Michelle Engeler: Youthful Dreams: State Formation Processes at the Margins of Guinea

PhD-project in Social Anthropology, University of Basel

The aim of this doctoral research project is to gain a better understanding of the
dynamics of state-society relations in Guinea. Key question thereby is, how young people relate to the state in the making in Guéckédou, a border town in the remote southeastern part of Guinea.


This research produces an ethnography of both youth organizations and the local everyday state as they are manifested in this particular region of Guinea. The overall objective is a better understanding of how youth relate to state making, negotiating and imagining in Guinea.


Data collection for this research is based on an inductive approach using qualitative research techniques. Through semi-structured and life history interviews and informal discussions with young Guineans and key brokers of youth organizations, an understanding of young peoples’ perceptions, aspirations, and social practices could be gained. This was complemented by semi-structured interviews with state officials at different levels of the local state apparatus as well as with other actors important to further grasp the local political landscape. Observation and participation were used to further study some of the arenas where youth and state practices overlap and shape local statehood.

First Results

Young people were and still are an important target of political propaganda and mass mobilization in Guinea. However, the Mano River wars, political diversity and different civil society organizations changed the state’s youth management and youthful perspectives towards the state. The youth-state nexus can thereby be described as not merely typical for state-society relations but as constitutive for ongoing state formation processes.


Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Till Förster, Prof. Dr. Gregor Dobler

Funding: Kommission für Forschungspartnerschaften mit Entwicklungsländern (KFPE), Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft (FAG)

Duration: 2008 - 2013

Download Poster: Youthful Dreams: State Formation Processes
at the Margins of Guinea (2012)

Keywords: Guinea, state-society relations, youth, agency, mobility

Links: www.unibas-ethno.ch/forschung

Contact: Michelle.Engeler-at-unibas.ch