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Air Youth: Performance, Violence and the State in Cameroon

Nicolas Argenti
The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Vol. 4, No. 4 (Dec., 1998), pp. 753-782
DOI: 10.2307/3034831
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3034831
Page Count: 30
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Air Youth: Performance, Violence and the State in Cameroon
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Abstract

This article examines responses to state violence by youth groups in the Cameroon Grassfields with special reference to Air Youth, a dance group from the kingdom of Oku. The role played by masquerades and their embodiment of animality is first examined. Air Youth, which incorporates a modernist aesthetic and eschews masks in favour of costumes reminiscent of the national gendarmerie, is then described. This military aesthetic is compared with that of other groups of youths throughout the history of the region to demonstrate that the appropriation of the material culture of armed force marks a long-established regional means of confronting colonial and state violence. It is further argued that this form of appropriation reveals a continuity with the techniques used by masquerade groups. An interpretation of Air Youth performances in terms of mimesis is finally suggested as a means of highlighting the ways in which these performances may offer a means of transforming memories of oppression.

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