Labeling Theory and the Political Behaviors of Mandinkas

Mamos Media

By Matida Jallow

Labeling Theory is associated with the work of Howard Becker’s (1963) and is a reaction to sociological theories which examined only the characteristics of the individuals and their behaviors, rather than the agencies which controlled them. Howard Becker’s idea is that deviance and behaviors are consequence of external judgments, or labels, that modify the individual’s self-concept and change the way others respond to the labeled person.

This theory is applied to explains group’s behaviors in different settings, and it equally stands out to explain the political behaviors of Mandinkas in response to the dynamics of politics in The Gambia. The recent behaviors of certain Mandinka political agents and actors towards UDP is the typical demonstration of the effects of negative labeling of UDP as a Mandinka party, and subscription of Mandinkas to the party as a form of tribalism. Going by the dictates of pragmatism, rationalism and logic, Mai Ahmed Fatty, Dr Ismaila Ceesay and Alhagie Mamadou Kurang, would have led their respective parties and team to join hands with UDP to achieve their common and collective objectives. However, like many other Mandinkas, these trio are also avoiding being labeled as a tribalist , as happened in the cases of other Mandinkas with similar status who made informed and conscious decisions to join UDP, and their decisions are labeled as reflection of tribalism.

A close survey of recent political developments in the country would undoubtedly confirm that the affiliations of Mandinkas to UDP is being increasingly labeled as tribalism. As a result, many individual intellectual and influential Mandinkas as well as opinion leaders and activists from this ethnic group are facing new problems stemming from their reactions to themselves and others to the stereotypes of being tribalist by their decisions to join UDP. The decisions of many Mandinkas with considerable political, economic and academic statues to disassociate themselves from UDP, and to make unnecessary references to ideologies and agendas as justifications for their subscription to other political parties , as well as the sense of self of Mandinkas in the overall Gambian political dynamism of the Gambia are informed by their interactions with and the labels ascribed to their ethnic group and to UDP by other people.

This recent development is born out of the the labeling of UDP by those in authority and groups of people who do not have the official authority as a Mandinka party, and and the joining of Mandinkas to UDP as tribalism few years ago. The ways in which the official agents of social control in the Gambia attach this stigmatizing stereotypes to UDP and to Mandinkas in the last two decades come to explain the attitudes of many intellectual, influential and elite Mandinkas to UDP party; and this explains how some Mandinkas developed unhealthy, and sometimes, aggressive attitudes and relationship to the party. Hence, as a stigmatized group, considerable number of Mandinka opinion leaders, political activists, those holding high positions in organizations as well as intellectual either shy away to support UDP publicly or announce neutral position to the party , or develop a hostile relationship with the party, in their calculated and conscious bids to avoid being labeled as tribalist by others, who might in fact join other political parties based on the tribal affinities with the leaders of these parties.

Thus, the labeling theory has the explanatory power to describe the resistance of all disqualified Mandinka presidential aspirants to join UDP, despite the unarguable conviction and the quantitative evidences that joining UDP might ultimately achieve their common goal of removing Barrow from power. Equally, this theory explains the appropriation of the concept of Badiyaafasa Fasa ( a negative stereotype coined by non-Mandinka social agents to describe positive political attitudes of Mandinkas to UDP) by many Mandinka electorates to justify their negative stand towards UDP and their decisions to join other parties. This theory also fits to explicate the ironically-negative labeling of the affiliation of Mandinkas with UDP by other Mandinkas who are active in other political parties apart of UDP as tribalism as the manifestations of Badiyaafasa .

Equally the persuasive rhetoric of Mandinkas in other political parties to dissuade their fellow Mandinkas from supporting UDP based on the assumed Badiyaafasa reveal their self-conception of themselves and the response of others to them, which are also dictated by the negative labeling of Mandinkas as tribalists. In light of this labeling, the loyalty of Mandinkas in political parties, apart from UDP, are sometimes questioned and distrusted, and individual Mandinkas who join UDP are doubted to have joined the party based on their informed decisions or other logical and rational choices. This contrasts the cases of other ethic groups whose decisions to join parties led by their tribesmen are hardly questioned or receive considerable criticisms and negative comments from the public.

Although there are alternatives political and sociological theories and concepts to explain the political behaviors of Mandinkas in the Gambian political equation, labeling theory constitutes a powerful theoretical framework to understand the stands of many Mandinkas towards UDP in their efforts to resist their depictions by others as tribalists. Likewise, the negative labeling of UDP as a mandinka party is overtaking the entire identity of the party. This is helping self-loving Mandinkas to perceive joining the party as a sacred duty and incumbent upon all genuine and authentic Mandinkas, a trend which is falling in the advantage of UDP, given the population wight of Mandinkas in the country . Until this negative labeling is reversed, UDP would continue to win the hearts and the minds of many Mandinka dominated communities, while those Mandinkas who disassociate themselves from the party would continue to be negative viewed as self-hated Mandinkas.

leave a reply