Pelican, Michaela. 2013. Insights from Cameroon: Five years after the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Anthropology Today 29(3): 13-16.
Abstract Five years have passed since the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. What difference has it made? Have the activists’ expectations materialized? How has the declaration been implemented? What are the responses of governmental and civil society actors? Drawing on institutional developments at the United Nations as well as the case of Cameroon and the Mbororo as a national minority group, this article aims to provide some answers to these questions.
Pelican, Michaela. 2013. International Migration: Virtue or Vice? Perspectives from Cameroon. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 39(2): 237-258.
Abstract This article argues that both global and national power differences play a crucial role in shaping local imaginaries of international migration among youths in two Cameroonian cities - Bamenda and Yaoundé. While Yaoundé is the national capital, Bamenda is the headquarters of the Anglophone north-west, an area generally opposed to the ruling regime and claiming historical as well as contemporary political marginalisation. Physical mobility has long been associated with social mobility and viewed rather positively. In both areas more critical perspectives on international migration are emerging. This is reflected in differences in envisioned destinations as well as in terminologies and concepts. Thus, in Yaoundé 'the dangers of illegal migration' have become the topic of the day - a theme publicised by international organisations in collaboration with local NGOs. Conversely, youths in Bamenda consciously compare their conceptualisations of the advantages and disadvantages of life abroad on the basis of imparted experiences of migrant family members and friends. These discourses influence not only youths' perception of different forms of migrancy but also their assessment of their future in Cameroon. International migration is thus viewed in a broad discursive spectrum from virtue to vice, and perceptions are shaped by regional, national and international political discourse.
Pelican, Michaela. 2012. From cultural property to market goods: changes in the economic strategies and herd management rationales of agro-pastoral Fulbe in North West Cameroon. In: Anatoly Khazanov and Günther Schlee (eds.). Who Owns the Stock? Collective and multiple property rights in animals. New York, Oxford: Berghahn. pp. 213-230.
Abstract Cattle play an important economic and symbolic role among the Mbororo (agro-pastoral Fulbe) in North West Cameroon, and are considered both the basis and the source of their livelihood, social status and ethnic identity. Property rights in animals and animal products thereby form an integral part of the socio-economic organization affected by economic, ecological and political developments in recent decades. In this contribution, property rights in animals are addressed in three ways: (a) property relations understood as social relations between people, (b) property relations as social relations between people and animals, and (c) property rights in the interplay of socio-economic change and socio-cultural models.
Mimche, Honoré et Michaela Pelican. 2012. Quand les immigrants se font "autochtones": dynamiques d'insertion des Mbororo et insécurité foncière à l'ouest-Cameroun. In: Pierre Kamdem et Martin Kuete (eds.) L' "in"sécurité au Cameroun: mythe ou réalité? Paris: Iresma.
Abstract Plusieurs courants migratoires ont contribué à la répartition actuelle du potentiel démographique. Dans les régions de l’Ouest et du Nord-Ouest par exemple, les dernières vagues d’immigration sont celles des Mbororo (groupe de Foulbés pasteurs) qui, depuis les années 1910, se sont installés dans plusieurs circonscriptions administratives de la dorsale occidentale du pays où ils cohabitent avec les populations dites « autochtones ». Cet article examine les problèmes d’insécurité foncière auxquels sont confrontés les Mbororo. Cette forme d’insécurité est appréhendée dans cet article à la fois comme i) une situation d’infériorité sociologique dont l’expression est le sentiment d’instabilité foncière ressenti par les Mbororo en tant qu’usagers du foncier rural ; ii) le fait pour un groupe social d’être dominé et exploité sur plusieurs plans de la vie sociale ; iii) une situation de vulnérabilité, entretenue par divers institutions et acteurs sociaux; et iv) la résultante d’une faible intégration sociopolitique. Pour gérer cette insécurité, les immigrés, comme les autres populations allochtones, mettent en œuvre diverses stratégies afin de garantir leur sécurisation.
Pelican, Michaela. 2012. Friendship among pastoral Fulbe in northwest Cameroon. African Study Monographs 33(3): 165-188.
Abstract This article discusses perceptions and practices of friendship among the Mbororo (pastoral Fulbe) in northwest Cameroon. The concept of friendship is culturally and socially embedded, and the author highlights the flexible and multi-layered character of friendship in Cameroon. While in Europe and the U.S. the voluntary and emotional connotations of friendship are stressed, for the Mbororo, it includes a significant economic component and may overlap with other relationships, such as kinship and patron-client relations. Furthermore, Mbororo women and men differ in their perspectives and practices of friendship. Finally, the author argues that interethnic friendships between Mbororo pastoralists and their farming neighbours are of an individual nature and that in the face of conflict, their integrative capacity is limited.
Pelican, Michaela. 2011. Mbororo on the move: from pastoral mobility to international travel. Journal of Contemporary African Studies 29(4): 427-440.
Abstract This contribution deals with historical and contemporary experiences of mobility among Mbororo (Fulbe pastoralists) in northwest Cameroon. It examines the impact of these experiences on Mbororo interaction with their environment, and the emergence of ideas of tourism and heritage among Mbororo based in Cameroon and abroad. It argues that while Mbororo mobility has now attained a global scale, it is largely limited to the more prosperous and educated elite, and contributes to social stratification within Mbororo society.
Pelican, Michaela. 2011. Researching South-South/South-East migration: Transnational relations of Cameroonian Muslim migrants. Tsantsa 16:169-173.
Abstract This article presents selected findings from an ongoing research project on the transnational relations of Cameroonian Muslim migrants. It highlights two aspects, namely the asymmetries and complexities of communication between migrants and families left behind, as well as migrant realities in Gabon and the United Arab Emirates. The project centres on South-South and South-East migration, thus challenging and complementing the focus on South-North migration prevailing in academic and policy-related research. It traces changing patterns and perceptions of mobility, explores migrants' experiences in «foreign lands» and their reflections about «home», and engages with migration regimes as well as migrants' responses to regulatory mechanisms.
Pelican, Michaela. 2010. Umstrittene Rechte indigener Völker: das Beispiel der Mbororo in Kamerun. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 135: 39-60.
Abstract This article discusses the problematic application of the concept of "indigenous peoples" to the African context. It critically considers the effects of international interventions aimed at reinforcing the realisation of the rights of indigenous peoples at the local and national level. The argumentation will be illustrated through a case of conflicting strategies of different actors in a leadership succession dispute in northwest Cameroon.
Pelican, Michaela and Peter Tatah. 2009. Migration to the Gulf States and China: local perspectives from Cameroon. African Diaspora 2(2): 229-245.
Abstract This contribution discusses local perspectives on international migration with a focus on South-South and South-East migration, namely from Cameroon to the Gulf States and to China. The report is based on a joint research project involving anthropologists and students of the Universities of Zurich, Yaoundé and Douala. As in many African countries, international migration has become a major concern for large parts of the population of Cameroon. While western countries still feature as preferred destinations, many Cameroonians have turned to other, more easily accessible options within the South. Popular destinations are countries within Africa as well as the Near and Far East. In all these migration enterprises the family plays a crucial role, both in the preparation of the journey and with regard to transnational exchange relations. For Muslim migrants, religion may be a significant factor influencing their choice of destination besides other considerations, such as economic and educational incentives.
Pelican, Michaela. 2009. Customary, state, and human rights approaches to containing witchcraft in Cameroon. In: Bertram Turner and Thomas Kirsch (eds.). Permutations of Order. Religion and Law as Contested Sovereignties. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing: 149-164.
Abstract This chapter examines the relationship between "law" and "religion" by focusing on state and non-state reactions to perceived acts and discourses of witchcraft in northwest Cameroon. The area under study is characterised by centralised chiefdoms in which the containment of witchcraft is considered the responsibility of so-called traditional authorities. In the 1990s, however, in the context of Cameroon's political liberalisation and growing social insecurity, 'traditional' methods of witchcraft containment weakened in their efficacy. Conversely, the local population engaged in violent witch-hunts which triggered state intervention and responses from human rights and church activists. In my contribution I focus on an anti-witchcraft conference held in 1999 in northwest Cameroon, whose aim was to encourage customary and state legal institutions to collaborate in the containment of witchcraft. The anti-witchcraft conference exemplifies the interconnectedness of transnational legal arenas and local fields, and illustrates the ways in which witchcraft accusations have been framed in terms of globally circulating notions of human rights.
Pelican, Michaela. 2009. Complexities of indigeneity and autochthony: an African example. American Ethnologist 36(1): 149-162.
Abstract In this article, I deal with the complexities of "indigeneity" and "autochthony," two distinct yet closely interrelated concepts used by various actors in local, national, and international arenas in Africa and elsewhere. With the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2007, hopes were high among activists and organizations that the precarious situation of many minority groups might be gradually improved. However, sharing the concerns of other scholars, I argue that discourses of indigeneity and autochthony are highly politicized, are subject to local and national particularities, and produce ambivalent, sometimes paradoxical, outcomes. My elaborations are based on in-depth knowledge of the case of the Mbororo in Cameroon, a pastoralist group and national minority recognized by the United Nations as an "indigenous people" although locally perceived as "strangers" and "migrants." For comparative purposes, and drawing on related studies, I integrate the Bagyeli and Baka (also known as Pygmies) of southern and southeastern Cameroon into my analysis, as they share the designation of indigenous people with the Mbororo and face similar predicaments.
Pelican, Michaela. 2008. Mbororo claims to regional citizenship and minority status in northwest Cameroon. Africa 78(4): 540-560.
Abstract Discourses on autochthony, citizenship and exclusion have become popular in Cameroon as well as in other parts of Africa, and lately even in Europe. This article considers the case of the Mbororo (agro-pastoral Fulbe) in north-west Cameroon (also known as the Western Grassfields) and their recent claims to regional citizenship and minority status. The Mbororo are a minority in the region. They are perceived as strangers and migrants by local Grassfields groups who consider themselves their hosts and landlords. The Mbororo have long entertained host-guest and patron-client relations with their Grassfields neighbours. However, in the context of Cameroon's democratization and the constitutional changes of the 1990s, they have changed their political strategies, aiming at direct representation to the state. In 1992 MBOSCUDA (the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association) was founded and gradually developed into a nationally influential ethnic elite association. While confirming the Mbororo as regional citizens, it successfully portrayed them as an 'indigenous people' both nationally and internationally. Moreover, many Mbororo of the younger generation have gradually developed emotional bonds with their home areas. Neighbouring groups have mixed feelings about these developments, as they may generate new conflicts.
Dafinger, Andreas und Michaela Pelican. 2006. Sharing or dividing the land? Land rights and herder-farmer relations in a comparative perspective. Canadian Journal of African Studies 40(1): 127-151.
Abstract The transformation of land laws is at the heart of restructuring and decentralization processes in most of sub-Saharan Africa, and the land rights question has increasingly become a major issue in anthropological research. This article compares two cases of farmer-herder relations in Burkina Faso and northwest Cameroon that show remarkable differences in terms of integration of and conflicts between groups. In both research sites, Fulbe agro-pastoralists form an ethnic minority within farmer-dominated societies. While the Burkina Faso case is marked by peaceful integration, the Cameroonian case is characterised by occasional violent conflicts. These differences are explained in terms of the legal systems and modes of land use in the two countries. We show that shared use of land and "landed resources", such as water holes, arable fields and pasture, encourages integration through permanent low-level conflicts, whereas a divided landscape and allocation of exclusive land titles increases the potential for violent conflicts. In Burkina Faso, the historical and political setting supports an ideology of a shared landscape, while in northwest Cameroon, the colonial and post-colonial legislation promotes the division of resources along socio-economic categories. Finally, the article contributes to the understanding of structure-agency relations, by looking at how individual actors oscillate between the two strategic counter-poles of "voice" and "exit".
Pelican, Michaela. 2004. Im Schatten der Schlachtviehmärkte: Milchwirtschaft der Mbororo in Nordwestkamerun. In: Günther Schlee (Hrsg.). Ethnizität und Markt: Zur ethnischen Struktur von Viehmärkten in Westafrika. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag. S. 131-158.
Abstract This article discusses changing practices of meat and milk marketing among the Mbororo (pastoral Fulbe) in northwest Cameroon. The sale of milk products has long been a vital source of income for Mbororo women. Yet with their settlement in the Grassfields and in conjunction with the gradual adoption of Islamic gender ideals, many families abandoned this practice in favour of agro-pastoralism. Others continued to sell milk products, but saw themselves confronted with the deprecation of fellow, often better-off Mbororo. The practice of milk sales thus became a marker of backwardness, poverty and lack of Islamic virtue. Concurrently, the sales of cattle and meat gained pertinence. In recent years, however, Mbororo women have developed new strategies of making an income via the direct sales of milk to a local dairy cooperative.
Selected book reviews
Pelican, Michaela. 2012. Book review: Bea Vidac. 2010. Visions of a Better World. Football in the Cameroonian Social Imagination. Berlin: LIT Verlag. Sociologus 62(1): 112-114.
Pelican, Michaela. 2011. Book review: Peter Geschiere. 2009. The Perils of Belonging. Autochthony, citizenship, and exclusion in Africa & Europe. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press. American Ethnologist 38(4): 841-842.
Pelican, Michaela. 2010. Book review: Ian Fowler and Verkijika Fanso (eds.). 2009. Encounter, Transformation, and Identity. New York, Oxford: Berghahn. Africa 80(4): 668-669.
Pelican, Michaela. 2008. Face To Face: Cameroon-Gabon-Dubai-Geneva. Docu-short, 8 min.
Pelican, Michaela and Judith Orland. 2002. Getting along in the Grassfields: aspects of village life in Misaje (North West Cameroon) / Misaje, ein kleines Dorf in Nordwest Kamerun. Documentary, 38 min.