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Funerals and Belonging: Different Patterns in South Cameroon

  • Peter Geschiere

Abstract:

The preoccupation with “autochthony” and the exclusion of “strangers” in many parts of present-day Africa, a paradoxical outcome of political liberalization, has given new importance to funerals as an ultimate test of “belonging.” However, the link between funerals and belonging is certainly not new. This article compares three different versions of this link from southern Cameroon. In the 1970s, Maka funerals in southeast Cameroon emphasized belonging in terms of local kinship and affinity. In the 1980s, Ewondo funerals in Central Province reaffirmed the belonging of urban elites to their village of origin. In the 1990s, funerals in the Southwest Province revealed the increased political significance of the funeral in the context of a growing preoccupation with autochthony and belonging under democratization. These three examples illustrate the continuing stretching of kinship as it bridges new inequalities and distances. They also raise quesdons as to its breaking point.

Résumé:

La préoccupation du principe d'«autochtonie» et de l'exclusion des “étrangers” dans bien des régions de l'Afrique d'aujourd'hui, une résultante paradoxale de la libéralisation politique, a donné une nouvelle importance aux enter-rements et au concept d' “appartenance.” Cependant, le lien entre les enterrements et le principe d'appartenance n'est pas nouveau. Cet article compare trois différentes versions de ce lien dans le Cameroun du sud. Dans les années 70, les enterrements Maka dans le sud est du Cameroun mettaient en relief la notion d'appartenance familiale en tant qu'affinité et appartenance locale. Dans les années 80, les enterrements Ewondo dans la province du centre réaffirmaient l'appartenance des élites urbaines à leur village d'origine. Dans les années 90, les enterrements de la province du sud ouest révélaient une préoccupation montante des notions d'«autochtonie» et d'appartenance sous l'avènement de la démocratic dans le pays. Ces trois exemples illustrent l'élargissement continu de la notion d'appartenance familiale en lui faisant rapprocher des communautés de niveau social différents et résidant à distance les unes des autres. Ils posent également la question des limites de la notion d'appartenance familiale.

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Funerals and Belonging: Different Patterns in South Cameroon

  • Peter Geschiere

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