- 1. History of Cameroon research by Japanese researchers
- 2. Trends of recent research
Only the current affiliations of referenced researchers are listed after the first instance of a researcher's name. Previous affiliations are denoted by (*** at the time). Affiliations for individuals associated with Kyoto University are omitted.
There is a long history of scholarly study by Japanese researchers in Cameroon going back over five decades. It was in 1958, prior to Cameroon's gaining independence, that the late Junichiro Itani of Kyoto University entered the Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon to conduct a preliminary study on forest-dwelling large anthropoid apes. A detailed description of his time there is provided in the first chapter of Afurika dobutsuki [A Record of African Animals] (1964). His focus ended up shifting away from Cameroon to the Zairean forests on the eastern side of the Congo Basin. The next visit did not come until some time later, in the 1980s, when Masao Kawai, who at the time was a professor at the Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute, and his research team headed to the Campo Ma'an National Park in the Southwest Province of Cameroon to study forest-dwelling Old World Monkeys (Cercopithecidae) including drills and mandrills. In the 1990s, Hideyuki Osawa, Naofumi Nakagawa and others carried out research on patas monkeys and other savanna-dwelling monkeys in the Kalamaloue National Park, located in the northern region.
Parallel to the research projects undertaken by the Primate Research Institute, Koichi Koshimizu and others conducted research on potential crude drugs from medicinal plants and herbs in Campo Ma'an National Park, and Mikio Kaji (University of Tokyo) conducted research on forest vegetation in the same area. At the same time, Hiroyoshi Chujo (Chubu University at the time) conducted phytosociological research at the interface between forest and savanna biomes.
There are also examples of long-term studies in Cameroon by Japanese researchers in non-biological natural sciences. These include physiographic research by Hiroshi Kadomura (Tokyo Metropolitan University at the time), Nobuyuki Hori (same), and others and geoscience research by Minoru Kusakabe (Okayama University at the time) and others on Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun (both volcanic lakes that have caused natural disasters due to gas explosions).
Meanwhile, cultural anthropological studies in Cameroon began to flourish following the organization of the "Great Savanna Research Expedition" by the late Morimichi Tomikawa and Shunya Hino of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies in the late 1960s. Hino, a pioneer of urban anthropology in Cameroon, conducted research in Ngaoundéré, the main city in the Adamawa Region, and Mbang Mboumvillage serving as fieldwork sites. Haruka Wazaki (Chubu University) carried on long-term research on the Foumban and nearby Bamoun society, while Yoshihito Shimada (Nagoya University) studied the Islamic kingdom of the Rey Bouba in the northern Cameroon. Misa Hirano (formerly Nomoto) studied the Bamileke people, famous for their business acumen, in the capital city Yaoundé and in the West Region. The urban anthropological research is being continued primarily by young researchers at Nagoya University. Recently, Mioko Kobayashi (Nagoya University) has been studying the lives of women in the Islamic kingdom, while Akiyo Shioya (Nagoya University) has been studying the market activity of the Eton people.
In the English-speaking northwestern Cameroon, Nobuyuki Hata (National Museum of Ethnology at the time) conducted research related the traditional monarchical society of the Mankon, and Shigehiro Sasaki (Nagoya University) is investigating the mask culture of the Ejagham soeicty in the Cross-River region. Currently, Sumiko Goto (Nagoya University) is carrying out research on the chiefdom of the Nkambe in the North-West Region.
In the area of linguistics, the late Kazuhisa Eguchi (National Museum of Ethnology at the time) investigated the folklore and oral tradition of the Fulbe in Maroua city. In the area of descriptive linguistics, Yasutoshi Yukawa (Tokyo University for Foreign Languages at the time) studied Bantu languages in the western Cameroon, and Ryohei Kagaya (Tokyo University for Foreign Studies) investigated the Bakweri language spoken in the northwestern Cameroon. In addition to these investigations, in recent years, Nobutaka Kamei (Aichi Prefectural University) has been studying the sign languages of the Deaf communities in Cameroon.
With regard to material culture, Jun Mori (Osaka University of the Arts at the time) and Kazuyo Iseki (Osaka University of the Arts) conducted research on handicraft culture.
Although ecological anthropology has been one of the central pillars of African research at Kyoto University up to this point, following the above-mentioned expedition by Itani, ecological-anthropological research in Cameroon was only resumed after more than three decades, in 1993, by Daiji Kimura, Rosei Hanawa, Kaori Komatsu, and Shigehiro Sasaki. Since then, research related to the ecological economy, society, and culture of forest-dwelling people has continued primarily in the tropical rainforest region that comprises the southern half of Cameroon. Despite the diverse content of such research, a number of clear characteristics are evident. The first is that all such research is backed by long-term fieldwork. The second is the high "density" of the research. In a relatively small area constituting the southeastern Cameroon, it is possible to observe a wide variety of livelihood systems, including hunting and gathering, agriculture, and fishing. Although roadside villages serve as primary residences for such peoples, they also make wide use of hunting camps in primary forests and fishing camps built on the banks of rivers. This region, which is home to inhabitants with such diverse profiles, is the focus of intense study by more than 20 researchers.
Serving as a backbone for such research is the concept of "ecology" in the broad sense. Although, today, the term "ecology" is usually defined as something along the lines of " the study of interactions between living organisms and their environments," its original meaning is broader in scope. The prefix "eco" in "ecology" is derived from the Greek oikos, meaning house. As such, "ecology" really means "the study of dwelling and environment around it." Here, "environment" is not limited to the biological sense of the word. The mindset of trying to understand a given phenomenon, even in a social or cultural context, in relation to the environment around it is, indeed, an ecological approach to research in the broad sense.
Meanwhile, ecological-anthropologic research up to this point has been criticized for its paucity of historical perspective. That is to say, because of the predominant focus on describing the lives of present-day peoples, research using historical sources has been deficient, and, as a consequence, specific phenomena have not been adequately positioned within the context of regional history. A second criticism is that, because so much emphasis has been placed on the society and environment in question, consideration of relations to the broader world has been lacking. That said, many recent research efforts, increasingly influenced by the three ecological frameworks (cultural-ecological, historical-ecological, and political-ecological) proposed by Mitsuo Ichikawa, attempt to take a historical perspective and pay attention to relations with the outside world.
Here, we will provide a brief introduction to recent research history in three areas: namely, research on hunter-gatherers and research on swidden farmers, two groups that have been studied intensively through the 1990s and 2000s, and research based on interaction studies that crosses over boundaries of specific research targets. Research on subjects other than hunter-gathers and swidden farmers―e.g., urban residents, fishers, and livestock farmers―is also beginning to flourish.
- 2-1-1. Research on hunter-gatherers
Pygmy hunter-gatherers have been one of the central focuses of ecological-anthropological research in Africa led by Kyoto University. Although the Mbuti and the Efe in the northeastern region of the Congo Basin and the Aka in the northwestern region had been studied prior to the 1980s, research on Baka Pygmies in the southeastern Cameroon was conducted relatively late. Prior to the 1980s, only fragmentary research by European and American researchers related to the language, culture, and ritual practices of the Baka existed, which hardly dealt with, if at all, ecologically significant relations between the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and the tropical forest environment. It is in this context that Kyoto University has taken the lead, starting in the 1990s, in conducting research on hunter-gatherers with the ecological studies of Baka Pygmies as one of its central pillars, focused on themes such as ethnoscience, the sustainability of hunter-gatherer activities, the ethnic relationship between hunter-gatherer and agricultural groups, and eco-political aspects of livelihood activities.
The so-called "wild yam question" of whether or not it was possible for hunter-gatherers living in Africa's tropical forests to maintain a purely hunter-gatherer lifestyle without having to rely on agricultural crops was posed at the end of the 1980s and, to this day, remains without a definitive answer. Hirokazu Yasuoka (Hosei University) conducted participatory observation while taking part, on several occasions, in molongo (long-term foraging expedition) of the Baka Pygmies and elucidated, over a more than two and a half month period, the Baka's lifestyle relying solely on hunting and gathering. In an attempt to answer the same question, Hiroaki Sato (Hamamatsu University School of Medicine) and others rigorously demonstrated, using ecological anthropological methods, that the Baka Pygmies, as long as they were in small groups, could maintain, at all times of the year, a healthy lifestyle based on hunting and gathering without the need for agriculture crops. These results have contributed significantly to answering the "wild yam question."
Taro Yamauchi and Izumi Hagino of Hokkaido University are currently conducting ecological-anthropological research focused on the growth and nutrition of the Baka Pygmies. Hagino, who performed physical assessments of Baka children, discovered that the growth spurt that occurs during puberty is characteristically smaller among Baka children. Furthermore, Kyohei Kawamura (Yamashina University) studied the blood pressure of Baka Pygmies in hunting-gathering camps in order to elucidate the relationship between hunter-gatherer health and camp life in tropical forest environments.
Shiho Hattori (Tenri University) created a detailed list of approximately 600 species of tropical forest plant species that are known to the Baka Pygmies and quantitatively assessed the distribution of ethno-knowledge regarding plants within the group. This research opens the door to specifically elucidating trends in the creation, extinction, and transmission of ethno-knowledge by a hunter-gatherer society.
In addition to studying tattooing and other forms of body alteration and adornment and investigating geographic trends in ethnoscience related to the human body based on surveys conducted over a broad geographic area, Yujie Peng is examining the manner in which knowledge and technologies not directly related to survival are transmitted between generations of Baka Pygmies.
Research on the transformation of hunter-gatherer societies and their relations with broader society is also being conducted. Based on participatory observation in Baka Pygmy hunting camps, Koji Hayashi (Kobe Gakuin University) argues that the current shift in hunting activities toward use of spring traps and hunting rifles is related to the shift toward agriculture and permanent settlement. Naoki Matsuura (University of Shizuoka), who is studying the social relations of within the Babongo Pygmies in the Gabonese Republic, Cameroon's neighbor to the south, and their ethnic relations with nearby agricultural groups, has been studying visiting behaviors of Baka Pygmies in Cameroon with the goal of comparing them with the Babongo Pygmies, who have progressed further than the Baka Pygmies in the transition to permanent settlement and adoption of agriculture. Regarding the adoption of agriculture by hunter-gatherers, Koichi Kitanishi (Yamaguchi University) clarified the state of cultivation of plantain bananas based on small-scale swiddens currently engaged in by Baka Pygmies and examined the reason for adoption of such practices in relation to the ecological characteristics of banana as a cultivated crop. Takanori Oishi, investigating the recent adoption of cacao cultivation by Baka Pygmies not only for personal consumption but, also, as a cash crop, is beginning to clarify one aspect of interactions between global and/or regional economic systems and the local politico-economic system that includes hunter-gatherer groups.
- 2-1-2. Research on swidden farmers
Research by Japanese scholars on agriculture in Cameroon began with a study by Nobuyuki Hata, a member of the above-mentioned "Great Savanna Research Expedition," of agricultural villages of the Dourou people living in the bush savanna of the northern Cameroon. Research on swidden agriculture in tropical rain forests practiced by the Bantu only began in 1993, two decades after research on the savanna, with an investigation by Kaori Komatsu (Shizuoka University) and Rosei Hanawa on the cultivation of plantain bananas, among others, under a swidden agriculture system in which native plants are left in place in a village to which many different ethnic groups had migrated. Continuing with research on the food culture of agricultural peoples, Komatsu has progressively expanded the scope of her research to the food situation of tropical Africa as a whole.
Subsequently, Kagari Shikata began research in 2000 on the swidden agriculture practiced by the Bangandou farmers in southeastern Cameroon. Shikata demonstrated that the Bangandou farmers possessed several fields of plantain bananas, a staple of the Bangandou diet, and that it was possible to produce a stable harvest year-round. In addition, she partially elucidated, from a historical-ecological perspective, the role of human activities such as the harvest of plantains from abandoned swiddens to the cycle of swidden agriculture and reforestation.
Among the farmers living in the tropical rain forest are individuals from extremely diverse ethnic backgrounds and individuals who are engaged in complex livelihood bases. Takanori Oishi is studying the combination of agriculture and fishing along river banks practiced by the Bakwele who inhabit the lower reaches of the Dja River in southeastern Cameroon. Ryota Yamaguchi has been studying the perceptions of the same Bakwele people regarding witchcraft/sorcery beliefs and illness and has been examining the dichotomy of traditional knowledge and scientific/rational thinking from the standpoint of cultural anthropology.
Starting in 2005, Kenta Sakanashi (Doshisha University) has been engaged primarily in research on cacao production in the vicinity of the Dja Faunal Reserve in the Southern Province of Cameroon. It has been shown that, in this sparsely population region, palm wine and meat obtained through hunting and gathering activities are used as compensation to secure the labor that is essential for the cacao harvest. Recently, efforts aimed at forest preservation have been initiated by the government and international organizations. While such efforts may, on the one hand, limit the hunting and gathering activities of residents, on the other hand, a seemingly contradictory structure has emerged in which they have become essential for the promotion of cacao production.
From this series of research, it has become clear that inhabitants of the forested region in the southeastern and southern Cameroon have not indiscriminately destroyed the forest but, rather, have been engaged in agriculture while contributing, to a certain degree, to regeneration of the forest. From this point onward, it will be necessary to conduct research that takes into consideration not only the relationship between swidden agriculture and the forest environment but, also, hunting-gathering, fishing, and the production of cash crops, the movement of people from other regions to the forested region and from the forested region to cities, etc., and the flow of technologies and information accompanying such movement. One of our major challenges is to engage in discussion with local inhabitants about whether or not agriculture can coexist with efforts to protect forests and wild animals and what means of obtaining food and cash will be practicable in the future.
- 2-1-3. Interaction Research
In addition to ecological-anthropological studies in the narrow sense that depend on the collection of data related to physical aspects of livelihood systems, interaction research, which focuses on interactions between individuals that occur within song and dance performances and everyday conversations, began to gradually appear starting in the 1980s.
Among research in the Congo Basin, the first to focus on interaction was a study by Masato Sawada (Kyoto Seika University) on the song and dance of the Efe hunter-gatherer society in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Using this approach, Sawada attempted to hone in on the Efe's beliefs regarding life and death. Daiji Kimura also began to study the interactions of individuals in everyday life, focusing on phonetic interaction of the agricultural Bongando people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Baka people in Cameroon, while still incorporating the quantitative analytical methods cultivated in traditional ecological-anthropological research. Based on this research, Kimura has discussed everyday actions to bring about a sense of co-presence, which differ from those of modern/Western cultural societies.
Daisaku Tsuru (Kyoto Seika University) and Daisuke Bundo (Shinshu University) both focused on the Baka gathering for song and dance known as "be." Their interest was in this "gathering," which appears to be born out of chaos and is free of cultural norms.
Much of the interaction research in Cameroon has focused on the hunter-gatherer society of the Baka people. As a reason for this, one can point to the fact that the social structures traditionally dealt with in anthropology (kinship structure, residential arrangement, social classes, logistics, ritual processes, etc.) are difficult to describe in hunter-gatherer societies. Interaction research views the majority of social order as arising through on-the-spot interactions. It is perhaps because of such circumstances that interaction research in the study of the Baka people has developed as much as it has.
The results of this interaction research are compiled in a book titled "intarakushon-no-kyokai-to-setsuzoku: saru-hito-kaiwa-kenkyu kara [The Boundaries and Connectivity of Interaction: Research on primates, humans, and conversation]" published by the Intarakushon-Kenkyu-Kai [Society for Interaction Research], for which Kimura serves as chairperson.
The interest in interaction research still continues today. Recently, Koji Sonoda has been studying the interaction between adults and children in group-work spaces. Through this, Sonoda hopes to elucidate the relationship between education, which has previously been described as "non-proactive," and everyday hunter-gatherer life―i.e. to clarify the relationship between "education" practiced by the Baka and the natural environment from the standpoint of detailed everyday interactions.
Starting in 2003, researchers from Kyoto University have also started to conduct research in savanna region. Originally, Hiroyuki Inai was involved in ecological-anthropological research in the southeastern Cameroon on the co-existence of local fishermen and migrant fishermen from the north. He has since shifted his study area to the region surrounding the Logone River which flows through west-central Chad and the eastern part of Cameroon's Far North Region, and is presently studying the mechanisms of migrant work in the context of fishing and social changes resulting therefrom. This study is also contributing to research related to the circulation of aquatic resources, which has been receiving increased attention in recent years.Akito Yasuda is studying the recreational game hunting by Westerners that occurs in the vicinity of Benue National Park in the North Region. Yasuda discusses the sustainability of the lives of local residents from the standpoint of environmental sociology. Yasuda's research provides much important knowledge and insight by considering the preservation of wildlife and tourism that sees such wildlife as resources.
Reiko Hayasaka studied the Bororo, a group within the Fulbe, that has not converted to Islam and continues to practice a nomadic lifestyle. The group has adopted the name "Bororo," organized, and engaged in various actions to improve their social status. In the midst of such a movement, Hayasaka studied the formation of ethnic identity among the Bororo (changes therein) as seen in practice of their livelihood. Minority rights, as in the case of other groups, has become an issue for hunter-gatherers living in the forested regions.
Starting in 1993, Misa Hirano (formerly Nomoto) has studied urban migrants to Yaoundé city, and in particular, the mutual assistance and economic activities of the Bamileke people, who are famous for their business acumen. Bamileke who have migrated from villages to the city form associations comprising members from the same village, through which they provide mutual aid, and establish mutual financing associations known as tontine to improve their living situations. Hirano vividly describes the relationship between cities and villages in Cameroon as seen in the activities of the Bamileke same-village associations.
Nobutaka Kamei has been engaged in anthropological research related to the Deaf communities and sign languages in the capital, Yaoundé, and other cities. Advancing research on organizations, schools, and activities for the Deaf communities as well as the history and current status of sign language, based primarily on interviews with Deaf individuals, Kamei is attempting to develop a new theoretical model for the "culturally-sensitive development of the Deaf."
Mikako Toda is conducting detailed study of the everyday lives of people with physical disabilities in the capital city of Yaoundé in order to clarify their actual circumstances. She describes these individuals' hardy and determined strategies for survival in the city, working on self-sufficient farms on the city outskirts while begging for money to care for their children―individuals who could hardly be described as the disabled who are "subject to assistance."
Yushi Yanohara is pursuing full-fledge participatory observation of the immersion in hip hop culture of the youth in Yaoundé and the major port city of Douala. Living together with the youngsters, Yanohara, who himself participates in the writing and performance of hip hop songs, engages in unique research activities that are not bound by the framework of traditional scholarly research.