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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/11203

Title: Being Young in Old Town: Youth Subjectivities and Associational Life in Bamenda
Authors: Fokwang, Jude Thaddeus Dingbobga
Advisor: Levin, Michael D.
Department: Anthropology
Keywords: youth
associational Life
social adulthood
Issue Date: 31-Jul-2008
Abstract: This study explores the ways in which young people in the neighbourhood of Old Town in Bamenda negotiate the predicament of blocked opportunities and ‘arrested adulthood’ occasioned by the decline in the nation-building project and prolonged socio-economic and moral crisis in Cameroon. I investigate how urban youth in Old Town construct their moral and socio-cultural worlds through involvement in associations. The main finding suggests that faced with growing uncertainty, young people in Bamenda are positioning themselves as important social actors by drawing on local cultural resources such as associations to construct their social worlds that aim to circumvent their exclusion and marginality. In this light, I analyse youth associations as central although not exclusive to negotiating young people’s predicament by focusing on a range of practices through which they seek respectability and claim social adult status. Drawing on the concepts of transition, subjectivities and personhood, I show that young people straddle the worlds of ‘youth’ and social adulthood, statuses that are not only cultural constructions but also the products of differential power relations and social positioning. I contend that the processes of positioning and the production of personhood are largely experienced through involvement in associational life. The study focuses on three associations, namely the Chosen Sisters, the United Sisters and the Ntambag Brothers Association (NBA). Organised on the basis of seniority and gender, I argue that these associations, while negotiating claims to adult status for their members, tend to challenge state-centric notions of citizenship as they simultaneously position themselves as moral actors upon whom society can count on for regeneration. Through a range of social projects, pursued on behalf of and sanctioned by the community, young people in Old Town reaffirm the centrality of interdependence and the situated understanding of social adulthood predicated on the redistribution of one’s success or achievement. This study points to the re-emergent role of associations in negotiating everyday life in the face of crisis. It is a significant contribution towards understanding voluntary and communal associations in general and young people’s modes of transitions into social adulthood.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/11203
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Anthropology - Doctoral theses

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