No. 28 (2003)
Recent Advances in Central African Hunter- Gatherer Research

Edited by Mitsuo ICHIKAWA and Daiji KIMURA

pp. 1-8


Recent Advances in Central African Hunter-Gatherer Research


PDF file of body text (52 KB) (new!)

pp. 7-24

Names, Use and Attributes of Plants and Animals among the Ituri Forest Foragers: A Comparative Ethnobotanical and Ethnozoological Study

Kobe Gakuin University

   Ethnobotanical and ethnozoological surveys have been conducted from the 1970s among Ituri forest hunter-gatherers, the Mbuti and Efe, revealing interesting points on the relationships between the hunter-gatherers and the flora and fauna. In this paper, names, use and attributes given to plants and animals by the foragers are described and compared. Although the Efe and the Mbuti use completely diiferent languages now, not a few names, uses and attributes of plants and animals are common to both groups. It has become clear that the use of plants and attributes given to animals are more durable than the names in the transition of their culture through contact with farmers. The common names, uses and attributes may suggest the existence of original Pygmy words and plant and animal culture in the Ituri forest.

Key Words: Efe; Mbuti; Tropical rain forest; Plant names; Animal names; Plant use; Animal attributes; Original Pygmy language.

PDF file of body text (668 KB) (new!)

pp. 25-35

Bakas’Mode of Co-Presence

Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University

   The characteristics of hunter-gatherer societies have been discussed previously within the framework of social structure or in relation to various “-isms,” such as egalitarianism. Eschewing this relatively rigid structure, this report focuses on the fluid daily social interaction of the Baka Pygmies of southeastern Cameroon. First, their spatially diffusive conversation in the forest camp or roadside village is described. Then the relative calmness, and high degree of resonance, of their interactions are discussed, based on the results of analysis using the time-sampling method and video image analysis. It is conjectured that living under such “multi-connected” conditions may cause them to face an “explosion of processing effort,” in responding to the tangled interactional relationships that characterize their community. The sophisticated resonance observed in these interactions is thought to be an ethno-method for diminishing the impact of such complexity. This viewpoint is discussed in relation to hunter-gatherers’ socio-ecological way of life.

Key Words: Baka Pygmies; Cameroon; Hunter-Gatherers; Parallel distributed interaction.

PDF file of body text (668 KB) (new!)

pp. 37-56

Interethnic Relations in Southeastern Cameroon: Challenging the “Hunter- Gatherer” – “Farmer” Dichotomy

Stephanie RUPP
National University of Singapore

   By slotting forest communities into reductive categories such as “hunter-gatherer” / “farmer” and “pygmy” / “villager,” analyses of social relations in tropical forests are reduced to two dimensions based on contrasting subsistence strategies and polar relations of power. As a result of this flattened perspective of the social landscape, other ways of reckoning social relations as expressed by contemporary forest peoples may be rendered analytically invisible and ideologically irrelevant to outside observers and analysts. This paper examines the formation and transformation of social relationships among Bangando, Baka, Bakw´el´e, and Mbomam, four distinct communities that intermingle in the forests of southeastern Cameroon. Far from conforming to these simplified, paired classifications of social identity based on presumed economic strategies and political relationships, the diverse communities of southeastern Cameroon pursue numerous and flexible production techniques, engage in manifold and changing relationships, and identify self and other in multiple and shifting ways. This paper demonstrates that, rather than maintaining strict ethnic divisions according to subsistence production, Bangando, Baka, Bakw´el´e, and Mbomam individuals participate in interfamilial, interethnic, and interregional networks that are social, economic, ritual, and political in nature.

Key Words: Ethnicity; Identity; Cameroon; Bangando; Baka.

PDF file of body text (139 KB) (new!)

pp. 57-79

The Framework of Central African Hunter-Gatherers and Neighbouring Societies

Universit´e Libre de Bruxelles

   This article presents a synthesis of available information about the framework of relations between Pygmy peoples and neighbouring local communities called “villagers” or “farmers.” From an epistemological point of view, the literature is more detailed about the origin of that relationship than about the analysis of its framework. From an ethnographic viewpoint, a comparison of the two most researched case studies in different cultural settings provides evidence of the existence of a similar relational interethnic model in the Congo River basin. This model involves both aspects of the “ideology of solidarity,” sustained by links of pseudo-kinship, and of the “ideology of domination,” political-economic dominance over the Pygmy peoples by the “villagers.” The relationship also appears fluid in that it allows a multiplicity of partnerships. The interethnic relational model suits an environment of mobility and of acephalous political organization. The author argues that the model is not specific to hunter-gatherer societies, nor to Pygmy communities in general, but rather to Pygmy groups in regular contact with villager communities characterised by mobility and non-hierarchical political organization.

Key Words:Pygmies; Non-Pygmy neighbors; Inter-ethnic relations; Hunter-gatherers; Central Africa; Pseudo-kinship; Subordination.

PDF file of body text (866 KB) (new!)

pp. 81-121

Relocated to the Roadside: Preliminary Observations on the Forest Peoples of Gabon

Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, The University of Oxford

   The Forest Peoples of Gabon (commonly referred to as the Pygmies) have, until recently, attracted little attention in the academic forum. It seems it is widely assumed that these groups are largely assimilated into dominant neighbouring ethnic groups and have consequently adopted new cultural practices and lost many of their own (Anderson, 1983). Recent research has revealed a range of socio-economic situations including forest-based semi-nomadic communities who combine hunting and gathering with shifting cultivation. However, the majority of Gabon’s Forest Peoples have moved to the roadside, and where the last forest-based groups remain, relocation is inevitable or in process. Integrating ideas of history both exogenous and local, the aim of this paper is to consider the reasons why the Forest Peoples of Gabon have been relocated to the roadside in both academic and real terms. Based on recent fieldwork it provides preliminary observations on: the present distribution, settlement patterns and subsistence strategies of the Forest Peoples of Gabon; the processes by which they have been (and continue to be) relocated; and the effects of their various efforts to accept or reject inclusion.

Key Words: Pygmies, Gabon, Relocation, Assimilation, Conservation.

PDF file of body text ( 2.628KB) (new!)

pp. 123-141

Watershed, Weddings and Workforces: Migration, Sedentarization, and Social Change among the BaAka of Southwestern Central African Republic

Department of Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh
Rebecca HARDIN
Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies

   This brief demographic history of the BaAka pygmies of the Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Reserve analyses the BaAka’s engagement with capital and the extent to which it influences immigration. The BaAka villages within the reserve have been influenced differently by coffee and timber boom/bust cycles. We superimpose local economic history with demographic data, then using five parameters; residence, place of origin, estimated year of birth, sex and parental place of origin, we seek to establish whether different immigration patterns are due to different local economies. Also discussed are the effects of local economies on traditional marriage migration patterns. We conclude that immigration patterns do change over time probably due to demands for labor in conjunction with preexisting marriage alliances.

Key Words: BaAka; Pygmy; Bayanga; Immigration; Migration; Labor.

PDF file of body text (1.413 KB) (new!)

pp. 143-157

Cultivation by the Baka Hunter-Gatherers in the Tropical Rain Forest of Central Africa

Faculty of Education, Yamaguchi University

   The Baka in southeastern Cameroon are one of the “Pygmy” hunter-gatherer groups living in the tropical rain forest of central Africa. The Baka are said to have accepted cultivation with their own fields in the 1950s. Their cultivation is unplanned and haphazard, due to longer time lapse between labor investment and return for cultivation than for hunting-gathering. This difference was one of the obstacles for adoption of cultivation with their own fields, and has made them receive produce from neighboring farmers in exchange for forest products or for farm work. The important factor for adoption of their own cultivation is that acquiring produce from the neighboring farmers became diffcult due to change in relationship between some Baka and farmers. Colonial government policy also affected the Baka. The major crop of the Baka is plantain. Plantain as a crop requires little care or preservation for future planting and consumption, suited for the Baka cultivation. These factors probably promoted adoption of cultivation by the Baka.

Key Words: Baka hunter-gatherers; Acceptance of cultivation; Relationship with farmers; Plantain.

PDF file of body text (501 KB) (new!)