Ian Fowler and David Zeitlyn
The genesis of an idea is often difficult to elicit unambiguously. Much like the foundation of an African chiefdom it may become imbued with a foundation myth. Certainly, many associated with E.M. Chilver have given thought to ways in which her very significant contributions to Cameroon studies might be satisfactorily acknowledged. In the autumn of 1990 the Grassfields Working Group held a session in Oxford organised by E.M. Chilver. Led by Professors Miriam Goheen and Eugenia Shanklin a number of us, notably Shirley Ardener, Claude Tardits, Charles-Henry Pradelles de la Tour, Mike Rowlands and Jean-Pierre Warnier, took this occasion to conspire and Zeitlyn and Fowler were informally appointed to co-ordinate the project. Two of the institutions with which E.M. Chilver was particularly involved, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London, gave generous support to help cover the costs of preparing these publications. The editors, on behalf of the contributors, are pleased to be able to acknowledge our gratitude to them.
In order to thematise what we initially envisaged as a single volume we requested that papers should focus on the convergence of ethnography and history in the field of Cameroonian studies. The extensive and overwhelmingly positive response to our call presented us with the 'problem' of a wealth of riches that could not easily be produced as a single volume.
The very high quality of papers submitted meant that we were unable, should we have been so bold, to exclude the excess on basis of relative merit. Cutting this cake along connected themes produced three sets of papers. One set dealing with topics such as witchcraft, divination and religion in a more or less straightforwardly ethnographic way; a further set of papers were more theoretically orientated in analyses that combined historical and anthropological perspectives; and, finally, the set of papers included here that focuses on contemporary views of the state, its emergence through partition and reunification, the developing role of the chieftaincy, and key issues of gender and accumulation as they have developed in the modern state.
It must be said at the outset that the perspectives on the Cameroon state represented in the papers included here are limited to views both of and from the former West Cameroons, the anglophone section of the modern state of Cameroon. That this is so is largely due to a convergence of personal and historical circumstances centring on E.M. Chilver's work in this region and this 'Festschrift' celebrates that work. However, the condition of the nation state in Africa has now become the keen focus of anthropological enquiry (for example, Rowlands and Warnier 1988, Mbembe 1992 and Comaroff and Comaroff 1992). The project of the modern nation-state can be seen in terms of the construction of individuals linked affectively to the nation and its material symbols and bounded physically by its frontiers. This 'hegemonic' view of state-building necessarily contrasts with a possibly countervailing sense of locality or locally-derived identity. The relationship between locally and nationally constructed identities has become one of tension and potential conflict. Such a view of the state may be interpreted as forcing African history to fit within an evolutionary framework: polities must develop in a fixed sequence before attaining the golden goal of a democratic modern state. However, there is an alternative view. The tension between local and national arenas for identity construction may actually produce new cultural forms and new social and political relationships that constitute the very stuff of an emerging (hence, new) nation state. It is in this positive light that we present these views, as one set out of a series of local perspectives, regarding the current debate on the future of the nation state in Cameroon.

The papers by Chem-Langhëë and Njeuma set the scene by describing some of the complex issues that dominated Cameroonian politics at the time of independence and in the following years. Much hinges on the way that terms such as 'reunification' became weasel words, deployed by rival politicians, meaning all things to all masters. Njeuma surveys the development of anti-colonialism in Cameroon and the link between this and the theme of reunification in the particular circumstances of the old German colony (Kamerun) split into two (League of Nations and then UN) Mandated territories after the First World War. Chem-Langhëë extends Njeuma's analysis by examining how the themes of reunification, secession or integration were deployed both during the organisation of the Federal Republic and in the years leading up to the declaration of the United Republic in 1972. As both authors allude in their closing paragraphs these issues have a great and immediate relevance to the debates now current in a Cameroon in which political parties are once again legal. If cold war politics formed the context within which Independence was discussed at the United Nations then its replacement, the rhetoric of nationalism and democracy, is played out in Cameroon partly in the form of references to the past we discuss here. This leads to new interpretations of that past. A clear illustration of such processes at work may be gained by comparing the views of Cameroonian political history given by our authors with those of other, earlier, writers. Consider a Canadian view of the same history written at the height of Ahidjo's dominance (Stark 1976). The author concludes that 'Endeley, Foncha, Muna and Jua all ultimately wanted to join their parties to Ahidjo's. They had divided and conquered themselves' (436). The contrast with Chem-Langhëë and Njeuma is clear. It is still too soon for us to be able to assess how much common ground can be found between these authors, and to what extent changing political forces have affected historical judgement. One caution is, however, already possible. When contrasting the version of events presented here with the accounts that may be found in the administrative record, we may be charged with misrepresenting matters of historical record, such as whether district officers were the presidents of native courts. Here we see the intersection of history and anthropology at its most important. No matter how strenuously the British may have denied, and continue to deny it, the people on the ground perceived the District Officers as acting in this capacity and it is that history and its contemporary understandings which are at issue here.
The three papers by Nantang Ben Jua, Cyprian Fisiy and Mathias Niba all focus on the customary institution of the chieftaincy. Niba's paper sets the scene with a general account of Bafut political organisation analyzed in terms of the impact of successive German and British colonial regimes. In his contribution Nantang Jua surveys the role of chiefs and traces some of the ways that 'traditional' power structures changed during the period of British administration. Of particular interest is the way that his analysis continues to the present day, including the way that the post-colonial state has attempted to manipulate the influence of 'traditional' rulers. The installation of the President Paul Biya as the Fon of Fons, the first of all Grassfield rulers, clearly demonstrates that the institutions in question retain their ambience for all the changes that have reduced the executive power of their holders.
This issue is taken up by Cyprian Fisiy in his paper on chieftaincy in the modern state in the context of democratic change. He rightly points up the contradiction between the hereditary principles of chieftaincy and a notion of democracy predicated on elective representation. Contrary to expectations the chieftaincy has not withered away, but rather chiefs have taken on new, albeit very difficult, roles as power brokers, vote-bank holders - intermediaries between state and community. The graphic image presented by the late Fon of Kom of himself as an earthworm being consumed from all sides by ants is strikingly apposite. Fisiy's paper makes the astute point that the chieftaincy is now under very serious threat since not only has it become dependent on the individual performance of different chiefs in balancing the demands of the state, local administration, gendarmerie and population but more threateningly the chieftaincy is, itself, now an arena where the discourse of power and the contest for it is being played out; examplary instances of this may be seen in succession disputes (as discussed by Chem-Langhëë and Fanso 1989).
The papers by Mope-Simo and Goheen present two case studies of gender and accumulation that serve to provide detailed illustrations of some of the processes of change described in general in the preceding papers.
Goheen takes as her subject gendered fields of power in Nso'. Women's agricultural and domestic labour is valued, assumed and literally discounted by men who have managed to maintain and even increase their hold on power over the last century. Education for women is a route to a better marriage, understood as marriage with a more highly educated man who can be expected to have the high earnings typical of a civil servant. However, as Goheen demonstrates, women in such 'elite' marriages are caught by more contradictory demands than those making less high status marriages. An elite woman may be expected to hold down a job in the city and yet still retains her traditional responsibility to farm and feed the family. Male income goes to produce status, for example, by buying titles or for investment in trading enterprises. Radical change is entering by the refusal of some young women to marry. Their voices provide a far more radical call for change than anything being heard in the formal arena of Cameroonian politics which is, for all the token representatives, a discourse dominated by men speaking to and for men.
Simo examines the historical relationship between power and gender in the Grassfield chiefdom of Bamunka. The position of the Fon has undergone extreme change this century yet the institution seems resilient. The position of the Fon's wives, who interestingly receive no mention in the preceding general surveys, is shown to have become more precarious. Nggwase, the regulatory society, is taken as a paradigm of the changes that have occurred in the titled societies of the Grassfields. They have become one of the main means by which material success in the modern world (often in one of the big cities) can be translated back into success in the 'traditional' mores of the chiefdom. The 'selling' of titles allows 'big men' from the cities to become big men in the town. The position of women (examined at length in Goheen's paper) has not been so changed as Simo's sample of chiefs' wives demonstrate. To further emphasise the point he considers the eating of gizzards, a male preserve in all Grassfields societies. As he points out it is curious (to put it mildly) to come from these societies to the cities where bags of frozen gizzards are openly for sale in supermarkets. Since the men never cook how do they know what goes on in the kitchen?

The papers collected in this volume of Paideuma touch on those major issues that represent the key contemporary cleavages of Cameroon state and society. The creation of the post-colonial African state is difficult under any circumstances let alone in a situation, such as Cameroon's, of post-partition reunification. That the joins still show is an index of the latency of those bounded structures for identity - administrative unit, language area and 'tribe' - created in response to the exigencies of colonial administration.
The central discourse of statehood in sub-Saharan Africa has shifted from development to so-called democratisation. The latter may have less to do with western liberal notions concerning the emergence of an accountable system of governing and a consensual politics and rather more to do with the very conception and constitution of the state itself. In other words the manner of the incorporation and articulation of its imagined constituent parts, whether region, chiefdom, language group or gender, has become the central question of contemporary discourse concerning statehood.
DeLancey (1989: 5) emphasises the significance of different colonial experience for identity formation stating that the 'problem [of state building]... was made more complex for Cameroon by the history of two (or three) colonial rulers, each having provided a heritage of political attitudes and proto-institutions superimposed on the varied background of African attitudes and institutions.' However, he also goes on to emphasise that the acceptance of new post-colonial institutions and identity depends on a context of economic growth and the 'spreading of benefits to an ever-increasing proportion of the population.' This places him firmly in the development paradigm camp.
That this paradigm represents a western liberal just-so story and, hence, is an inadequate approach to post-colonial state formation in Africa can be seen in Bayart's caricature of the politics of the Cameroon state as the ' politique du ventre ' (1979). Bayart's view of the state as predator may be widely shared by those who consider themselves to be its prey. This view might equally be applied to the situation of the colony where it was always necessary for the citizens to give up something (labour, tax or political autonomy). It should be borne in mind that modern Cameroon has been one of the success stories in Africa and its economy looked upon by its less successful neighbours with some jealousy. Yet the development of 'civil society' (by which is implied a consensual acceptance of a broad register of access to resources created directly or indirectly by the state) is widely accepted not to have occurred here.
The 'democratisation' paradigm entails a questioning of the incorporation and articulation of the constituent elements of the state - region, town, village, chiefdom, community and individual. This has important implications for our own epistemological categories. This occurs since the objects of the new political uncertainties have a less certain ontological status. In other words doubt is cast on the objective reality of precisely those entities - tribe, chiefdom and region - that are being simultaneously referred back to in order to chart the future of the state.
The invention of tradition argument (Hobsbawm and Ranger: 1978) is certainly susceptible to being overplayed. Chieftaincy in the Grassfields was not 'invented' by the British but the cast of traditionality was applied selectively to bolster those institutions favoured by an administration painfully thin on the ground. It may be that our knowledge of the conditions that prevailed prior to contact - a term itself misleadingly suggestive of pristine encapsulation - is less complete than we suspect. Certainly we underestimate the subtle but salient impact of material and ideological change in the proto- and early colonial periods. In the case of Cameroon this situation has been rendered even more difficult by the discontinuity of successive colonial regimes and the inaccessibility of early administrative records. There is an interesting but perhaps coincidental convergence here between the call for democratisation in Africa and the decline of the hegemonic Soviet state. The latter has resulted in the resurfacing of precisely those early administrative records to which anthropologists and historians (in the west at least) have not had access and whose value is now increased precisely by the African debate over democratisation with its connections to the developments in central Europe.
The post-colonial state encompasses a series of historical perspectives and competing narratives that refer to sets of bounded identities. These structures of identity were laid down in the process of building a colonial state. Howver, they lay largely in the imagination of colonial administrators, and were legitimated by ideological notions of tradition. They may have strikingly more power today than a cynical post-imperial world might imagine. Current calls from anglophone Cameroon cry urgently for the preservation of an Anglo-Saxon heritage expressed in custom, law and education. A recent declaration by the C.A.M. (Cameroon Anglophone Movement) states that:-
'As a socio-cultural organisation proud of our African cultural roots, we are however avowed to defend, conserve and uphold our Anglo-Saxon heritage and identity now on the verge of extinction...'. (1993: 3)
This point draws wider parallels with the problems currently besetting the European centre in terms of the 'historical' bases of contemporary European conflict in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere. It has very specific relevance to the lives and fortunes of Cameroonians, if not all post-colonial states in Africa.
If the colonial state is conceived as an illusion shared by administrator and subject alike, does the so-called post-colonial state remain a hopeful fiction? In much of Africa, most dramatically Liberia, Somalia, Angola and Zaire, the state appears to have ceased to exist. Cases such as Cameroon, long fêted as an example of material success (in terms relative to Africa), the post-colonial state appears at times to be on the verge of dissolution. Perhaps, this view is false. It may reflect more the shortcomings of the expectations generated by our eurocentric ideology, and current meta-narratives of political development, rather than any impotency in Africa political culture. Africa may still seek its own, as yet uncharted course. The so-called failures of the post-colonial African state may be nothing of the sort. Indeed, if the bottle of the colony was only ever half-full, that of the post-colonial state remains half-empty. It is, of course, an aspect of the cast we put on things. That these casts of mind are inadequate to the task was anticipated in Edwin Ardener's (1993: 110) claim that '[this task] is not for amateurs enmeshed in the values of formal systems, which are already inadequate to represent the realities of the countries of their birth'. Note that this paper was delivered in 1964 (Zeitlyn 1993).
In the same paper Ardener noted (107) that as formal systems, traditional and modern African political activity appear completely different in kind - the latter reflecting images of such systems from the outside. There appears to be no formal transition between old and new. He sees this problem in terms of the very conception of what a political system should be. His suggestion is that the political conflict and opposition he witnessed in the 1960s, rather than being a consequence of the transition to modern statehood, actually represented continuity with former conditions. In other words, he views conflict as the substance of social behaviour and the formal structures (much beloved by political science) as 'merely the epiphenomena', a view more recently advanced by Marilyn Strathern, based on her work in New Guinea. (As an Africanist reading Melanesian ethnography one may sometimes experience a sense of dèja vu , see Barnes 1962 for an early example). Treating the relationship between conflict and society in this way renders our accounts highly susceptible to distortion and eurocentrism of the most damning kind. Rowlands and Warnier's 1988 account, for instance, of sorcery and the modern state in Cameroon is easily misread in these terms. Ardener's paper is a useful pre-corrective in suggesting the essentially personal nature of conflict in Africa that implies that here, at least, enemies are people too, even when conflict is expressed in the idiom of sorcery. His point that 'if perfect northern democracy does not exist in African states, nor at least does perfect northern despotism' is a useful counterbalance.
Ardener (1993: 107) refers to Simmel's image of modern (ie western) urban society as a ship, the bottom of which is divided into a series of water-tight compartments so that a leakage in one does not sink the ship. He goes on to argue that such separation is only partially achieved in the post-colonial state. In this it may be he does a disservice to his earlier argument on the primacy of conflict and the epiphenomenal nature of formal structures. The separate compartments of Simmel's ship may represent different and bounded societal structures of and for identity. The modern post-colonial state, as any other society, is made up of competing arenas for social identity. The problems of the modern ship of state in Africa is not so much that the structures defining identity are nesting, overlapping or simply interchangeable but rather that the status of the person is very different. In their different conceptions and constructions of personhood African and western society appear to offer diametrically opposed views. In the former composite individuals are always tied in part, at least, to the diverse sources of their composition. On the other hand, western ideology has it that individuals are constructed independently from the structures which created them.
Ardener emphaizes the significance of personal enmity in the formation of political groupings in the Cameroon of the 1960s so that the political map bore no straightforward relationship with the ethnic map but was skewed according to personal or group allegiance. Nor in situations of highly complex personhood, does allegiance or identity take on a hierarchical segmentary structure so that units of equal order are matched against each other.
Ardener had previously considered the circumstances of reunification in a paper published in 1967 in which he pointed out that reunificationists 'devoted themselves only to reunifying the two mandates' (288) and that the territorial boundaries of the 1922 mandated territories did not correspond to boundaries extant at any period but were a superposition of the 1894 or 1911 boundaries when major redefinitions occurred. Significantly the 1911 accessions that were later returned to France did not become an issue of political contention. The notion that the Federal Republic that came into being in 1961 reconstituted a previous political entity is false.
He notes the supposed 'artificiality' of the boundaries of post-colonial states and their proved durability. He makes the point that far from being artificial these boundaries were created in a special 'political space' of diplomatic negotiation and were defined clearly in relation to other boundaries. These boundaries belong to a system which itself acquires an autonomy such that the units to be incorporated are simply that (eg that which was to be reunified) and not necessarily more (such as tribe or cultural group). For Ardener, the relations between East and West Cameroon, and between each and the reunified state was one of structural mismatch. For the francophone section Federal and state structures were only weakly differentiated whereas for the anglophones the latter were superposed upon pre-existing structures. For the east reunification was not a major issue, for the west it was the issue. This returns us to the topics discussed in Njeuma and Chem-Langhëë's papers with which we began.
Ardener emphasizes the significance of the relative isolation of the West Cameroons in the period from 1922 right up to the fifties. Its geographical separation went along with a high degree of economic independence from Nigeria. It had a full-scale plantation industry at the coast and good contact with world markets. For these reasons at this period there arose a distinctively '(British) 'Cameroonian' way of life' (1967: 292).
The problems that arise from partition and subsequent reunification are not at all centred in ethnicity. 'Ethnic groups' divided by the international frontier were ignored by the reunificationists who sought union with their brothers to the east in spite of an apparent lack of ethnic or tribal ties. The accepted ethnic structure -the constellation of sets of bounded structures for identity -for the peoples who lie either side of the anglophone-francophone division is complex in the extreme. Ardener draws out this complexity in terms of overlapping criteria -language, environment and culture - and the multiplicity of named sets (over 80 for West Cameroon). The pre-existing reality that underlay this situation remains to be elucidated. Ardener argues that reunification had no 'ethnic' basis - beyond what arose from local and historical circumstances. However, this is not unproblematic, since the area is 'a test-case for any scientific analysis of the various significances attached to the word 'tribe' (1967: 292). He sees identity not as a fixed entity but a product of continuous creation. Ardener saw 'the plantation catchment area' as the defining unit for a West Cameroons identity and, hence, providing the 'ethnic' basis for reunification. This is useful in so far as it brings in the Bamileke of West Cameroun connection and also foregrounds Pidgin or Weskos as a key factor in the emergence of socio-linguistic sets based on affective identity. Much of this is a consequence of individuals moving across boundaries. There are no tribes and the 'process of self classification never ceases' (1967: 298). This point is particularly pertinent to the wider Cameroon Grassfields area (Bamenda, Bamileke and Bamum) that in socio-political forms and material culture stands apart both from the coastal and intermediary forest groups. They also stand apart, as individual communities, from each other, fiercely independent, heavily stressing linguistic singularity. Igor Kopytoff's work on the Aghem presents a picture of an anomalous marginal society, an example of recent ethnogenesis (1981). Geary on We similarly interprets her data in terms of recent ethnogenesis (1981). We may move from Ardener's formulation that 'self-classification never ceases' to Appadurai's notion of the continuous production of locality. Of course, communities break up, reform or disappear but the production of locality is universal and continuous irrespective of social melodrama. In a region such as the Grassfields characterised by a great intensity of material and cultural exchange all communities are recent irrespective of how long they have been around. Identity in the Grassfields has constantly been reworked across a range of groups of quite different orders of magnitude. In this sense the discontinuities between the pre-colonial situation and the present are less salient.
Ardener's plantation catchment area is by no means uniform in terms of culture, language, economy or political forms. His argument views ethnicity as essentially to do with affectation of identity. Ethnographic 'truth' does not enter the picture at this point save to depict variations in societal formations among wider groups whose feelings of 'ethnicity' are expressed in terms of the political contests for reunification. In other words, we still have the problem of accounting for such differences. Thirty years ago, for Ardener, the 'furtive realities' that underlay the high complexity of 'ethnic' structure were ineluctable in the absence of written records or other sources. More recent work on language, archaeology and material culture, in particular that of E.M. Chilver, and that inspired by her, suggests the case is not entirely hopeless. And, as we have seen, the democratisation paradigm itself calls into question those very structures that may underlay this complex picture at the same time as new material and data in the form of hitherto inaccessible administrative records become available.
As a postscript we may point to some parallels between competing historical narratives and the academic context in which they are treated. The former seeks to put down historical markers in the present so as to chart the future. The latter may yet come to situate a model for identity formation in the recent proto-colonial past that may be used in general terms to chart the development of identity in the post-colonial future. This future is ill-served by the undigested assumption of modernist meta-narratives of political evolution and simplistic western binaries encompassed by the terms 'tribal despotism' and 'liberal democracy'.
If the past casts its shadow over the present then the future, a future partly made up of virtual communities from electronic networks for instant transnational information flow, is also plainly with us and with very major implications for the development of the post-colonial state. Computer based electronic networks and bulletin boards enable virtual communities to create and circulate local 'news'. These communities have very direct links with 'localities' from which news comes and back to which information and material support may return. They may pick up on extremely local events - eg. the destruction of Ndu market mentioned by Fisiy in his paper - which are fed into the information networks and relayed between interested parties by electronic mail so that it returns at regional or national level with greater impact than the original event in its local context might ever have generated. Over and above the dramatic but superficial level of momentary crisis and event the realisation of the potential for the creation of such virtual communities of affection and interest has enormous implications for the development (or discovery) of new forms of 'traditional' identity for the future. That there will be surprises in store for us is only in part 'due to the low predictive power of most of the 'models' used by foreign observers' (Ardener 1967: 336) but may also reflect a hitherto relatively unacknowledged transformative capacity of African political culture. It may seem a very long way from spatial communities emerging under the crystallising gaze of early colonial administrative assessments to virtual communities of affective identity linked by e-mail. If so, it signals no failure of the African imagination but rather a failure of the European imagination to recognise the African capacity to transform its image of itself.


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