This is an examination of the broader context for the re-emergence of land reform and resource conflicts in Africa. Efforts to change the race based systems of land ownership and land tenure in Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe have pushed land issues to the forefront of social and economic discourses in Africa. This collection examines the broader context for the re-emergence of land reform and resource conflicts.
The case studies examine the links between identity maintenance, tenurial changes, state intervention, and forms and modes of conflict. The authors emphasize the need for a deeper understanding of local histories, cultures, and motivations if efforts to attain a more just distribution of resources are to succeed. The book contributes to a field that has been developing rapidly in the decade since the publication of Melissa Leach and Robin Mearns' collection The Lie of the Land and Mahmood Mamdani's Citizen and Subject. Those two books started a wide ranging discussion of the political reasons for failed development in Africa, as well as the environmental and natural resource dimensions of that failure.
Throughout Africa one craft among many stands out: that of the blacksmith. In many African cultures, smiths occupy a significant position, not just as artisans engaging in a difficult craft but also as special people. Often they perform other crafts, as well, and make up a somewhat separate group inside society. The Forge and the Funeral describes the position of the smith in the culture of the Kapsiki/Higi of northern Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria. Situated in the Mandara Mountains and straddling the border of these two countries, Kapsiki culture forms a specific and highly relevant example of the phenomenon of the smith in Africa. As an endogamous group of about 5 percent of the population, Kapsiki smiths perform an impressive array of crafts and specializations, combining magico-religious functions with metalwork, in particular as funeral directors, as well as with music and healing. The Forge and the Funeral gives an intimate description and analysis of this group, based upon the author’s four decades–long involvement with the Kapsiki/Higi. Description and analysis are set within the more general scholarly debates about the dynamics of professional closure—including the notions of caste and guild—and also consider the deep history of iron and brass in Africa.
The kind of extraordinary domed house constructed by Chad and Cameroon’s Mousgoum peoples has long held sway over the Western imagination. In fact, as Steven Nelson shows here, this prototypical beehive-shaped structure known as the teleukhas been cast as everything from a sign of authenticity to a tourist destination to a perfect fusion of form and function in an unselfconscious culture. And in this multifaceted history of the teleuk, thought of by the Mousgoum themselves as a three-dimensional symbol of their culture, Nelson charts how a singular building’s meaning has the capacity to change over time and in different places.
Drawing on fieldwork in Cameroon and Japan as well as archival research in Africa, the United States, and Europe, Nelson explores how the teleuk has been understood by groups ranging from contemporary tourists to the Cameroonian government and—most importantly—today’s Mousgoum people. In doing so, he moves in and out of Africa to provide a window into a changing Mousgoum culture and to show how both African and Western peoples use the built environment to advance their own needs and desires. Highlighting the global impact of African architecture, From Cameroon to Paris will appeal to scholars and students of African art history and architectural history, as well as those interested in Western interactions with Africa.
Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon illuminates how issues of ideal womanhood shaped the Anglophone Cameroonian nationalist movement in the first decade of independence in Cameroon, a west-central African country. Drawing upon history, political science, gender studies, and feminist epistemologies, the book examines how formally educated women sought to protect the cultural values and the self-determination of the Anglophone Cameroonian state as Francophone Cameroon prepared to dismantle the federal republic. The book defines and uses the concept of embodied nationalism to illustrate the political importance of women’s everyday behavior—the clothes they wore, the foods they cooked, whether they gossiped, and their deference to their husbands. The result, in this fascinating approach, reveals that West Cameroon, which included English-speaking areas, was a progressive and autonomous nation. The author’s sources include oral interviews and archival records such as women’s newspaper advice columns, Cameroon’s first cooking book, and the first novel published by an Anglophone Cameroonian woman.
The young people of the Cameroon Grassfields have been subject to a long history of violence and political marginalization. For centuries the main victims of the slave trade, they became prime targets for forced labor campaigns under a series of colonial rulers. Today’s youth remain at the bottom of the fiercely hierarchical and polarized societies of the Grassfields, and it is their response to centuries of exploitation that Nicolas Argenti takes up in this absorbing and original book.
Beginning his study with a political analysis of youth in the Grassfields from the eighteenth century to the present, Argenti pays special attention to the repeated violent revolts staged by young victims of political oppression. He then combines this history with extensive ethnographic fieldwork in the Oku chiefdom, discovering that the specter of past violence lives on in the masked dance performances that have earned intense devotion from today’s youth. Argenti contends that by evoking the imagery of past cataclysmic events, these masquerades allow young Oku men and women to address the inequities they face in their relations with elders and state authorities today.
Women’s labor—producing both crops and children—has long been the linchpin of male status and power throughout Africa. This book lucidly interprets the intricate relations of gender to state-building in Africa by looking historically at control over production and reproduction, from the nineteenth century to the present. Miriam Goheen examines struggles over power within the Nso chiefdom in the highlands of Western Cameroon, between the chiefdom and the state, and between men and women, as the women increasingly reject traditional marriages.
Based on a decade of fieldwork, this work tracks the negotiations between chiefs and subchiefs and women and men over ritual power, economic power, and administrative power. Though Nso men obviously dominate their society at both the local level and nationally, women have had power of their own by virtue of their status as women. Men may own the land, for example, but women control the crops through their labor . Goheen explains clearly the place of gender in very complex historical processes, such as land tenure systems, title societies, chieftancy, marriage systems, changing ideas of symbolic capital, and internal and external politics.
In examining women’s resistance to traditional patterns of marriage, Goheen raises the question of whether such actions truly change the balance of power between the sexes, or whether resistance to marriage is instead fostering the formation of a new elite class, since it is only the better-educated women of wealthier families who can change the dynamic of power and labor within the household.
The issues raised in this book are not unique to Nso but apply throughout the African subcontinent. Written in a straightforward way with much of the theoretical argument in footnotes, Men Own the Fields, Women Own the Crops marshals important arguments of wide relevance in present-day Africa.
The massive scale and complexity of international migration today tends to obscure the nuanced ways migrant families seek a sense of belonging. In this book, Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg takes readers back and forth between Cameroon and Germany to explore how migrant mothers—through the careful and at times difficult management of relationships—juggle belonging in multiple places at once: their new country, their old country, and the diasporic community that bridges them.
Feldman-Savelsberg introduces readers to several Cameroonian mothers, each with her own unique history, concerns, and voice. Through scenes of their lives—at a hometown association’s year-end party, a celebration for a new baby, a visit to the Foreigners’ Office, and many others—as well as the stories they tell one another, Feldman-Savelsberg enlivens our thinking about migrants’ lives and the networks and repertoires that they draw on to find stability and, ultimately, belonging. Placing women’s individual voices within international social contexts, this book unveils new, intimate links between the geographical and the generational as they intersect in the dreams, frustrations, uncertainties, and resolve of strong women holding families together across continents.
“In following the paths of Cameroonian nationalists where they actually lead, Meredith Terretta’s study does a number of things that no previously published histories of Cameroon’s decolonization have done. ” —African Studies Quarterly
Nation of Outlaws, State of Violence is the first extensive history of Cameroonian nationalism to consider the global and local influences that shaped the movement within the French and British Cameroons and beyond. Drawing on the archives of the United Nations, France, Great Britain, Ghana, and Cameroon, as well as oral sources, Nation of Outlaws, State of Violence chronicles the spread of the Union des populations du Cameroun (UPC) nationalist movement from the late 1940s into the first postcolonial decade. It shows how, in the French and British Cameroon territories administered as UN Trusteeships after the Second World War, notions of international human rights, the promise of Third World independence, Pan-African federation, and national citizenship blended with local political and spiritual practices that resurfaced as the period of European rule came to a close. After French and British administrators banned the party in the mid-1950s, UPC nationalists adopted violence as a revolutionary strategy. In the 1960s, the nationalist vision disintegrated. The postcolonial regime labeled UPC nationalists “outlaws” and rounded them up for imprisonment or execution as the state shifted to single-party rule in 1966.
Nation of Outlaws, State of Violence traces the connection between local and transregional politics in the age of Africa’s decolonization and the early decades of the Cold War. Rather than stop at official independence as most conventional histories of African nationalist movements do, this book considers postindependence events as crucial to the history of Cameroonian nationalism and to an understanding of the postcolonial government that came to power on 1 January 1960. While the history of the UPC is a story that ends with the party’s failure to gain access to political power with independence, it is also a story of the postcolonial state’s failure to become a nation.
In the last century, the tragic events of the Holocaust and the subsequent founding of the state of Israel brought about tremendous changes for Jewish communities all over the world. This book explores what may be the next watershed moment for the Jews: the inclusion of millions of people from developing nations who self-define as Jewish but who have no historical ties with established centers of Jewish life. These emerging groups are expanding notions of what it means to be Jewish.
This comparative ethnographic study, the first of its kind, presents in-depth analyses of the backgrounds, motivations, and sociohistorical contexts of emerging Jewish communities in Cameroon, Ghana, India, and other postcolonial locales. It investigates the ramifications of these new movements for the larger Judeo-Christian world, particularly with regard to issues of multiculturalism, immigration, race relations, and messianic expectations concerning the prophecy of Isaiah 11:12, according to which God will “assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”
Despite being told that we now live in a cosmopolitan world, more and more people have begun to assert their identities in ways that are deeply rooted in the local. These claims of autochthony—meaning “born from the soil”—seek to establish an irrefutable, primordial right to belong and are often employed in politically charged attempts to exclude outsiders. In The Perils of Belonging, Peter Geschiere traces the concept of autochthony back to the classical period and incisively explores the idea in two very different contexts: Cameroon and the Netherlands.
In both countries, the momentous economic and political changes following the end of the cold war fostered anxiety over migration. For Cameroonians, the question of who belongs where rises to the fore in political struggles between different tribes, while the Dutch invoke autochthony in fierce debates over the integration of immigrants. This fascinating comparative perspective allows Geschiere to examine the emotional appeal of autochthony—as well as its dubious historical basis—and to shed light on a range of important issues, such as multiculturalism, national citizenship, and migration.
Plundered Kitchens, Empty Wombs examines the symbolic language of food, fertility, and infertility in a small, mountainous African kingdom to explore more general notions of gender, modernity, and cultural identity.
In the Cameroon grassfields, an area of high fertility, women hold a paradoxical fear of infertility. By combining symbolic, political-economic, and historical analyses, Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg traces the way reproductive threat is invoked in struggles over gender and ethnic identities. Women's fears of reproductive disorders, she finds, are an important mode of expression for their worries about much larger issues, such as rural poverty, brought about or exacerbated by political and economic changes in this century.
A lively case study of an infertile queen who flees the palace sets the stage for discussions of the ethnographic and historical setting, the symbolism of fertility and infertility, and the development and interaction of cosmopolitan and ethno-gynecologies. The book concludes with an analysis of the links between women's role in human reproduction and the divine king's role in social reproduction, both occurring in the rapidly changing context of a multiethnic African nation.
Plundered Kitchens, Empty Wombs underscores the relevance of medical anthropology to other anthropological specializations, as well as to epidemiologists, population specialists, and development planners. It should reach a broad audience in medical anthropology, public health, and women's studies.
Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg is Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Carleton College.
The Sacred Door and Other Stories: Cameroon Folktales of the Beba offers readers a selection of folktales infused with riddles, proverbs, songs, myths, and legends, using various narrative techniques that capture the vibrancy of Beba oral traditions. Makuchi retells the stories that she heard at home when she was growing up in her native Cameroon.
The collection of thirty-four folktales of the Beba showcases a wide variety of stories that capture the richness and complexities of an agrarian society’s oral literature and traditions. Revenge, greed, and deception are among the themes that frame the story lines in both new and familiar ways. In the title story, a poor man finds himself elevated to king. The condition for his continued success is that he not open the sacred door. This tale of temptation, similar to the story of Pandora’s box, concludes with the question, “What would you have done?”
Makuchi relates the stories her mother told her so that readers can make connections between African and North American oral narrative traditions. These tales reinforce the commonalities of our human experiences without discounting our differences.
In most countries, educated women have fewer children and have them later than uneducated women. In Uncertain Honor, Jennifer Johnson-Hanks argues that this demographic fact has social causes by offering a rich case study of contraception, abortion, and informal adoption among educated, ethnic Beti women in southern Cameroon.
Combining insights from demography and cultural anthropology, Johnson-Hanks argues that Beti women delay motherhood as part of a broader attempt to assert a modern form of honor only recently made possible by formal education, Catholicism, and economic change. Through itinerant school careers and manipulations of marriage, educated Beti women now manage their status as mothers in order to coordinate major life events in the face of social and economic uncertainty.
Carefully researched and clearly written, Uncertain Honor offers an intimate look at the lives of African women trying to reconcile motherhood with new professional roles in a context of dramatic social change.
Women's writing in Cameroon has so far been dominated by Francophone writers. The short stories in this collection represent the yearnings and vision of an Anglophone woman, who writes both as a Cameroonian and as a woman whose life has been shaped by the minority status her people occupy within the nation-state.
The stories in Your Madness, Not Mine are about postcolonial Cameroon, but especially about Cameroonian women, who probe their day-to-day experiences of survival and empowerment as they deal with gender oppression: from patriarchal expectations to the malaise of maldevelopment, unemployment, and the attraction of the West for young Cameroonians.
Makuchi has given us powerful portraits of the people of postcolonial Africa in the so-called global village who too often go unseen and unheard.