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From Avatar to Reality: Development, Environment and the Representation of Cameroonian Pygmies

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This article discusses the challenges facing indigenous peoples when external interventions are conducted in their territories. Using a discourse analysis approach, it shows how indigenous peoples are constructed by groups pursuing diverging interests. Focusing on the case of Cameroonian Pygmies, three discourses are studied: the conservationist, the development and the pro-indigenous peoples discourses. The result of the analysis shows how indigenous peoples are represented and which values and norms stand out in discourses. It highlights how the construction of one’s own reality can advantage or disadvantage groups of peoples: Pygmies represent a threat to the environment for environmentalists, they are poor for development actors, and they are above all mistreated for those defending their rights. The underlying theme is the transition to ‘modernity’, its inevitability or imposition, as well as the resistance and adaptation of indigenous peoples to external influences.

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10. fn1010) R. Stavenhagen, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, Commission on Human Rights, E/CN.4/2003/90, 21 April 2003, p. 5.
11. fn1111) E. Young, Third World in the First: Development and Indigenous Peoples (Routledge, London, 1995).
12. fn1212) G. J. Munarriz, ‘Rhetoric and reality: The World Bank development policies, mining corporations, and indigenous communities in Latin America’, 10:4 International Community Law Review (2008) pp. 431–443.
13. fn1313) M. Blaser, H. Feit, and G. McRae (eds.), In the Way of Development: Indigenous Peoples, Life Projects and Globalization (Zed Books, London, New York, 2004).
14. fn1414) Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples 2003. Report 4704.0.
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17. fn1717) P.A. Kettl and E.O. Bixler, ‘Suicide in Alaska Natives, 1979-1984’, 54 Psychiatry (1991) pp. 55-63.
18. fn1818) L. Wexler, ‘Identifying colonial discourses in Inupiat young people’s narratives as a way to understand the no future of Inupiat youth suicide’, 16:1 American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research: The Journal of the National Center (2009) pp. 1–24.
19. fn1919) E. Durkheim, Suicide (The Free Press, New York, 1897, reprint 1997).
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22. fn2222) C. L Hamlin and R. J. Brym, ‘The return of the Native: A cultural and socio-psychological critique of Durkheim’s Suicide based on the Guarani-Kaiowá of Southwestern Brazil’, 21:1 Sociological Theory (2006) pp. 42–57.
23. fn2323) J. Lear, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2006).
24. fn2424) S. Allen, ‘The consequences of modernity for indigenous peoples: an international appraisal’, 13:4 International Journal on Minority and Group Rights (2006) p. 328.
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26. fn2626) J. Jackson, ‘Culture, genuine and spurious: The politics of Indianness in the Vaupés, Colombia’, 22:1 American Ethnologist (1995) pp. 3–27.
27. fn2727) K. Omura, ‘Construction of Inuinnaqtun (real Inuit-way): Self-image and everyday practices in Inuit society’, 60 Senri Ethnological Studies (2002) p. 107.
28. fn2828) A. Giddens, Beyond Left and Right – The Future of Radical Politics (Polity Press, Cambridge, 1994) p.81.
29. fn2929) B. Glowczewski and A. Soucaille, ‘Introduction’, 3:30 Multitudes (2007) pp. 21–28.
30. fn3030) J. Epstein, ‘Google to harness satellite power for an Amazon tribe’, San Francisco Chronicle, 10 June 2007.
31. fn3131) J. V. Delgado and M. Zwarteteen, ‘Modernity, exclusion and resistance: Water and indigenous struggles in Peru’, 51 Development (2008) p. 119.
32. fn3232) Ibid., p. 93.
33. fn3333) D. Perrot, ‘Les empêcheurs de développer en rond’, 6 Ethnies (1991) p. 11.
34. fn3434) I. Bellier, ‘Les deux faces de la mondialisation, l’ONU et les peuples autochtones’, in Cahiers du GEMDEV, 31 La mesure de la mondialisation (GEMDEV, Paris, 2007) p. 89.
35. fn3535) Schulte-Tenckhoff, supra note 7, p. 156. See also I. Schulte-Tenckhoff and S. Horner, ‘Le bon sauvage, nouvelle donne’, in F Sabelli (ed.), Écologie contre nature: développement et politiques d’ingérence (Nouveaux Cahiers de l’IUED, Presses Universitaires de France, Genève, Paris, 1995) pp. 21–39.
36. fn3636) S. Pietikäinen, ‘Indigenous identity in print: representations of the Sami in news discourse’, 14:5 Discourse & Society (2003) p. 586.
37. fn3737) N. Fairclough, Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research (Routledge, London, 2003) p. 206.
38. fn3838) N. Fairclough, Discourse and Social Change (Polity Press, Cambridge, 1992) p. 3.
39. fn3939) P. Louise and M.W. Jørgensen. Discourse Analysis as Theory and Method (Sage, Thousand Oaks, 2002) p. 8.
40. fn4040) N. Fairclough, Language and Power (Longman, London, New York, 1989) p. 15.
41. fn4141) Pietikäinen, supra note 36.
42. fn4242) R. Harding, ‘Historical representations of aboriginal people in the Canadian news media’, 17:2 Discourse and Society (2006) pp. 205–235.
43. fn4343) P. Teo, ‘Racism in the news: a Critical Discourse Analysis of news reporting in two Australian newspapers’, 11:1 Discourse & Society (2000) pp. 7–49.
44. fn4444) H. J. Brookes, ‘Suit, tie and a touch of juju – the ideological construction of Africa: a critical discourse analysis of news on Africa in the British press’, 6:4 Discourse and Society (1995) pp. 461–494.
45. fn4545) Fairclough, supra note 38.
46. fn4646) N. Phillips and C. Hardy, Discourse Analysis: Investigating Processes of Social Construction (Sage, Thousand Oaks, 2002) p. 16.
47. fn4747) M. Müller, ‘Reconsidering the concept of discourse for the field of critical geopolitics: Towards discourse as language and practice’, 27 Political Geography (2008) pp. 322–338.
48. fn4848) See for example F. Fozdar, ‘Duelling discourses, shared weapons: rhetorical techniques used to challenge racist arguments’, 19:4 Discourse and Society (2008) pp. 529–547, on anti-racism discourses.
49. fn4949) See S. Bahuchet, Les Pygmées aka et la République centrafricaine: ethnologie écologique (Peeters, Paris, 1985) and S. Bahuchet, La rencontre des agriculteurs: les Pygmées parmi les peuples d’Afrique centrale (Peeters, Paris, 1993).
50. fn5050) < www.panda.org/about_wwf/where_we_work/africa/where/cameroon/wwf_cameroon_conservation/campomaan/project/project_details/index.cfm >, visited on 30 June 2007. The Campo Ma’an project has now become the “WWF Kudu-Zombo Programme” (see < wwf.panda.org/africa/campomaan >, visited 10 September 2010). Consequently, the content of the internet pages concerning this project has slightly changed since our last visit.
51. fn5151) < www.panda.org/news_facts/newsroom/features/index.cfm?uNewsID=18010&uLangID =3 >, visited on 30 June 2007. This document can now be found in < wwf.panda.org/news/campomaan >, visited 10 September 2010.
52. fn5252) R. L. Doty, Imperial Encounters: The Politics of Representation in North-South Relations (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1996) p.10.
53. fn5353) Chad Export Project, Environmental Management Plan - Cameroon Portion, Volume 4, Part III, Indigenous Peoples Plan (1999).
54. fn5454) See Centre pour l’Environnement et le Developpement (CED): < www.cedcameroun.org >. Journal Bubinga is not available online anymore, but the French version of the articles analysed are available from the author on request.
55. fn5555) M. Colchester, ‘Parcs ou peuples’, in Nature sauvage, nature sauvée? Ecologie et peuples autochtones, 13: 24–25 Ethnies (1999) pp. 167–168.
56. fn5656) See for example J. Nelson and L. Hossack (eds.), From Principles to Practice: Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas in Africa (Forest Peoples Programme, Moreton in Marsh, 2003).
57. fn5757) W. W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1960).
58. fn5858) C. Germond-Duret, Banque Mondiale, Peuples Autochtones et Normalisation (Karthala, Paris, 2011).
59. fn5959) A. Escobar, ‘Imagining a post-development era’, in J. Crush (ed.), Power of Development (Routledge, London, 1995).
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/content/journals/10.1163/157181112x639050
2012-01-01
2015-08-01

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, Lancashire, UK

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