Accepted paper:

Milk, money and motion: worldly and divine reconsiderations of women's mobility in Cameroon

Author:

Tea Virtanen (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the multiple powers that advocate restrictions on the physical mobility of the Mbororo women of Cameroon. The focus is on women’s milk selling trips that have recently faced increasing objection. The paper examines the differently motivated powers behind the restrictive projects.

Paper long abstract:

The paper explores the multiple powers that advocate limiting and reshaping the physical mobility of the Mbororo (Fulani) women of Cameroon. Traditionally the socio-economic dynamics of the Mbororo society have been based on cattle herding that requires people's high mobility. For women the mobility has been related to their milk sharing activities within the pastoral group and their milk selling trips to market places. This constant movement with milk, and the milk money it generates, have been fundamental constituents in women's understanding and concrete construction of good life by providing them the economic possibility and socio-spatial frames to pursue their gendered individual interests as well as foster and create relations both in their own community and in the outside world. In recent years, however, this setting has started to change along with an increasing tendency to restrict Mbororo women's mobility, especially by denying them to leave the camp for milk selling purposes. Although this phenomenon, resonating the wider Islamic practice of female seclusion, is usually justified by religious tenets, a more careful look discloses a web of diverse interests and powers behind the restrictive projects. The paper scrutinizes the differently motivated representatives of these powers: Islamic teachers authorized by God, husbands torn by jealousy, villagers demanding female decency, and development activists spreading the cause of modern progress. The main focus is on the question of what makes the milk selling a particularly precarious activity while many other, old and new forms of female mobility evade moral condemnation.

panel P121
Mobility, power and possibility: the search for liveable lives [ANTHROMOB]