Cameroonian bushfalling: Negotiation of identity and belonging in fiction and ethnography



Anthropology remains an unpopular discipline among many African intellectuals. I revisit debates on relations between fiction and ethnography to make a case for enriching African anthropology through a systematic reinterpretation of African fiction. I make my case through the ethnography of flexible identities among Cameroonian bushfallers—who seek their fortunes far from home—and support it by analysis of a novel, Married But Available. Through the figure of the bushfaller, I discuss hunting and distance farming as metaphors of choice among Cameroonians. Bushfallers are enmeshed in a complex web of expectations and obligations. They continually straddle relationships and social margins in their quest to break and bridge boundaries. Faced with others’ obsessive claims of autochthony and authenticity, bushfallers’ insistence on being married but available in identity and belonging speaks of the human future as one to be negotiated. It also serves as a metaphor for the relationship I envisage between anthropology and Africa and between fiction and ethnography.