Internationale des Africanistes de l'Ouest,” Bulletin: Institut d'Etudes Centrafricaines, Nouvelle Série 1 (1950): 7980, see 80. For a defense of the ethnographic approach, see Griaule Marcel, “l'Action Sociologique en Afrique Noire,” Présence Africaine 30 (1948), 388–91.

81 The term “colonial” means little here, since on some level a state-funded study in an imperial context is inherently colonial.

82 Georges Balandier, “Chronique de l'IFAN: l'Ethnologie, Science Utile,” la Guinée Française, 22 Feb. 1947, #3004.

83 Rapport d'Activité: Sous-section Sociologie Appliquée et Démographie,” Bulletin: Institut d'Etudes Centrafricaines, Nouvelle Série 3 (1952): 1920. Emphasizing the issue of “tribal” unity, Balandier also reflects on this fieldwork in Ambiguous Africa, 158–67. One of its products was G. Balandier and Pauvert Jean-Claude, Les Villages Gabonais: Aspects Démographiques, Economiques, Sociologiques, Projets de Modernisation (Brazzaville: IFAN, 1952).

84 Balandier Georges, “Problèmes Economiques et Problèmes Politiques au Niveau du Village Fang,” Bulletin: Institut d'Etudes Centrafricaines, Nouvelle Série 1 (1950): 4964.

85 Ibid., 58.

86 On Gabon's sociétés de prévoyance during this period, see Rich Jeremy, A Workman Is Worthy of His Meat: Food and Colonialism in the Gabon Estuary (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007), 115–18.

87 Balandier, “Problèmes Economiques,” 60–63.

88 Such programs had a complicated history in Gabon. See Gray Christopher, “Territoriality and Colonial Enclosure in Southern Gabon,” in Bernault Florence, ed., Enfermement, Prison, et Châtiments en Afrique du 19 Siècle à Nos Jours (Paris: Karthala, 1999), 101–32, see 125–28. See also Bernault Florence, Démocraties Ambiguës en Afrique Centrale: Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, 1940–1965 (Paris: Karthala, 1996), 111–13.

89 Balandier, “Problèmes Economiques,” 63–64.

90 Such production increased considerably in this period; Léon Modeste Nnang Ndong, “La France et le Développement Agricole au Gabon: Histoire d'une Politique de Mise en Valeur (1946–1956),” in Nguiabama-Makaya Fabrice, ed., Colonisation et Colonisés au Gabon (Paris: l'Harmattan, 2007), 127–41.

91 Balandier, “Problèmes Economiques,” 62–63. See also “Un Essai de Regroupement des Populations Rurales au Gabon,” La Guinée Française, 25 Nov. 1950, #4202.

92 Balandier and Pauvert, Les Villages Gabonais, 5, 11.

93 Thompson Virginia and Adloff Richard, The Emerging States of French Equatorial Africa (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960), 347; Bernault, Démocraties, 220–21. Balandier offers a sketch of M'ba, whom he dubs “M” in Ambiguous Africa, 235–37. An early victim of persecution by the colonial state, as president of Gabon (1960–1967) M'ba became one of France's most faithful allies on the continent. See Bernault, Démocraties, 215–34; Keese A., “L'Evolution du ‘Leader Indigène’ aux Yeux des Administrateurs Français: Léon M'ba et le Changement des Modalités de Participation au Pouvoir Local au Gabon, 1922–1967,” Afrique et Histoire 2, 1 (2004): 141–70.

94 M'Ba Leon, “Essai de Droit Coutumier Pahouin,” Bulletin de la Société des Recherches Congolaises 25 (1938): 551.

95 Aubame was a particularly vocal proponent of “villagization,” a platform on which he built his electoral success; Bernault, Démocraties, 113; Balandier and Pauvert, Les Villages Gabonais, 11–14; Thompson and Adloff, Emerging States, 349.

96 Balandier, Brazzavilles Noires, 32–45.

97 For a rich and relevant attempt to think through such social developments, see Meillassoux, Urbanization of an African Community. Meillassoux was a student and something of an acolyte of Balandier. He was also attentive to Madeira Keita's status as an anti-colonial social scientist who had become a powerful minister. Meillassoux pays homage to Keita in the book's preface, but in his fieldnotes he rues the suspicion he encountered from Keita in his role as minister of the interior. Keita's attitude may have been conditioned by the fact that before training under Balandier, Meillassoux had worked as a translator in the United States. Indeed, Urbanization, Meillassoux's major study of Bamako in the 1960s, was written in English and still awaits publication in French.

98 Notes Africaines 72 (1956); Rapport Annuel de l'IFAN, 1956, 2G56-6, ANS; Rapport Annuel de l'IFAN, 1957, 2G57-20, ANS.

99 At independence, Keita became minister of defense and security, later serving as minister of information, of labor, and of justice. Notice de Renseignement Concernant Madeira Keita, n.d. (1960), N3 1C1542, ANM; Pascal James and Imperato Gavin H., Historical Dictionary of Mali, 4th ed. (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2008), 169; Livre d'Or de la République du Mali (Paris: l'Afrique Nouvelle, 1963); and interview with Papa Madeira Keita, Bamako, 21 June 2008.

100 See Minister of the Interior, Soudan Français, Circular to Commandants de cercle, 18 Dec. 1957, no. 292/DI/2; Minister of the Interior, Soudan Français, Circular to all cercles and subdivisions, 31 Dec. 1957, 198/DI, both in N1 ID2940, ANM; “Les Chefferies de canton déclarées vacantes en quasi-totalité,” l'Essor, 19 Dec. 1958: 1–2; Madeira Keita, “Les Reformes de structure dans la République Soudanaise,” l'Essor, 1 June 1960: 1–2. See also Ernst K., Tradition and Progress in an African Village: Non-Capitalist Transformation of Rural Communities in Mali (New York: Praeger, 1976), 9495; C. A. Danioko, Contribution à l'Etude des Partis Politiques au Mali de 1945 à 1960, thesis, Université de Paris-VII (1984), 152. Reform of the chieftaincy had been a key element of Madeira Keita's political activism for a decade; Madeira Keita, “Rapport sur le Problème des Chefs Africains, Présenté au II’ Congrès du RDA,” Jan. 1949, Abidjan, repr. in Danioko, Contribution à l'Etude, app. 33 (n.p.); Balandier, “Erreurs Noires,” 403–4. It is very commonly argued, in error, that only Guinea abolished the chieftaincy; Schmidt, Cold War; Suret-Canale J., “The End of the Chieftaincy in Guinea,” Hurst Christopher, trans., in Essays on African History: From the Slave Trade to Neo-Colonialism (London: Hurst, 1988).

101 FPR 230; and dossier “Négociations, 1959–60,” FPR 233, Archives Nationales, France.

102 Editorial footnote to Keita, “Le Parti unique,” 3.

103 For instance, Keita lived in a protected villa on the edge of Bamako, in what is now Korofina Nord, rather than in a popular neighborhood; Pierre Campmas, l'Union Soudanaise, Section Soudanaise du Rassemblement Démocratique Africain, 1946–1968, thesis, Université de Toulouse-le Mirail, 2 vols. (1976), 470; author's fieldnotes, 21 June 2008.

104 Ambassador France to S.E.M. Couve de Murville, Ministère des Affaires Etrangères (MAE, France), 18 Sept. 1962, #258, 2522, MAE.

105 Pierre Pelen, Ambassador of France to Mali to MAE, DAAM, 28 Apr. 1965, #70, 2522, MAE.

106 Procés-Verbaux des reunions du BPN, 1962, Fonds du BPN, du CMLN, et de l'UDPM, 77, ANM.

107 Central Intelligence Agency, “Ghana and Mali as Exemplars of African Radicalism,” National Intelligence Estimate, 11 July 1962, NSF, box 8, folder 60, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, Austin, Texas.

108 Keita, “Le Parti Unique.”

109 See, for example, Amnesty International (UK) archival documents, 1974–1977, including “Prisoners Suffering from Ill Health,” External document, AFR/37/03/77. Documents in author's possession. This episode is a chapter in my book manuscript in progress.

110 Traore Amadou Seydou, Le Salaire des Liberateurs du Mali (Bamako: La Ruche à Livres, 2008), 157–60.

111 Interview, Papa Madeira Keita, Bamako, 21 June 2008; Diarrah Seydou Mamadou, Le Mouvement Démocratique Malien, l'Intineraire de l'ADEMA-PASJ, Origine et Parcours (Bamako: Graphique Industries, 1996), 36.

112 This in spite of the urging of Autra, “L'Institut National de Recherches.” For Egypt, see el Shakry, Great Social Laboratory, 218.

113 See, for example, Rapport de Synthèse sur le Problème de la Moralité et la Licence chez la Jeunesse, 1967, BPN 110d420, ANM; Pelen to MAE, 8 May 1968, #58/DAM, Bamako 57, CADN; Pelen to MAE, DAAM, 8 Apr. 1967, #27, A/s Conférence de M. Madeira Keita sur l'Idéologie et la Formation Idéologique des Cadres, 2522, MAE.

114 The work of African social scientists since the 1950s is beyond my ken and the brief of this paper, but is the focus of Copans, Un Demi-siècle; see esp. p. 77. Copans and I agree on the role that social scientific language played in postcolonial African governance; he cites the rhetoric of such figures as Jomo Kenyatta, who studied under Bronislaw Malinowski at the London School of Economics and went on to become Kenya's first president.

115 See Griaule, “L'Action Sociologique.”

116 Sartre Jean-Paul, “Colonialism Is a System,” in Colonialism and Neocolonialism (New York: Routledge, 2006 [1956]), 3655.

117 Cooper Frederick, “Development, Modernization, and the Social Sciences in the Era of Decolonization: The Examples of British and French Africa,” Revue d'Histoire des Sciences Humaines 10 (2004): 938, see 10.

118 Balandier G., ed., Le Tiers-monde: Sous-Développement et Développement, Alfred Sauvy, Preface (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1956); Balandier, Steinmetz, and Sapiro, “Tout parcours,” 57.

119 Cooper, “Decolonizing Situations,” 67.

120 Mbembe, Sortir, 123–24.

121 G. Balandier, Conjugaisons, 260.

122 Balandier, Steinmetz, and Sapiro, “Tout parcours,” 53.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 9
Total number of PDF views: 113 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 816 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.