Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon

Guest Speaker: Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué, Assistant Professor, African Cultural Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison In the book Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon, Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué illuminates how issues of ideal womanhood shaped the Anglophone Cameroonian nationalist movement in the first decade of independence in Cameroon, a west-central African country. Drawing upon history, political science, gender studies, and feminist epistemologies, the book examines how formally educated women sought to protect the cultural values and the self-determination of the Anglophone Cameroonian state as Francophone Cameroon prepared to dismantle the federal republic. The book defines and uses the concept of embodied nationalism to illustrate the political importance of women’s everyday behavior—the clothes they wore, the foods they cooked, whether they gossiped, and their deference to their husbands. The result, in this fascinating approach, reveals that West Cameroon, which included English-speaking areas, was a progressive and autonomous nation. The author’s sources include oral interviews and archival records such as women’s newspaper advice columns, Cameroon’s first cooking book, and the first novel published by an Anglophone Cameroonian woman. Jacqueline will discuss the main themes of the book in conversation with Professor Meredith Terretta, associate professor of history at the University of Ottawa where she teaches courses and directs student research in African and legal and human rights history. Moderator Shireen Hassim, Canada 150 Research Chair in Gender and African Politics, Carleton University