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C’est l’homme qui fait l’homme

Cul-de-Sac Ubuntu-ism in Côte d’Ivoire

by Francis B. Nyamnjoh

The idea that human beings are inextricably bound to one another is at the heart of this book about African agency, especially drawing on the African philosophy Ubuntu, with its roots in human sociality and inclusivity. Ubuntu’s precepts and workings are severely tested in these times of rapid change and multiple responsibilities. Africans negotiate their social existence between urban and rural life, their continental and transcontinental distances, and all the market forces that now impinge, with relationships and loyalties placed in question. Between ideal and reality, dreams and schemes, how is Ubuntu actualized, misappropriated and endangered?

The book unearths the intrigues and contradictions that go with inclusivity in Africa. Basing his argument on the ideals of trust, conviviality and support embodied in the concept of Ubuntu, Francis Nyamnjoh demonstrates how the pursuit of personal success and even self-aggrandizement challenges these ideals, thus leading to discord in social relationships. Nyamnjoh uses a popular Ivorian drama with the same title to substantiate life-world realities and more importantly to demonstrate that new forms of expression, from popular drama to fiction, thicken and enrich the ethnographic component in current anthropology.

ISBN 9789956762521 | 204 pages | 216 x 140mm | 2015 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback



“In several respects, the book is a treasure-trove, as it poses problems encountered by ordinary people in their daily lives, such as the problem of relations between social elders and juniors, the big and the small. In the background are themes such as the migration of young Africans to Europe, the garden of Eden, in search of self-fulfilment and a better life for themselves and their families, even amid all the attendant frustrations, including relations with those left behind.”

Aghi Bahi, Professor at the Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Abidjan – Côte d’Ivoire

“This book’s readers will recognize how acutely it projects the very contemporary experience of “being African” and its predicaments. Predation and altruism, monopolization and circulation of resources, unequal exchanges and Ubuntu-like generosity, who “belongs” and who doesn’t to shifting constellations of wealth, power and community, market and gift economies: the worlds of Milton Friedman (with not at all subtle touches of Ayn Rand) and Desmond Tutu, converge and mingle. So, also, the text is informed by the fluid, transactional character of human lives not defined by such binary constraints.”

Milton Krieger, Emeritus Professor, Western Washington University, USA

“An absorbing narrative. In this sociological tour de force, Nyamnjoh explores the hardships, challenges, and dilemmas that confront Africans in the Diaspora, as well as those who seek to undertake adventures in different parts of the world. Mobile Africans seeking “greener pastures” overseas are affected by social and cultural expectations and norms, as well as social obligations to cater for their kith and kin in villages and cities. The adventures are fraught with risks. Yet the dangers are not enough to discourage the adventurers from undertaking their journeys. Beyond all these is the challenge that modern lifestyle and market forces pose to the welfare, security and wellbeing of families, individuals, and friends across Africa. Anyone who is interested in understanding the social, political, cultural, and structural factors that underpin the lives of Africans will find this absorbing narrative by Nyamnjoh riveting. In it, there is something for everyone.”

Levi Obijiofor (PhD), Senior Lecturer in Journalism, School of Communication and Arts, The University of Queensland Brisbane, Australia



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