Accepted Paper:

"Give them money to sustain me": ambigiuties of Cameroonian male redistribution  


Moira Luraschi (University of Turin)

Paper short abstract:

In Cameroon, money redistribution is a male duty, implying an emotional dimension and power relationships within a family. These ambiguities are symbolically expressed through specific beliefs in witchcraft, showing the commitment between the emotional dimensions and power within the family.

Paper long abstract:

In Cameroon, men's social duty is to provide for the extended family by redistributing money: people have the right to ask, and the redistribution leader has the duty to give. Money shows emotional commitment with people, especially within the families, and in the relationships between men and women. Moreover, a large redistributive network shows a higher social status of the redistributor.

Nevertheless, giving money also involves a power relation. Money redistribution can be asymmetrical and, through this mechanism, leaders can submit some members of their family. On the other hand, there are many redistributors who are stressed by the continuous requests for money coming from their relatives.

These tensions are linked to different expectations of the parts involved in the money redistribution. They are also symbolically expressed through witchcraft. As Geschiere has shown, witches' networks are conceived as a sort of redistributional networks where a greedy witch-leader redistributor submits other people, mostly members of his/her own family. The most common conception is about a witch that forces members of his own family to share a meal of human flesh, and to kill other people to repay that first meal This brings to an endless number of murders; likewise, giving and taking, involved into money redistribution, are endless.

This conception of witchcraft is rooted into an unequal economical redistribution within the family and shows clearly the ambiguous link between money and the emotional dimension.

Panel W042
Relations that money can buy: negotiating mutualities and asymmetries in local and translocal social fields