“By examining the power of women’s collective political mobilization and their particular role in creating and carrying out a campaign laced with separatist undertones – or, as I phrase it, separatist politics – I describe how politically elite women exercised both individual and collective agency when driving social, political, and economic change in women’s lives in predominant patriarchal societies.”
In her book about the Anglophone nationalist and separatist movements in the 1960s Cameroon, Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué (Assistant Professor of African Cultural Studies at the University of Michigan-Wisconsin) analyses how women’s private and public lives are intertwined with the evolution of the newborn country. From cooking to beauty contests, from education to the questioning of the institution of marriage, women’s lives are the main focus of this comprehensive analysis of the Anglophone Cameroonian society.
In a country still divided between the Francophone and the Anglophone population, the (de)construction of the “ideal womanhood” encompasses all the aspects of life. Moreover, this book is proof that the concept of nation itself had to do with the way women organized themselves and challenged patriarchy, contributing to the evolution of contemporary feminisms.
If the language and the references are more suited for academic research, the topic and the various situations and examples make the book an exciting read. Indeed, if the author examines the idea that “women often represent the values of their cultures” (chapter 4), she also questions the traditional roles attributes to them in the context of the national construction. Are women supposed to be representative for antyhing ? How do we see “women’s roles” six decades after the Cameroonian independence ? In a world in which the claim for gender equality has become part of our daily life, this book is a mirror onto the way challenging the norm has largely contributed to the evolution of social and cultural mindsets.
More about society and politics in Cameroon and in Africa today on the author’s blog and the site Africa is a Country :
Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon by Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué
ISBN : 978-0472074136
Published by University of Michigan Press (October 2019)
Ioana Danaila was born in Romania. She has a PhD in Nigerian Postcolonial Literature and a First degree in French for Non-Francophone people. She is also the author of a collection of short stories and translated books from French to Romanian. Trilingual in Romanian, French and English, she teaches English language and literature to highschool students in France.