Dispute Settlement in Eastern Guinea-Bissau. Self-presentations, Stories and Agency


Dr. Anne-Kristin Borszik

Research Area:


‘There is no justice’, people often complain when we talk about conflict resolution in Gabú, the semi-urban capital of the Gabú region in Eastern Guinea-Bissau . Such perceptions of ‘absent justice’ seem to result from belied expectations and perceptions of uncertainty in the interaction of disputing parties and dispute settlers. My research aims at attaining in-depth knowledge on the dynamics of this ‘triangular’ social relation that shapes the character of dispute settlement in the town of Gabú.

Theoretically, I am particularly interested in the ‘imagined network’ of dispute settlers and people involved in conflicts. It is shaped by a) ‘stories’ about dispute settlers told or heard by disputing parties and specific actions triggered by such “stories”, b) specific power relations perceived, for instance, as enforced decisions or fear of arbitrariness, c) the dispute settlers’ “presentation of self” and d) the perpetuated presence of colonial history in contemporary social life.

Based on accounts of (violent) conflicts (e.g. repeated cattle theft) and observations of dispute settlement at different local institutions (police, court, chief, village head, imam), I analyse dispute settlers’ decision-making, disputing parties’ expectations on dispute settlers’ behaviour and attitudes & disputing parties’ changing social relation with the dispute settler and the opposing party, among others.