Publication details

Purchasing Culture. The Dissemination of Associations in the Cross River region of Cameroon and Nigeria. (The Harriet Tubmen Series of the African Diaspora). Trenton: Africa World Press.

Monograph

Author(s): Röschenthaler, Ute
Year of publication: 2011

Abstract: "Purchasing Culture" investigates the emergence of complex purchasable associations in the context of the growing transatlantic trade in the Cross River region of southwest Cameroon and southeast Nigeria. The study documents the dissemination histories of the individual associations, their mode of their dissemination by purchase and sale which differs substantially from that of associations in the West. It analyses the significant role of intellectual property of this process, and the importance of associations in the present national states. The associations are men's and women's societies, youth's dance associations and cult agencies. They have different specializations each such as the administration of justice, problem solving of clients, collecting debts, or the performance at festivities. They differ as to their complexity (grades, positions), the amount of secret knowledge (secret languages, knowledge of performances) and the elaboration of their performances. This study contributes to the theoretical clarification of three domains: the regional history of small scale societies and their pre-colonial organisation of trade; to theories of associations and of the diffusion of culture; and to the role of intellectual property in the context of globalization. The study comprises of ten chapters, plus introduction and conclusion. The first chapter introduces the reader to the region from the point of view of one village. It provides an overview of the associations, the ethnography and history of the region. Chapters 2 to 6 are mainly chronological and reconstruct the histories of the individual men's and women's associations, the cult agencies and the youth's dance associations. They situate the associations' emergence in the economic history of the growing trade activities at the Atlantic coast from the seventeenth century onward as well as in colonial and postcolonial history. Chapters 7 to 9 and parts of 6 and 10 are topically arranged and analyse the purchase, the different modes of dissemination, the acquisition and use of the associations in the prestige economy of the Cross River region. Chapter 10 relates the historical and topical findings to present-day debates among the people in the villages and the migrants in towns. It discusses their ideas about the future of their associations, the boundaries of diffusion and the associations' potential of change. 37 maps and 5 tables document the dissemination histories of individual associations and 139 photographs illustrate their performances. The appendices consist of a bibliography, a glossary and an index. The study is based on research in the late 1980s, on fifteen months of field research in the Cross River region between 1998 and 2001, and a short trip in 2008 as well as on research in colonial and mission archives and specialized libraries.

Keywords: Nigeria, Purchase, intellectual property rights, cult associations, dance, performances, history of diffusion, Cameroon

Subject(s): ethnology

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