ISBN 9789956558643
Pages 140
Dimensions 229 x 152 mm
Published 2009
Publisher Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon
Format Paperback

Mediating Legitimacy

Chieftaincy and Democratisation in Two African Chiefdoms

by Jude Fokwang

This study analyses the effects of democratic transition in two African countries - Cameroon and South Africa – on chiefs and the institution of chieftainship. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, the monograph explores the cultural and socio-political conditions that enabled chiefs to reinvent themselves in the new era of democratic politics despite their status as ‘old political actors’. It explores the kinds of legitimacies claimed by chiefs in the new era and the responses of their subjects to such claims, particularly with respect to chiefs’ involvement in national politics.

The monograph makes a case for the importance of comparative research on chiefs in the era of democracy and the predicaments they face therein. It contends that contrary to exhortations about the incompatibility of chiefs and democracy, the reality is that political transition in both South Africa and Cameroon produced contradictions, creating space and a role for chiefs in a fascinating and negotiated interplay of legitimacies and history.

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“The subject of chieftaincy has gained new currency because of all the wave of democratisation and the need for more appropriate local governance models. It was previously thought that the institution would not survive the advance of modernity and would become irrelevant. The opposite is what has happened. This refreshing comparative study of Cameroon and South Africa shows both the resurgence of interest in chieftaincy and the complexity of each situation.”

Professor Arthur Abraham, Department of History and Philosophy, Virginia State University, USA

“The study is a strong contribution to our knowledge of how recent political transitions in Cameroon and South Africa have affected chieftainship and how the population and the incumbents of these hereditary positions reacted to partial or more incisive processes of democratisation.  The topic and issues addressed are of great importance for understanding political realities in Africa. The integration of theoretical discussion and ethnographic analysis is of a high scholarly standard.”

Professor C. S. (Kees) van der Waal, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

About the Author

Jude Fokwang

Dr. Jude D. Fokwang is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Development Practice at Regis University, Denver. He has held previous teaching positions at the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University in South Africa, Trent University and the University of Toronto in Canada. His research and publications span several areas of sociocultural issues on Africa including gender in development, material culture, religion, chieftaincy politics, socioeconomic development and youth politics. He is the author of dozens of academic articles, several books and director of the award-winning ethnographic documentary film, Something New in Old Town (2016). He serves on the advisory board of three academic journals: AFRICA- Journal of the International African Institute, Anthropology Southern Africa, and the Nordic Journal of African Studies.

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