Bridewealth, guns and other status symbols: immigration and consumption in colonial Douala.

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The flow of money and goods mediated public life within the urban immigrant community of colonial New Bell, Douala. The exchange of money was a prominent mode of communication between immigrants, as was the consumption and display of certain goods, but both of these practices were largely influenced and restricted by colonial economic policy and cultural sensibilities. At the same time, the local interpretation of the cultural meaning of colonial money and consumer goods in New Bell at times contradicted and confounded colonial intentions, replacing them with local conceptualizations. This investigation into money and consumption in the immigrant quarter reveals that the public space of New Bell was bridged by visual, performative and passing gestures, all articulated in the street. Money and goods determined the boundaries of the immigrant community, as well as membership and participation in that community, but the controlling hand of the colonial administration over money and imported products reminds us that the immigrant community sprang up in the shadow of colonial hierarchies of power. Immigrants attempted to reinvent, rebuild, and dismantle these hierarchies through consumption, but as will be seen, these efforts met with limited success.
Original languageEnglish GB
Pages (from-to)213-234
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of African Cultural Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2003


  • DOUALA (Cameroon)
  • NEW Bell (Douala, Cameroon)
  • DUALA (African people)
  • BRIDE price


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