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Forests of Belonging

Identities, Ethnicities, and Stereotypes in the Congo River Basin

Stephanie Rupp

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: University of Washington Press

Series: Culture, Place, and Nature


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

As I near the end, I circle back to the beginning. Dozens of teachers and advisors, colleagues and friends, and three families in dramatically different parts of the world have contributed to this project in unique and essential ways...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Studies of the relationships between ethnicity and environment, having grown and matured over several decades, have moved beyond the familiar dichotomy between positivist determinism and relativism. New scholarship observes...

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Introduction: Forests of Belonging

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pp. 3-18

This book is about identities that defy simple categorization. It addresses the conundrum of formal, prescriptive categories that identify people according to where and how they live, but that do not fit with the lived experiences...

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1. Paradigms: The Forest and Its Peoples

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pp. 19-54

The western rim of the Congo River basin is a vast, forested region, covering southeastern Cameroon, northeastern Gabon, northwestern Congo, and southwestern Central African Republic. In many ways this area of dense, tropical forest...

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2. Belonging: Ethnic Affiliations and Confluences

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pp. 55-92

Bending over notebooks spread out over the small, tippy table beneath the edge of the window, I tried to hide from both the afternoon heat of pɛmbé swèè, the long, dry season, and from the curious eyes of neighbors and children...

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3. Spaces: Beyond Nature and Culture

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pp. 93-121

Histories of the confluences and intermingling of Bangando, Baka, Bakwélé, and Mbomam in southeastern Cameroon reveal the extent of spatial and social integration among the communities. In contrast, classic models of forest...

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4. Ambiguities: Interethnic Marriage and Descent

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pp. 122-146

The ethnic distinctions among the Bangando, Baka, Bakwélé, and Mbomam are clearly delineated, with the fundamental social solidarity of speakers of each language linked through a communally held, sentimental belief in the origins...

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5. Tangles: Parallel Clans, Alliances, Rituals, and Collective Work

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pp. 147-183

Ethnic affiliations are thick with historical, linguistic, and ideological value. While not immutable over time, monolithic across communities, or of constant emotional value among individuals, ethnic affiliations are collectively...

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6. Identities: People in Changing Contexts

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pp. 184-213

The fundamental boundaries that distinguish one community from another—Bangando, Baka, Bakwélé, and Mbomam—reflect a collective belief in shared origins and in speaking a common language, and provide the foundations for ethnic...

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7. Contradictions: Identities, Opportunities, and Conflicts

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pp. 214-247

Through processes of coming together and engaging with changing contexts, Bangando, Baka, Bakwélé, and Mbomam have built relationships and alliances, negotiated differences and divisions, and contended with political...

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Conclusion: Rethinking Social Identities, Ethnic Affiliations, and Stereotypes

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pp. 248-260

The central argument presented in this book suggests that by analytically slotting African equatorial forest communities into predetermined categories of “pygmy/villager” and “hunter-gatherer/farmer,” the field of social relations is flattened...


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pp. 261-277

Glossary of Non-English Terms

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pp. 278-282


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pp. 283-293


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pp. 294-306

E-ISBN-13: 9780295803029
E-ISBN-10: 0295803029
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295991061
Print-ISBN-10: 0295991054

Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Culture, Place, and Nature
Series Editor Byline: Edited by K. Sivaramakrishnan See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 793207969
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Forests of Belonging

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Stereotypes (Social psychology) -- Cameroon.
  • Stereotypes (Social psychology) -- Congo River Valley.
  • Group identity -- Congo River Valley.
  • Group identity -- Cameroon.
  • Cameroon -- Ethnic relations.
  • Congo River Valley -- Ethnic relations.
  • Ethnicity -- Congo River Valley.
  • Ethnicity -- Cameroon
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