Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Joanna Davidson -- 'School is the path now:' Labor, Learning, and New Rural Realities in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

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"'School is the path now:' Labor, Learning, and New Rural Realities in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa," with Joanna Davidson, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Boston University.

Rural Diola in Guinea-Bissau are no longer able to sustain themselves through the rice cultivation practices that have long defined them as a people. Ten years ago, most Diola villagers recognized their predicament—the declining rain and rice that made their lives so difficult—but the overall response to it was to work harder in the paddies and the forests. One of the most dramatic changes in the past decade concerning Diola orientations to their future has to do with the position of school. Many families are shifting their attention and resources away from farming and towards schooling with the hope of securing a better future for their children. Such a shift is in line with international development beliefs that schooling—and especially girls’ education—is a key ingredient for long-term economic progress in rural Africa. But, as we see through the experiences of a cohort of Diola schoolgirls, things do not quite turn out as planned. Grappling with the decline of rain and rice and the implausibility of continuing to eke out an existence in the paddies provides one set of challenges. But pursuing the modernist dream of education as an escape from poverty leads Diola families into a new set of unexpected challenges. 

Location: McKinney Conference Room, Watson Institute, 111 Thayer Street.