Personal Networks and Ethnic and Linguistic Plurality in Guinea

Mamadou Habib Diallo, Guillaume Favre


Sociability is a prolific field of social science research. Traces of it can be found in sociology (Simmel 1906 [1999], who was the first to focus on social circles and all forms of relationships in social life) or in anthropology (Barnes 1954, Bott 1957). Drawing on these approaches, the notion of network has developed further in recent decades. Several approaches have been developed to study the limitless structure of social networks (Grossetti, 2014). The accumulation of studies (see, for example, Volker and Flap 1995 on networks in former communist East Germany, Wellman 1979 on networks in Toronto or Bidart 2008 on the evolution of sociabilities over the course of life) suggests that the characteristics of personal networks are relatively stable over time and space. While in Europe, North America and certain Asian countries studies on personal networks and, more generally, studies on the analysis of social networks have multiplied over the last four decades, the African continent remains very little explored by the analysis of social networks (Walther; 2014). Nevertheless, several mostly recent studies have adopted analysis of social networks to explore a wide variety of fields including entrepreneurship (Berrou, Combarnous; 2011), trade (Walther; 2014), health (Bähre; 2012), interethnic relations (Adamsa, Madhavan, Simon; 2006), agriculture (Bandiera, Rasul; 2006), new information and communication technologies (Kusimba, Chawla; 2015), etc. The LRA has also been used in the analysis of social networks in Africa. This paper will focus on personal networks and the issue of ethnic and linguistic plurality in Guinea. Indeed, Guinea is a multi-ethnic country where an estimated 30 ethnic groups live together. It so happens that since the establishment of a multiparty system in the 1990s, there has been the birth of an "ethnic democracy" (Diallo; 2018). The corollary of this is the emergence of a climate of ethnic tension during election periods to the point where it is felt that this tension is permanent. Outside of election periods and the ensuing "ethnic tensions", do Guineans choose their relationships based on ethnic, linguistic or religious considerations? Does the weight of ethnic groups and their geographical reality in the country favour the emergence of a "mediating ethnic group", or on the contrary, a "marginal ethnic group"? What is the role of languages, particularly French, which is the official language, and national languages in the creation of networks and their configurations? To answer these and other questions, we will rely on a study carried out as part of a doctoral thesis in Guinea. The name generator method (Fischer, 1982) was used. The survey was carried out in Conakry (capital of Guinea) and a representative sample of the adult population of Conakry was collected. A total of 975 people were surveyed, for 10370 Alters. For Ego and Alter, we have information on their real or supposed ethnicity as well as the language of communication between Ego and Alter. For the moment, we cannot say any more about the substance of the data, as the analysis of the data is still in progress.

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