Forests of Belonging

Identities, Ethnicities, and Stereotypes in the Congo River Basin

Stephanie Rupp

  • Published: July 2011
  • Subject Listing: Anthropology, African Studies, Environmental Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 304 pp., 20 illus., 7 maps, notes, bibliog., index, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World
  • Series: Culture, Place, and Nature
  • Contents

Forests of Belonging examines the history and ongoing transformation of ethnic and social relationships among four distinct communities - Bangando, Baka, Bakwele, and Mbomam - in the Lobeke forest region of southeastern Cameroon. Researchers and practitioners alike typically view these groups as distinct, and divide them into the opposed categories "hunter-gatherer" and "farmer," or "pygmy" and "villager." But far from conforming to simplified, dichotomous classifications, these diverse communities engage in manifold social, ecological, and political relationships, and identify self and other in multiple and shifting ways.

Basing her analysis on more than two years of ethnographic field research, Stephanie Rupp focuses on the Bangando community, a group that has been targeted, and sometimes vilified, by development, conservation, and missionary activities, but about whom little is known. Through rich descriptive detail, she illustrates the complexity of social ties among groups and individuals, and their connections with the natural world. Rupp demonstrates that social and ethnoecological relations in equatorial African forests are nuanced, contested, and shifting, and that the intricacy of these links must be considered in the design and implementation of aid policies and strategies for conservation and development.

Stephanie Rupp is assistant professor of anthropology at Lehman College, City University of New York.

"Rupp's compelling ethnography and forceful analysis imply an attack on the apparent self-evidence of notions of identity all over the world." - Peter Geschiere, University of Amsterdam

Introduction: Forests of Belonging
1. Paradigms: The Forest and Its People
2. Belonging: Ethnic Affiliations and Confluences
3. Spaces: Beyond Nature and Culture
4. Ambiguities: Interethnic Marriage and Descent
5. Tangles: Parallel Clans, Alliances, Rituals, and Collective Work
6. Identities: People in Changing Contexts
7. Contradictions: Identities, Opportunities, and Conflicts
Conclusion: Rethinking. Social Identities, Ethnic Affiliations, and Stereotypes

Glossary of Non-English Terms

"Rupp's readable ethnography offers a compelling, convincing update to the anthropological literature on hunter-gatherers. Summing Up: Recommended." -E. E. Stiles, Choice, February 2012