Accepted Paper:

Changing strategies and articulations of indigeneity: the example of the Mbororo in Cameroon  


Michaela Pelican (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

Taking the example of the Mbororo of Cameroon, this presentation explores changing political strategies and articulations of indigeneity with a focus on the period since the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Paper long abstract:

'Indigeneity' has been a highly contested concept, particularly in the African context. One the one hand, there has been an extensive debate within Africanist anthropology on the concept's analytical usefulness. On the other, several African governments have questioned its applicability to the African continent, arguing that all population groups may count as 'indigenous'. However, with the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, conceptual criticism has abated, and many African governments have made attempts to integrate the indigenous rights discourse in their policies and development programs - with varied outcomes.

This presentation focuses on the Mbororo of Cameroon, a pastoralist group who internationally has been recognized as an indigenous people, while nationally it is categorized as a marginalized population group. Over the past decade, Mbororo indigenous and human rights activists have experienced a process from enthusiasm to disillusionment to pragmatism. In the course of this process, they have refocused their activities from the international to the domestic sphere, and have adopted a more accommodating approach. Furthermore, they have diversified their lobbying strategies by venturing into the virtual and social media. As I argue, their trajectory is representative of the indigenous rights movement in in many parts of Africa and beyond, as it illustrates the continuous relevance of the nation state as well as the need for actors to articulate and position themselves in relation to changing development discourses.

Panel P077
On being "indigenous peoples": connecting local practices with global context