The Everyday Life of the Poor in Cameroon
The Role of Social Networks in Meeting Needs
This book provides a detailed account of the lives of the poor, particularly their use of social networks to meet everyday needs.
Based on fieldwork in Cameroon, the book provides a distinctive approach that draws on social network theory and insights from economic anthropology to shed light on how the poor make a living. Though embeddedness in social networks is essential to human achievement, we know little about the social and cultural forces and processes that shape poor people’s decisions to seek help from strong, weak, and disposable ties in an African context. Focusing on network practice rather than network structure, the author argues that the ability of poor people to meet their diverse needs rests on several elements, such as favourable interactions and social and cultural forces. He examines various issues crucial to the lives of the poor, such as food, shelter, healthcare, death and funerals, and access to finance. Particular focus is given to the complicated nature of social relationships, the different contexts where these relationships take place, and how these factors shape poor individuals’ decisions regarding whom to turn to when attempting to meet their needs, including how they actually meet those needs.
This book will be of interest to researchers, teachers, students, and policy-makers in African Studies economics, development studies, sociology, and anthropology.
Table of Contents
1. Food 2. ‘I Need a Roof over my Head’ 3. Illness and Coping Strategies 4. Death Shocks, Funerals, and Solidarities 5. Everyday Financial Practices 6. ‘I Need Someone to Pour Out my Heart to’
Nathanael Ojong is an Assistant Professor of International Development at York University, Toronto, Canada.
"In this reinterpretation of network analysis, Ojong focuses on the strategies and responses of the poor in four administrative regions—Northwest, Southwest, Littoral, and Central—that encompass both rural and urban areas in Cameroon. By examining what he refers to as "network practice," Ojong underscores how sociocultural and economic factors influence what the poor do to meet their everyday needs. The study is based on 89 semi-structured interviews with women and men, conducted between 2011 and 2019. Following the introduction, each of the six chapters focuses on an important aspect of poor people’s lives, namely, food, shelter, healthcare, death, financial practices, and discussions of personal matters. This qualitative research enabled the author to explain seemingly contradictory behavior, such as why some poor people prefer to take loans from non-kin with whom they have weak social ties, rather than become obligated to close kin with strong social ties. While the provision of food from farming activities is vital for the rural poor, urban agriculture is also important for the urban poor (although this topic is not examined in depth). Ojong concludes that these findings may be used for expanding social network analysis elsewhere in the Global South." --E. P. Renne, emerita, University of Michigan