Mama for story

Editors: 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, Michael 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. This we have resolved by dividing the papers into three separate sets, each representing a different aspect of Mrs Chilver's interests. One set 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; another set of papers combine historical and anthropological analyses; and, finally, there are ethnographic accounts of topics such as witchcraft, divination and religion in the Grassfields region of Cameroon.

As part of this project we are making available here a photograph of the Fon of Nso', Fon Sëm III (Mbinglo), Sally Chilver and Phyllis Kaberry. The photograph was taken in 1958.

Low Resolution photo of Sally, Phylis and Fon of Kom
A set of three collections that have been inspired by the work of Mrs E.M. Chilver, known to many as Sally Chilver 'Mama for Story'.

The project is being published in the following forms:

1) Half of Paideuma (the journal of the Frobenius Institute) for 1995 is devoted to a collection entitled


This was published in June 1995 and can be ordered from Franz Steiner Verlag, Postfach 10 10 61, D-70009 Stuttgrat, Germany. It costs DM80 plus postage.
2) A volume with the title African Crossroads published by Berghahn, Oxford

3) Special Issue of JASO to be published later in 1996.

Perspectives on the State:
From Political History to Ethnography in Cameroon.
Essays for Sally Chilver

Paideuma 1995
With the kind permission of the Editor of Paideuma the full text of this issue of Paideuma is now (December 1999) available online

Editors' Introduction
Ian Fowler and David Zeitlyn
The Road To The Unitary State Of Cameroon 1959-1972
Bongfen Chem-Langhëë
Reunification And Political Opportunism In The Making Of Cameroon's Independence
Martin Z. Njeuma
Indirect Rule In Colonial And Post-Colonial Cameroon
Nantang Ben Jua
Chieftaincy In The Modern State: An Institution At The Crossroads Of Democratic Change
Cyprian F. Fisiy
Bafut Under Colonial Administration 1900-1949
Mathias L. Niba
Gender And Accumulation In Nso'
Mitzi Goheen
Structures Of Control And Power And The Implications For Social Change In A Western Grassfields Chiefdom
J.A. Mope Simo

African Crossroads: Intersections between History and Ethnography in Cameroon

Editors: Ian Fowler and David Zeitlyn

ISBN 1-57181-859-6 hardback
ISBN 1-57181-926-6 paperback

Published in June 1996

By Berghahn Books, Oxford

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With the kind permission of Berghahn Books the full text of the Preface, Forward and Introductory Essay have been made available online

Shirley Ardener
Ian Fowler and David Zeitlyn
The person, Ethnicity and the Problem of 'Identity' in West Africa
Richard Fardon
Mythic Transformation and Historical Continuity: the Duala of Cameroon and German Colonialism, 1884-1914
Ralph A. Austen
Catholicism and Nso' Traditional Beliefs
Joseph Lukong Banadzem
Political Relations on the Eastern Marches of Adamawa in the Late 19th Century: A Problem of Interpretation
Philip Burnham
Nso' Military Organization and Warfare in the 19th and 20th Centuries
Verkijika G. Fanso and B. Chem-Langhëë
Political dress: German-style Military Attire and Colonial Politics in Bamum
Christraud M. Geary
Imperialisms at the Century's end: Moghamo relations with Bali-Nyonga and Germany 1889-1908.
Robert O'Neil
'Pursue to Attain': a Royal Religion
Claude Tardits
Rebellion, Defection and the Position of Male Cadets: a Neglected Category
Jean-Pierre Warnier

Published reviews of African Crossroads

A special issue of the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford (JASO)

Voume 26 No 1 July 1995.

With the kind permission of the editors of JASO the full text of the Introduction to Jaso is available online

Addd in 2014 Now that JASO is online readers can find the full texts of all the articles via the links below. Note however that from this site we have made available a slightly corrected version of Accidental Collisions and the Bibliography.
Ian Fowler and David Zeitlyn
Accidental Collisions
Sally Chilver
Based on a conversation between Sally Chilver, Mitzi Goheen and Eugenia Shanklin, transcribed and edited by Mitzi Goheen and Eugenia Shanklin
Wuli Witchcraft (Mfumte of Western Cameroon)
Viviane Baeke
Yamba Spider Divination
Hermann Gufler
Kefuh Myin
A Therapeutic Medicine in Oku (Cameroon Grassfields)
Hans-Joachim Koloss
History Of The Mambila Chiefdom Of Mbor (Sonkolong)
Jean Hurault
The Initiation of the Dugi Among the Péré
Charles-Henry Pradelles de Latour
Eldridge Mohammadou on the origin of the Tikar
David Zeitlyn
A Letter from Sally Chilver to V.G. Fanso
In November 1992, Sally Chilver wrote to Dr V.G. Fanso of Yaoundé University discussing Eldridge Mohammadou's theories summarized above.
Bibliography of Sally Chilver
This bibliography includes Sally Chilver's mature work on Cameroon as well as some of the early work published under her maiden name, Sally Graves.

EMail David Zeitlyn
Ian Fowler

Links to other related sites:

Jan- August 1996 Last modified May 1999

Revised for new host Oct 2012 revised 2 Jan 2018