mardi 15 décembre 2009


By Tikum Mbah Azonga

A French professor of anthropology speaks in Buea during a public lecture attended by dons of the University of Buea and other state universities.

The Franco-Cameroon Alliance here in Buea, headquarters of Cameroon’s South West Region, was recently the venue of an academic lecture given by French Anthropology Professor Jean Pierre Varnier. The event which took place on the 27th of November 2009 was attended by lecturers from the University of Buea including the Head of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Dr Akoko, and lecturers from other state universities of Cameroon. Also in attendance were students of anthropology and sociology and related disciplines, as well as members of the general public. Although the speaker’s first language was French, he delivered the lecture in impeccable English.

The subject of the talk which was: “The globalization of cultural fluxes and its impact in Cameroon”, was an arresting one for both the speaker and his audience. It was so for the speaker, because he was on familiar territory, having been to Cameroon several times before. In his own words, he was in the country for the first time nearly 40 years ago. That was in 1971 when as he put it, getting to Bamenda, was difficult because of the state of the roads. “The road was without coal tar and difficult of access, whether one approached it from Bafoussam or from Mamfe”, said the professor. But this time around, he remarked rather with satisfaction, things are different. Prof Varnier said he noticed “enormous changes in and around Bamenda, in domains such as transportation, communication and the entertainment industry”. Other areas of change he cited were housing, a manner of dressing which had become more westernized, and religion as well as the growing number of churches. The education sector was also in rapid expansion, compared with what it was in 1971.

The result of the transformations according to Professor Varnier is a fast moving web which is exposed to more and more fluxes. His view is that this is all very well and good because the mutations typify and confirm the phenomenon of the global village, but at the same time, it has an adverse effect because in the process, “cultural heritage is destroyed”.

Perhaps no one is better placed than Professor Varnier to make such claims because not only was he in Cameroon before, but he has actually published books and papers on Cameroon’s royalty, a typical example being his works on the Mankon whose , S.A.N. Angwafor, he noted was this month of December 2009, celebrating his fiftieth anniversary on the throne.

The icing on the cake for this Professor Emeritus is that he has also taught at the University of Yaounde II here in Cameroon, the Universities of Jos and Zaria in neighbouring Nigeria, and the University of Pennsylvania in the USA where he had earlier obtained a PhD. In fact, one of the key players at the lecture was Dr Yenshu Vuboh of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Buea, who was once supervised at the University of Yaounde I by the professor.

The audience literally reveled in the question and answer session which served as an occasion to fill in the gaps in terms of delivery and reception. For example, when asked whether the speaker’s criticism of the global village meant one should capitulate to the trend of globalization, he responded that he was in no way nostalgic about the past, considering that despite the adverse effects of the trend, some gains had also been made. What one ought to do is look at the balance sheet and make the necessary adjustments, he said.

Professor Varnier added: “Old people want to modernize themselves. Everyone wants medical attention, accommodation, social rights and so on. That is modernization and that is important. But it is not a question of Europeanization because there are other types of modernization such as the American and Chinese types. The danger is the threat of destroying culture and people.”

Asked to explain why if as he put it, Homo sapiens originated in Africa and then spread to the rest of the world, Africa was still so backward, he responded that if one looks back at the history of Africa, one will notice that the continent has also done a lot to advance world civilization. As examples, he cited some of the leading food crops in Africa such as plantains and bananas which he said originated from Asia and wondered aloud whether such a movement was not Africa`s contribution to the globalization of cultural fluxes.

Regarding his affirmation that cultural fluxes might lead to minorities seeking to affirm their rights more and more, which in a way would mean that globalization is doomed to failure, the professor said this was likely. But he added emphatically that it is all a question of the world in which we want to live. In other words, it is up to us.

© 2009

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