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Building in the Name of God: Architecture, Resistance, and the Christian Faith in the Bamileke Highlands of Western Cameroon

Dominique Malaquais
African Studies Review
Vol. 42, No. 1 (Apr., 1999), pp. 49-78
DOI: 10.2307/525528
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/525528
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.
Building in the Name of God: Architecture, Resistance, and the Christian Faith in the Bamileke Highlands of Western Cameroon
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Abstract

L'architecture est un puissant outil dans la construction du pouvoir politique. Elle peut aussi jouer un rôle important pour ce qui est de la résistance à ce pouvoir. Dans le présent essai nous examinons comment différentes couches de la société bamiléké se sont, au cours des quatre-vingt dix dernières années, servies de l'environnement bâti, de la topographie, des méthodes de construction et de conceptions variées du paysage. Nous étudions en particulier l'architecture et les pratiques architecturales liées à une institution imposée par les régimes coloniaux allemand et français: l'Eglise. Comment et pourquoi, essentiellement par le biais de l'architecture, divers secteurs de la communauté bamiléké (chefs et les leurs alliés, prêtres et pasteurs, roturiers, femmes) ont-ils mis à profit les institutions chrétiennes pour atteindre leurs objectifs et assurer leur promotion sociale? Telles sont les questions qui se posent dans cet article. Architecture functions as a powerful tool in the construction of political power. So, too, can it play an important role in resistance to such power. The following essay explores uses of the built environment, of topography, building methodology, and approaches to the landscape by different sectors of the Bamileke community over a period of ninety years (1906-1996). Its principal focus is architecture and architectural practices associated with an institution imposed by the German and French colonial regimes: the Christian church. How, it asks, and why, primarily through the medium of architecture, did different factions within the Bamileke community (chiefs and their allies, priests and pastors, untitled men, youths, women) make use of Christian institutions to further their goals and enhance their position within the social order?

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