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Africa Today 47.1 (2000) 127-128

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Asuagbor, Greg O. 1998. Democratization and Modernization in a Multilingual Cameroon. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen. ix+206 pp. No price given.

This book tackles a fascinating and important subject. If it fails to fully do the subject justice, it is nonetheless a worthy first attempt. The author states on p. 3 that "there is no recent case study yet on the democratization process in Cameroon," and proceeds without citing the growing band of scholarship on the subject (some of which I cite below). But even were that statement to be true, the book does not achieve its stated ambitions. Despite its title, it is not until the beginning of Chapter Five (p. 118 of 194 text pages) that we leave theoretical and historical backgrounds to start discussing the move "towards democracy." As a political scientist, he may be excused for not knowing the work of anthropologists such as Geschiere and Mbembe, but how can the work of Bayart be ignored when dealing with topics such as the stranglehold that an African political elite has maintained over the last thirty years? To discuss this without dealing with the "politics of the belly" is regrettable. Half of the 1995 volume of Paideuma was devoted to papers discussing the move to independence, and the problematic relationships between political parties across the anglophone-francophone border that have defined Cameroonian politics from its post-World War I inception (the success of the SDF in mobilizing support in Douala and the West Province notwithstanding) (Fowler and Zeitlyn, eds. 1995). The Paideuma papers give a better account of the complexities involved than Asuagbor's discussion of the same topics, and the [End Page 127] recent Takougang and Kreiger volume (1998) on the move to democracy covers the period of the 1990s in greater depth and more theoretical sophistication.

David Zeitlyn
University of Kent, England

References Cited

Bayart, Jean-François. 1979. L'État au Cameroun. Paris: Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques.

------. 1989. L'État en Afrique: La politique du ventre. L'espace du politique series. Paris: Fayard.

Fowler, I., and D. Zeitlyn, eds. 1995. "Perspectives on the State: From Political History to Ethnography in Cameroon. Essays for Sally Chilver." Paideuma 41, Special Issue. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Geschiere, P. 1997. The Modernity of Witchcraft: Politics and the Occult in Postcolonial Africa. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

Geschiere, P., and M. Rowlands. 1996. "The Domestication of Modernity: Different Trajectories." Africa 66, 4:552-4.

Mbembe, Achille. 1992. "Provisional Notes on the Postcolony." Africa 62, 1: 3-37.

Takougang, J., and M. Kreiger. 1998. African State and Society in the 1990s: Cameroon's Political Crossroads. London: Westview Press.



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