Publisher: African Studies Association

“We Work Hard”: Customary Imperatives of The Diola Work Regime In The Context of Environmental and Economic Change

Joanna Davidson
KEYWORDS: “We Work Hard”: Customary Imperatives of the Diola Work Regime in the Context of Environmental and Economic Change


Hard work is a core value among Diola rice cultivators in Guinea-Bissau. This essay explores Diola attitudes toward work in the context of recent changes in their natural and social environment. It asks why Diola maintain a particular work regime even when they admit that it is not actually working for them. The intrinsic characteristics of wet rice cultivation, the tightly woven web of social relations involved in Diola agricultural practices, and the religious ideals with which these practices are linked reinforce one another and serve as powerful drivers of continuity. But given the decreasing viability of wet rice cultivation in this region, Diola work is increasingly detached from the products it is meant to generate. Because Diola farmers remain committed to these work practices in the face of their acknowledged inability to meet subsistence needs, Diola work has become a “paradox of custom.

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