Accepted Paper:

Diffusion of culture in the cross river region  


Ute Röschenthaler (JGU Mainz)

Paper short abstract:

Globalisation became an ubiquitous topic in anthropology though detailed studies of diffusion processes are rare. At the example of the dissemination of associations in the Cross River region this paper investigates some of the assumptions of diffusionism, diffusion theory and globalisation studies.

Paper long abstract:

The global diffusion of commodities, ideas, techniques, or institutions are the concern of both diffusionism and globalisation studies. Both approaches also have in common that they rarely studied actual processes of diffusion and the people involved in them. They rather used the topic to illustrate related ideas and concerns. Since issues of globalisation are often overshadowed by relations of dominance, it will be beneficial to examine processes of diffusion with the help of a case study at a side venue of the global. In the Cross River region of Southwest Cameroon and Southeast Nigeria, men's and women's associations have been disseminated in the context of the emergence of the trans-Atlantic trade in the seventeenth century. Associations have not originated at one place or by one author but are unique improvements which combine ancient and new (at times global) cultural elements. The village elites acquired them by purchasing the rights in intellectual property and performance. Less imporant associations have also diffused by imitation. Their adoption across large parts of the region has created translocal, transethnic and translingual networks but each village has adapted new associations according to its own preferences. Thus, the process did not lead to a homogenization of Cross River cultures, much in the same way as the studies of the appropriation of global goods have proclaimed. The diffusion of associations in the Cross River region will serve as the point of departure for discussing some of the assumptions of diffusionism, diffusion theory and globalisation studies.

Panel W105
Globalisation as diffusion? Critical re-assessments and contemporary researches