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Married But Available

2008, author(s)-editor(s) Francis B. Nyamnjoh

Married But Available ventures into a theme about which people say as much as they withhold. It explores intersections between sex, money and power, challenging orthodoxies, revealing complexities and providing insights into the politics and economics of relationships. During six months of fieldwork in Mimboland, Lilly Loveless, a Muzungulander doctoral student in Social Geography, researches how sex shapes and is shaped by power and consumerism in Africa. The bulk of her research takes place on the outskirts of the University of Mimbo, an institution where nothing is what it seems. Through her astounding harvest of encounters, interviews, conversations and observations, the reader gets a captivating glimpse into the frailty and resilience of human beings and society. Lilly Loveless comes out of it all well and truly baptized. And so does the reader!

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ISBN 9789956558278 | 376 pages | 229 x 152 mm | 2008 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback

11 Book Reviews

  • Sexuality, Money, Power and Occultism: A Review of Nyamnjoh’s Married But Available 25 May 2009 19:49, author(s)-editor(s) Frida Nekang Mbunda, Lecturer and Literary Critic, University of Buea, (...)

    The problem with most African writers today is the inability to provide a stable interpretive sense of the contemporary African environment or what it truly means to be an African today, in the 21st century. This is because of the rupturing of identities resulting from culture and location displacements, especially within the new African metropolis which has led to a break down in social structure. The break down in social structure is as a result of violation of taboos and when taboos are broken, new forms and modes of discourse must evolve to contain that which has previously been unspeakable.

    Nyamnjoh’s Novel Married But Available is a new mode of discourse that contains that which was previously unspeakable in Cameroonian society. The author moves from the common practice of exploring the Anglophone problem to present global and urgent issues that need to be address in this era of globalization. The writer in Cameroon is saddled with numerous problems that include the personal, the social, the economic and the political so the artist must go beyond the confines of his own immediate constituency, his own class in order to give sufficient insight into the lives of characters and into their responses to the events and problems that plague the society. Some of these problems are those of sexuality.

    The novel is set in Mimboland, a nation under the iron grip of president Longstay who sees democracy as a very expensive disease. A land in which hedonism and the graving for power has led to oppression and occultism. Mimboland is ‘a land under the grip of a new erotic movement which consists of men doing it with men, women with women, and the insatiable amongst them with beasts as well’ (MBA, 328). A society in which pornography and virtual sex are addictive, everyone is going for them, the Police and men of God included.

    On 18 March 2009, just ten weeks after the publication of Married But Available, Amnesty International urged Pope Benedict XVI to express the importance of eradicating discrimination based on sexual orientation, as he visits Cameroon on his first trip to Africa. Amnesty International has documented the arrest and detention of several dozen young men and women some of whom, over the last three years, have been sentenced to prison terms and fines for allegedly engaging in consensual same-sex sexual relations.

    The issue of sexuality is thus a major problem in Mimboland. Nyamnjoh’s novel thus deals with contemporary issues because it explores the intersections between sexuality, Money, power and occultism.

    Power plays an import role in sexuality. For example, the romance between lecturers and students is rooted in power and control. The inevitable power difference between teacher and student, whatever the teacher’s intention or motivation, makes it impossible for the student to be a fully consenting adult. A teacher’s role is to provide intellectual guidance and professional support and advice. Such a role is antithetical to that of lover and constitutes an abuse of power and a betrayal of trust. Men in position of power known as Mbomas, and customs officers who are in no longer exciting marriages desire young, sexually active women, but these girls often suffer because Mbomas are known to curse, crash and crush without Mercy when they are betrayed (MBA,43). 

    In Mimboland the craving for power and money has led to occultism and bizarre rituals. Permeating the entire social and cultural spectrum, magic stands as an ambivalent force that helps promote individual and collective accumulation as well as control social differentiation. Magic resources are used for domestic and public purposes. Mimbolanders, young or old, poor or rich, male or female succeed in amassing incredible fortunes or attaining power with the help of occult swindling practices. These swindlers, with expensive cars and flashy clothes, are the embodiment of occult economies and have become the role models for the new generation. These are the Mbomas, and include Politicians, businessmen, foreigners and even the masses, especially the feymen (the nouveau rich who mostly come from poor backgrounds with few prospects). They scam not only foreigners through the internet but also rich women with the aid of magic and witchcraft. ‘Magic and money’, as Bobinga Iroko intimates, ‘open doors that most can only dream of, they are the poetry of the dumb, the humour of those too busy or too important to flatter, the corrector of those ordinarily too ugly to be noticed, with the rich and powerful, it is all about instant gratification’ (MBA, 32).

    Since being in power means being rich, people do whatever it takes to gain power or remain in power. For example, a man dances naked feet in fire with old chimpanzees, eats barks of trees, herbs and drinks concoctions and sleeps for days with his nose dipped in water (MBA, 69) just to be appointed or retained in high office:

    At exactly midnight, the VC and the Reg, each dressed only in underpants drove to the university, with them two men dressed to look like elephants, carrying two dark clay pot, two shovels and two machetes and pulling along two dogs, two goats and two cocks. At the main gate of UM, the goats, the dogs and the cocks were slaughtered over the VC and the Reg who were lying across the gate, some of the blood was collected in a clay pot, mixed with herbs and given to the VC and Reg to drink, stating their wish as they drink. After incantation upon incantation, the elephant men dug a big grave in which, the slaughtered goats, dogs and cocks were buried along with an exercise book and a ball point pen: This ritual as the elephant men explain will protect the VC and Reg from Cam-no-gos ( (MBA, 53).

    To defeat every opposition, the Honourable Minister of Forced Arms on his part commits incest with his daughter in a bid to stay superglued in power (MBA, 331). To get items for these rituals those who oppose the government are brutally murdered for example, BP (‘Burning Pen’) is found dead, his skull shattered and his brain and genitals missing. He looked more like the victim of a ritual murder than a robbery (MBA352). Later that evening, the president of the Students Union, Samson Freeboy Bigmop, and yet another member of staff closely linked with the strike – Chief Dr. Mantrouble Anyway, were found dead in mysterious circumstances, their bodies dismembered, their genitalia and brains harvested (MBA357).

    The desire to get rich has led to occult and bizarre sexual habits like:
    A beautiful young woman desiring wealth, drives up, parks her car, comes out with a banana in her hand, peels it, lies down by the pavement and begins to insert it into her womanhood, completely deaf to the screams and expression of shock by a bustling market (MBA, 332). … a rich and beautiful woman every midday drives out of town, parks her car and goes into a farm, makes love with a big black snake after which she vomits money (MBA, 332). Young boys enticed to hotels and forced into anal sex, men watch girls do it and married women are in a woman to woman sex relation (MBA, 333).

    Desperate to keep her husband for herself ‘Aa-Shing, not only framed and displayed pictures of their happiest moments, told him stories about the pleasant past, but spiced his meals with popular love charms (MBA,33) and ex-parliamentarian is believed to use charms to keep his wife because he is financially down and wants this girl to take care of him eventually (MBA, 198).

    Because the rich use their sex drive as evidence of the opportunities and impunities of wealth and power, sex is commercialised. Women are presented as objects and relationships even between husbands and wives are commercialized. For example, Dr .Lovemore tells his wife who denies him sex because of his infidelity, ‘Now that you have declared a ghost town on our sex life, I declare a ghost town on my wallet’. Dr. Simba, the Reg, has a queue of university girls at his service every day. He pays them with petrol coupons meant for the university to function properly, He has more children out of wedlock than he can recollect (MBA, 34). Lovebird Mr Moni is believed to have slept with more than 1000 women and to have decided how he would like to die, “on a woman and surrounded by women ‘just as I have lived my life’, he tell his friends (MBA 65). Women cheat because they are under the pressure to dress well, buy this and that, be there in a class and in places above their means or attainments (MBA, 64).

    Married but Available is not just like any other novel that one can race through. First of all, it is a poetic novel – it deals not just with events but with charged emotions and is full of imagery, symbols, proverbs, allusions, etc – which compel the reader to slow down reading to reflect and decipher the imagery. Also the issues discussed in the novel are issues that seem taboo. There is so much conceit in some of the comparisons that one needs to be a genius or well read to interpret some of them, e.g. the filling of cars on page 351.

    At every point of reading, I was forced to do the following: 1. stop reading for hours when I came across some bizarre situations (and they are many of such in the novel), one could just angry about the things done to women or the way women are presented; 2. stop for days to fantasize, when feelings of nostalgia were stirred in me and I felt like exploring the unexplored (for example, imagining myself registered into Helena Paradise’s club for women only and I believe most of my sisters who read this novel will desire same), or lip for joy when I see my sisters outdo men in their game and sometimes I stopped reading just to have a hearty laugh. Reading MBA cannot be as fast as reading other novels.

    It is so amazing how Nyamnjoh got all what is in this text into one novel. He brings EVERYTHING about contemporary African into one literary text, what no author has done. I am thrill by the idea of research. Nyamnjoh’s imagination is impeccable and the atmosphere of research gives credulity to everything in the text.

    Like Amos Tutuala who under the guise of the search for a deceased tapster takes his reader into the African universe, Nyamnjoh under the pretext of a fieldwork gives his reader an incisive view not only into sexuality in contemporary society (a society in which social taboos are disregarded, a Sodom and Gomorra), but into the political universe of Africa which is characterized by corruption, oppression, hedonism and occultism..

  • Review of Francis Nyamnjoh’s Married But Available 26 May 2009 00:18, author(s)-editor(s) Omobolaji Olarinmoye

    Researching sexuality in Africa

    The book Married But Available is a unique one, unique in the sense that it is first an exposé – a mischievous and daring one for that matter – on the issue of sexuality (in Africa and the discourse guiding research on the issue) and more importantly (at least for the reviewer) a critique of the process of data collection for research in the social sciences. In other words, through an examination of sexuality in Mimboland (a fictional country based on the author’s home country of Cameroon, but which could easily represent any African country), the book addresses the issue of how to or not to undertake social research and examines the consequences, personal and public, of sloppy data collection.

    At a first glance, the idea of a book on social science research methods is not an obvious choice, but Nyamnjoh’s is an effective critique of how research on societies in the global South is done, especially by outsiders to such societies. The choice of sexuality was an powerful medium for the basis of such a critique. Set in Mimboland, the research on sexuality, orchestrated by Lilly Loveless (and her local collaborators, Dr Wiseman Lovemore, Bobinga Iroko, and Britney) highlights the socio-political and economic power dynamics that structure sexual relations in Mimboland (read Africa at large).

    Through skilful use of the context of Mimboland, a typical African state wracked with poverty due to bad governance and dependent on foreign aid, the author is able to weave together in a concise manner the issues involved in the debate on African sexuality and explore in full the nature of male–female, young–old and elite–subaltern sexual relations. The book highlights how sexuality is socially defined and how such definitions are influenced by position of the actors involved. In short, the book shows how religion and politics interact with class, culture and poverty to structure sexual relations.

    What is most important to note is that the exposé on sexuality is a function of a subtle exploration of the process of data collection in the social sciences. In other words, the titillating details on sexuality in Mimboland so lovingly shared by the author with his readers resulted from the application or misapplication of social science research methods. Through the efforts of Lilly, Britney, Iroko and Lovemore to examine the dynamics of sexuality in Mimboland, the author is able to put social science research methodology under the spotlight. He identifies the problems and advantages inherent in the use of established research methods and most importantly provides solutions. The chapter covering the interview Lilly had with the mobile phone dealer demonstrates the need to be innovative in data collection.

    Nyamnjoh goes a step further to discuss issues that are not given prominence in discussions of research methodology, issues such as personal experiences of the researcher in the shape of Lilly’s sexual escapades with African men during her first visit to Africa (p. 57–60), Lovemore’s marital problems (p. 166–193), Bobinga Iroko’s personal tragedy (pp. 360–368) and Britney’s twisted relations with her overseas boyfriend as reflected in her emails to him. The book also highlights the need for flexibility in response to situations arising within the study site (an interview Lilly has with a mobile-phone dealer shows the need to be innovative in data collection (p. 123–127)), as well as in relation to ethics, context, questions of bias and how they affect the choice of research topic, research instruments, research subjects, the choice of study site, modes of application of research instruments, the choice of research assistants and final interpretation of research data.

    The challenges faced daily in conducting research in Africa are highlighted in Nyamnjoh’s discussion of the power relations involved in research, as reflected in the need for letters of affiliation and invitation for the outside researcher (p. 1–3), the politics of collaboration (Lovemore, a PhD holder practically pleads with a conceited foreign PhD student to co-publish a paper with him (p. 15–16)), and the politics of resource allocation in universities seen in the actions of the vice-chancellor and the registrar in the form of appointments, promotions and allocations of funding for research and attendance at conferences.

    The problem is that the above analysis of research methodology is not very obvious to the reader as the comments and issues pertaining to research methodology are so skilfully integrated into the prose of the book that it is only a researcher with fieldwork experience who can immediately grasp the lessons the author seeks to convey to the readers. In other words, while the theme of the book is most pertinent for highlighting the issues involved in conducting social research – especially in the South by ‘outsiders’ – it tends, due to the excitement the taboo status it raises in the minds of readers and the juicy morsels the author most delightfully throws out, to overshadow the more serious goal of the book, which is to critique social science research methodology.

    But sincerely I cannot think of any other way of achieving the twin goals the book set out to achieve: examining sexuality in an African country in a frank manner while critique social science research methodology. The book is an excellent one, a very pleasurable read and one that I recommend for those interested in sexuality issues (especially for its insights into the intricacies and politics of the field). In the hands of a skilled and experienced instructor, the book will be useful for the teaching of social science research methods, especially for the excitement it brings to what is considered by most students to be a very boring subject.

    * Omobolaji Olarinmoye is with the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, Nigeria. * Francis B Nyamnjoh’s Married But Available is published by Langaa Research & Publishing Common Initiative Group, Cameroon.

  • ‘It is difficult to advise a leader who is always right’ 26 May 2009 00:19, author(s)-editor(s) Francis B. Nyamnjoh

    An excerpt from Francis B. Nyamnjoh’s Married But Available

    It is late into the night. Bobinga Iroko is unable to sleep. He is working on the editorial for the next issue of The Talking Drum. He has deliberately refused to carry the story on homosexuality. His priority remains the strike at the University of Mimbo, which, curiously, hasn’t attracted much coverage from the rest of the national press concentrated in Nyamandem and Sawang. He and The Talking Drum, the formidable odds against them notwithstanding, are determined to crusade along like a lone ranger, until victory day. They believe the sun must not be allowed to set on a good idea.

    He is also struggling with an obituary following the sudden death, under very mysterious circumstances, of one of the rare genuine intellectuals at the University of Mimbo. Despised by the authorities as an ‘unbelievably vain, hopelessly incompetent and disestablishmentarian crank,’ and known popularly as ‘Intellectual Warrior’, Dr BP (‘Burning Pen’) was found dead last night at his home, his skull shattered, his brain and genitals missing. In his transition from Burning Pen to Buried Pen, he looked more like the victim of a ritual murder than of a robbery. Dr BP was not afraid to make career-limiting statements, and would rather die than be cowed. He had absolute disdain for those who were neither here nor there in their convictions; those who seemed to say things only to please the way a chameleon would its vicinity. To him, such people were shallow, myopic, spineless irrelevances. A screaming and fearless critic who once described the University of Mimbo as the ‘burial ground for enthusiasm’, Dr BP was writing a commentary titled ‘J’accuse’, when he was smashed to death in mid-sentence.

    Dr BP died doing what he has always done: fighting to make a difference and making a difference by fighting. To Bobinga Iroko and The Talking Drum, Dr BP died keeping hope alive in a hopeless situation, adding the weight of his pen to efforts to bring back a bit of dignity to the lives of ordinary Mimbolanders stripped bare by shallow pretence, sterile rhetoric and its radical vocabulary of hate. He died fighting the battles he would want those he leaves behind to keep fighting. In a context where many an intellectual has been silenced by the lure and allure of easy virtue and the sterile politics of reckless impunity, BP was the rare exception who stayed wedded to the ideals of the genuine intellectual, academic freedom and social responsibility.

    Bobinga Iroko will always cherish BP’s essays and contributions in the pages of The Talking Drum, which were as clear about what he believed to be wrong with the land of his birth as they were about what he thought it would take to make right those wrongs. It is therefore unfortunate and indeed ironic that BP should pass on in a suspicious death most cruel, and not those excesses his essays and commentaries were meant to bury. And it is equally unfortunate that he should leave the scene just when he was ready to share with the world in person the richness of his experience of a country and a university community where a reluctant government and those whose intellects it has numbed would spare nothing to derail the train of hope and human dignity.

    BP epitomized those who refuse to stand by and watch the train of hope and human dignity derailed. He stood for those who would rather fight than run away (wasn’t it Bob Marley who said it all – he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day?). BP the flesh and blood may have died, BP the idea has never been more alive. This can be seen in the determination and resilience by students of the University of Mimbo to keep aglow their ambitions of academic freedom and the quest for betterment in equality, dignity and opportunity for all and sundry.

    This, as BP and others who have sacrificed their lives have always claimed, requires a particular calibre of leadership. As BP has stressed ad infinitum, any leader, no matter how good, needs others to compensate for their weaknesses. A good leader is one who encourages others to lead without overly dramatizing the fact of being in charge. He or she is one who surrounds themselves with people of contradictory opinions in order to be forced to think, compare and contrast before reaching a decision.

    The way forward for the University of Mimbo and for Mimboland, BP stressed in what none could have imagined was his last commentary in the pages of The Talking Drum, is by recognising that leadership is not about the leader. It is about the enabling environment the leader creates for experts in various walks of life and for all and sundry under him or her to offer leadership. A good leader is one who is able to purge him or herself of the delusion that bosses are necessarily better than the people under them. Modesty is the master key to success in leadership, for a good leader immediately recognises that he or she needs support to lead, and that a leader never leads alone. ‘Leadership is more of a privilege than a right, just as a leader is more of a servant than a master’, BP emphasised, adding that only at the University of Mimbo and in Mimboland did the contrary obtain. ‘With leaders who have neither modesty nor generosity of spirit, who thrive on the argument of force and not the force of argument, institutions dry out and wither, not for lack of talent but for lack of purpose.’ Woe betides the leader who takes decisions without consultation, and who excludes from leadership people who have a lot of talent because he or she is too afraid to be contradicted or to discover that no single individual however gifted has a monopoly of good ideas.

    ‘It is difficult to advise a leader who is always right,’ argued BP, ‘hence the need to create circumstances where other leaders can be fostered. This starts with inclusion, fairness and opportunity for all and sundry.’ BP ended his commentary with the words: ‘We often get the leaders we deserve by giving myopic individuals the power to silence the creativity and difference that should normally edify and strengthen an institution, a community or a country. The University of Mimbo and the people of Mimboland deserve a better fate than the disgrace lumped on them by the predicament of a mediocrity called leadership.’

    * Francis B. Nyamnjoh is associate professor and head of publications and dissemination with the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA). Nyamnjoh’s Married But Available (Langaa Publishers, 2008) is available at the both African Books Collective and Michigan State University Press.

  • Note de lecture sur "Marrried But Available" de Francis B. Nyamnjoh, par Ngo Nlend Nadeige Laure 19 August 2009 20:11, author(s)-editor(s) Ngo Nlend Nadeige Laure

    C’est une image véritablement scabreuse que celle du Mimboland, ou peut être devrait on dire : Libidoland – Bacchus conduisant fatalement à Vénus - que celle projetée dans ce qui tient plus d’un traité sur la sociologie sexuelle que d’une oeuvre de fiction, et dont l’intitulé seule en dit long sur la nature épicée du contenu. Married But Available, pour citer cette dernière sortie littéraire de Francis B. Nyamnjoh, n’a pas failli à la tradition du tragi- comique qui caractérise l’univers de l’auteur. Un univers où l’humour décapant et le dramatique s’allient et se combinent avec une régularité et une aisance difficilement égalables, pour servir à un public chaque fois plus conquis, le divertissant menu que constitue ce qui désormais est connu comme la spécialité du chef, à savoir, les tribulations du Mimboland.

    De ce Mimboland justement, on avait eu dans les éditions antérieures de l’auteur, un large aperçu de la situation d’état néocolonial en pleine décomposition, autant du fait d’un gouvernement perpétuel, corrompu et prévaricateur, que d’une administration dévoyée et dont les commis se servaient plus qu’ils ne la servaient, cependant que le peuple ployait sous le poids de la plus effroyable des misères.

    On aurait pu croire qu’il fût impossible d’imaginer scénario plus accablant, que tableau plus sombre ne pût exister. Mais c’était sans compter avec cet art consommé de la décadence dans lequel excelle ce pays où ‘‘les choses ne sont jamais ce qu’elles semblent être’’, lequel art se décline rien moins qu’en une faculté exceptionnelle à reculer toujours plus loin les limites de l’ignominie et de l’abâtardissement, portant la décrépitude morale à un point tel que même la puanteur pestilentielle des charniers de tous les Warzone réunis, constituent des effluves agréables en comparaison.

    Outre le fait de minimiser la ferveur du Mimboland dans l’avilissement, c’est à l’imagination toujours fertile et la créativité féconde de l’auteur qu’aurait été faite l’offense de croire qu’il puisse suffire d’une existence d’écrivain pour épuiser les contours des tares rédhibitoires d’un pays, dont on peut avec certitude dire, qu’il y coule plus du laid et du fiel que ‘‘du lait et du miel’’. Son imagination certes, mais aussi et surtout, son exceptionnel talent à faire de tout sujet - fut il d’une trivialité navrante ou encore, comme c’est le cas d’espèce pour l’heure, d’un tabou notoire - un digne objet d’intérêt des discussions de salon et des débats d’amphithéâtres.

    Et certainement, ne serait-ce pas trop dire que derrière cette énième geste de celui qui est désormais connu comme le très prolifique, sarcastique et sardonique peintre des avatars d’une Afrique en perpétuelle quête d’elle même, se cache le malicieux dessein de briser la glace de pudibonderie qui constitue chez les Mimbolandais, le rideau des perversités les plus inimaginables : sodomie, homosexualité, pédérastie, pédophilie, inceste…etc. Autant de plaisirs orgiaques qui viennent pour ainsi dire, rompre avec les clichés traditionnels d’une Afrique chaste et vertueuse, telle que longtemps entretenue par la majesté de ses couchers de soleil sur les ‘’Sunsandlands’’, ces plages voluptueuses à la féerie trompeuse. Mais encore faudra -t–il pour y parvenir, toute la pugnacité d’une chercheuse muzungu, mais aussi et surtout, toute la passion d’une femme en mal d’amour, une Loveless, tourmentée par le souvenir tenace d’une éphémère aventure amoureuse, intensément vécue sur les mirifiques berges du Sunsandland, pour qu’enfin s’effondre le masque factice de respectabilité et d’honorabilité derrière lequel les ‘’Mboma’’, ces figures reptiliennes et de la débauche, tiennent cachés leurs regards lubriques et leurs envies libidineuses. Au nombre de ceux-ci, se comptent des sommités intellectuelles, bourreaux sexuels d’une jeunesse réduite à sacrifier au jeu de ‘‘jambes en l’air’’ le plus dégradant pour espérer obtenir, titres et distinctions académiques ; des politiciens dépravés, des hauts commis de l’Etat et du secteur privé qui négocient des strapontins et des titres administratifs à coup de sodomie et qui n’hésitent pas, à charge de revanche, de subordonner tout projet d’insertion socioprofessionnelle à la pratique homosexuelle.

    En choisissant de titrer sur la crise de l’institution conjugale dans les sociétés africaines, Francis B. Nyamnjoh n’a pas seulement eu le courage de remuer le stupre dans lequel se vautre avec impudicité l’élite dépravée du Mimboland, il a également su opposer sous les archétypes du phallocrate traditionnel et de la féministe dévergondée, les théories ambivalentes qui, dans le contexte africain moderne, participent des éléments structurant des rapports entre les sexes sous le prisme de la course pour l’ascension sociale et matérielle.

    En effet, de l’important corpus qui constitue la trame de MBA, se dégage à grands traits le modèle d’un système machiste qui sublime chez le sexe dit fort, une virilité rendue outrageusement agressive par l’ostentation avec laquelle elle choisit de s’exhiber dans la pratique de l’adultère et de la polygamie. Mais au bout du compte, ces appétits sexuels masculins, débridés sous l’effet d’artifices divers, se transforment graduellement entre les mains de femmes diaboliquement expertes en armes redoutables, retournées contre leurs auteurs par celles qui, hier encore inhibées et assujetties, ont désormais compris tout le bénéfice qu’elles étaient en mesure de tirer de la concupiscence de leurs bourreaux et l’instrumentalisent aux fins d’élévation sociale. Recherchant frénétiquement dans l’ascension matérielle, une compensation à toutes les frustrations sexuelles et émotionnelles endurées à travers des générations par leurs consoeurs, les femmes de MBA, fussent-elles intellectuelles ou illettrées, jeunes ou âgées, d’origine bourgeoise ou modeste, se positionnent désormais sur l’échiquier des rapports inter sexes comme des partenaires actives, déterminées à imprimer leur marque à un jeu qui n’a que trop longtemps profité, de façon exclusive, à leurs homologues mâles. Aussi peut-on les voir, maîtresses occasionnelles, épouses infidèles, amantes intéressées, prostituées même, célébrant avec diverses fortunes leur féminité glorieuse dans un langage qui, s’il n’est pas toujours ceint de l’auréole de la dignité et la vertu, a ceci de précieux pour elles qu’il est démocratisé.

    Par Ngo Nlend Nadeige Laure

  • Review of Francis Nyamnjoh’s ’Married but Available’ 11 December 2009 09:52, author(s)-editor(s) Vicensia Shule

    The title of Francis Nyamnjoh’s ’Married but Available’ (MBA) is both inviting and intriguing. Being MBA as opposed to having an MBA! Reading the cover page, it was evident to me that the author had set out to refute, or at least interrogate, the existing practice of people being simultaneously married and available for relationships with persons other their married partners. This is a practice that can be traced to almost all societies of the world. Nyamnjoh sheds light on this phenomenon not only in relation to the traditions of the fictional Mimboland in which the novel is set, but more on the global motives behind the possibility of marriage and availability. The most fascinating aspect of Mimboland is its unique ‘products’, such as Mimbo Wonder beer, Air Mimbo and the University of Mimbo, which surface throughout the novel. 

    Arranged in 30 chapters totalling 371 pages, the novel tells the story of Lilly Loveless, a researcher from Muzunguland (another fictional place) who visits Mimboland to study about sexuality and power relations in relation to consumerism. Britney, a student of the University of Mimbo, assists Lilly Loveless in her research. From these two characters, we see how the author has elevated the role of research assistants in the field of ‘anthropological’ research. Britney’s experience as an insider seems to override the researcher’s knowledge, especially in the way she presents data, as opposed to Lilly Loveless who is obsessed with theories that she can barely substantiate empirically. The author uses names which tell the reader about the character of the characters. For example, names such as Dr Wiseman Lovemore, Professor Dustbin Olala, Dr Simba Spineless, Desire, Dr Sexwhale, Helena Paradise, Amanda Hope and Adapepe reflect the personality and character traits of the characters who bear them and answer the question ‘why’ these characters behave the way they do. 

    The author uses Lilly Loveless’ doctoral research topic to convey the theme of the novel and the obsession with and dangers of consumerism in our present day world. The novel centres on stories of social mingling, political machinations, economic stagnation and burning desire. It is evident that MBA reflects the current situation of the digital revolution. In it we see how the internet and mobile phones function as instant forms of communication. In celebrating the technological revolution in human bodies, the author shows how women’s ovaries can be frozen for future use. We see how the media struggles to shape the life of people in Mimboland. The Talking Drum, one of the famous musical instruments in West Africa, represents the name of the famous newspaper in Mimboland edited by none other than the most talkative hypercritical Bobinga Iroko (Godlove). 

    The language adds to the aesthetic success of the narrative. Expressions such as Japanese handbrake, used to refer to men who are slow in providing financial assistance to women, and flying shirts, which refer to young men who are financially incapacitated, give the novel a truly West African flavour. The writer uses terms that are deeply rooted in the cultures of his ‘native’ country, Cameroon, even as his novel is clearly beyond Cameroon in theme and appeal. Although Nyamnjoh uses fictional names for places and characters in the novel, it is not difficult for the reader to identify these with real-life places and figures in Cameroon’s historical present. The use of Pidgin English in many parts of the novel makes the narrative more fascinating and heightens the humour, although it poses a great challenge to a non-West African reader who battles to understand the language, especially in places where no translations are provided. For the most part, the author avoids euphemisms, using direct language instead. Perhaps it is because the subject under discussion is sex and research, and hence warrants a degree of openness and bluntness, especially in the era of HIV/AIDS. 

    It is unfortunate that I have not read other novels by Nyamnjoh to be able to state conclusively what his ideological standpoint is on the matter of male–female relationships. But I have to say that this novel ’Married but Available’ has ultimately portrayed Nyamnjoh as a mature scholar with experience in research skills, a writer whose language is rich in imagery and sense of humour devoid of dullness. He has certainly portrayed women as ‘ingenious’ when it comes to issues of sexuality and possessions, although the cultural settings do not always give them such accreditations. 

    Regardless of the success of the novel, its style demands that the reader has a certain level of knowledge of research concepts to build the plot, which to some extent means that mostly intellectuals with field-research experience can fully grasp the novel’s narrative style. Although he manages to balance the stories in terms of gender representation, there is still some context-specific use of terms such as watchman (guard/security guard) and houseboy (housekeeper). Tout ensemble, Nyamnjoh’s ’Married but Available’ is a great addition to African literature and in my opinion it will serve as interesting ‘raw material’ for other media such as film series and radio soaps. 

     

    BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS 
    * Francis Nyamnjoh, ’Married but Available’, Langaa Research and Publishing, Bamenda, ISBN: 9789956558278, 2009.
    * Vicensia Shule is a performing artist working at the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
    * Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

    Vicensia Shule
    2009-12-10, Issue 461
    http://pambazuka.org/en/category/books/60918

  • Married But Available 27 June 2010 21:03, author(s)-editor(s) Shadrack Ambanasom, Professor of African Literature, E.N.S. (...)

    The book is an excellent one, a very pleasurable read and one that I recommend for those interested in sexuality issues (especially for its insights into the intricacies and politics of the field). In the hands of a skilled and experienced instructor, the book will be useful for the teaching of social science research methods, especially for the excitement it brings to what is considered by most students to be a very boring subject

    Shadrack Ambanasom, Professor of African Literature, E.N.S. Bambili/University of Yaounde I, Cameroon

  • Married But Available 27 June 2010 21:03, author(s)-editor(s) Pambazuka News

    Read an extract from Married but Available on Pambazuka News.

  • Profess Democracy but Implement Autocracy: Politics in Nyamnjoh’s Married But Available 12 January 2011 18:30, author(s)-editor(s) George Esunge Fominyen

    Is Francis Nyamnjoh’s *Married But Available simply an account of the experiences of Lily Loveless, a Muzugulander (western) researcher, who travels to Mimboland (Cameroon/Africa) to study the relationship between sexuality and power? Or is it about the telenovela-styled sneak peek into the lives of couples by Britney, Lily’s young research assistant? Isn’t it a, rather, witty stab at African leadership, democracy and the role of the media in society?

    Lily sets foot in the country when there is strike at the University of Mimbo. It is a deliberate ploy by the author to provide the political backdrop he needs to expose African leaders who claim to be married to principles such as democracy and meritocracy but yield to autocratic, totalitarian and repressive policies; in the same way that Mimbolanders are married (attached) to their spouses (partners) but are available to others.

    Leadership epitomized by the university’s administration that is unwilling to accept contradictory thought. An administration disposed to bring in security forces to crack-down on students protesting against its policies such as the construction of a wall around the institution.

    “In the context of ruthless and unscrupulous politics in our university campus and lecture halls, the administration cannot sit back and watch vandals destroy what has taken the government and taxpayers of Mimboland much sacrifice to build,” the vice-Chancellor (VC) said on radio in defense of the school authorities. The VC even urged the public “not to inhale the rhetorical smoke coming out from misguided students and irresponsible politically motivated lecturers” (pg 25).

    Politics
    The VC’s response essentially captures the spirit of a declaration by Cameroon’s President ,Paul Biya, in the heat of riots in February 2008. He said the youths who took to the streets (to protest rising cost of food and plans to scrap limits to presidential term of office) were "manipulated" by "demons" who had failed to obtain power democratically and were not bothered about the risk that they made them (the youths) to run by exposing them to confrontations with the forces of law and order.

    Officially, 40 people lost their lives (civil groups put the death toll at over 100) as the government (in the president’s words) used all legal means available to ensure the rule of law in a constitutional state.

    Married But Available was published in the same year which could suggest that the author was partly inspired by these events in his native country to convey the usual rhetoric from “leaders” when they try to justify their use of force against opponents of their views. He obsviously also drew from happenings (strikes) at the University of Buea where he taught sociology in the 1990s. Those who might recognize themselves in some of the characters in this novel would not welcome Nyamnjoh with open arms given the derisive way he turns fact into fiction.

    Nonetheless, the problems raised in Married But Available are continent-wide. For instance, the portrayal of how tribalism and regionalism permeate decision making in Mimboland (especially at the University of Mimbo) could be useful in undertanding the issue of Ivoirité (or who is a true Ivorian) ignited by politicians and fanned by sections of the press in Ivory Coast.

    Ivoirité has bedeviled Ivory Coast politics for over a decade and surely remains a factor in the post-electoral deadlock where Laurent Gbagbo claims to have won the presidential poll of November 2010 and is unwilling to step down in favor of his rival Alassane Ouattara (once pouted as not Ivorian enough), who is considered by the international community as the winner of the election as proclaimed by the country’s independent electoral commission.

    Leadership 
    Gbagbo and his supporters have faulted the United Nations, the African Union and the West African regional body (ECOWAS) for interference in a country’s internal affairs. Gbagbo’s Interior minister Emile Guirieoulou said, in a VOA report that, Mr. Gbagbo’s government “will not tolerate meddling” by outsiders in Ivory Coast’s internal affairs.

    A situation which vaguely resembles the reaction of University of Mimbo authorities to an article on managerial mediocrity at the institution by Dr Mukala Satannie, a western lecturer married to a diplomat working in Mimboland.

    “No outsider has the right to dictate priorities to my university,” is the VC’s answer on radio. The diction is staggeringly similar to what is used in real-life Ivory Coast. 

    In a clever use of the voice of Dr BP, an outspoken lecturer who was found dead at his home, his skull shattered, his brain and genitals missing, the author delivers precious advice to those who wield power on the African continent:

    “Woe betides the leader who takes decisions without consultation, and who excludes from leadership people who have a lot of talent because he or she is too afraid to be contradicted or to discover that no single individual however gifted has a monopoly of good ideas.”
    A good leader is one who is able to purge him or herself of the delusion that bosses are necessarily better than the people under them, Dr BP says. Whether African presidents, their governments and other appointees really care for such scholarship on democratic principles is another matter.

    Media 
    In any case, they should have read or heard lessons on democracy from the multitude of (often critical) privately owned newspapers, radio and television stations that blossomed in many African countries since the return to multi-party politics in the 1990s, as exemplified by the Talking Drum newspaper in Married But Available.

    Through the relationship between Lily Loveless and Bobinga Iroko, the star journalist of the newspaper, the author expertly highlights the challenges facing the African media as the continent grapples with democracy. In some countries where the political space is overwhelmingly occupied by the ruling party/elite, the media seem to have taken the role of the opposition.
    Iroko appears to be married to journalism and ideals such as the quest of truth, freedom of expression and democracy. It is evident in his determination to write an editorial following Dr. BP’s murder instead of joining the bandwagon to do a piece on homosexuality. But isn’t he available to sensationalism and personal vendettas as well?

    “As journalists we do more than mirror the society…we seek to eliminate the ugly and enhance the beautiful,” Iroko tells Lily.

    Nyamnjoh, in his academic papers and non-fictional books such asAfrica’s Media, Democracy and the Politics of Belonging (UNISA Press, 2005), has expressed doubts about the media’s positive role in promoting democratization on the continent given their lack of professionalism and respect for evidence.

    This is echoed in Married But Available when Lily wonders whether Bobinga Iroko is the top-notch investigative journalist he claims to be or simply a rumor monger (pg 31).

    How a novel constructed around a young, western woman’s doctoral research into sexuality in Africa ends up with such insights into media, democracy and politics in the continent is testimony to the author’s ingenuity. But multiple digressions into mini-stories with elaborate descriptions and colorful anecdotes of marital infidelity might distract an unspecting reader from other themes explored in this rich work.

  • Profess Democracy but Implement Autocracy: Politics in Nyamnjoh’s Married But Available 19 June 2011 06:52, author(s)-editor(s) George Esunge Fominyen

    Is Francis Nyamnjoh’s *Married But Available simply an account of the experiences of Lily Loveless, a Muzugulander (western) researcher, who travels to Mimboland (Cameroon/Africa) to study the relationship between sexuality and power? Or is it about the telenovela-styled sneak peek into the lives of couples by Britney, Lily’s young research assistant? Isn’t it a, rather, witty stab at African leadership, democracy and the role of the media in society?

    Lily sets foot in the country when there is strike at the University of Mimbo. It is a deliberate ploy by the author to provide the political backdrop he needs to expose African leaders who claim to be married to principles such as democracy and meritocracy but yield to autocratic, totalitarian and repressive policies; in the same way that Mimbolanders are married (attached) to their spouses (partners) but are available to others.

    Leadership epitomized by the university’s administration that is unwilling to accept contradictory thought. An administration disposed to bring in security forces to crack-down on students protesting against its policies such as the construction of a wall around the institution.

    “In the context of ruthless and unscrupulous politics in our university campus and lecture halls, the administration cannot sit back and watch vandals destroy what has taken the government and taxpayers of Mimboland much sacrifice to build,” the vice-Chancellor (VC) said on radio in defense of the school authorities. The VC even urged the public “not to inhale the rhetorical smoke coming out from misguided students and irresponsible politically motivated lecturers” (pg 25).

     Politics
    The VC’s response essentially captures the spirit of a declaration by Cameroon’s President ,Paul Biya, in the heat of riots in February 2008. He said the youths who took to the streets (to protest rising cost of food and plans to scrap limits to presidential term of office) were "manipulated" by "demons" who had failed to obtain power democratically and were not bothered about the risk that they made them (the youths) to run by exposing them to confrontations with the forces of law and order.
    Officially, 40 people lost their lives (civil groups put the death toll at over 100) as the government (in the president’s words) used all legal means available to ensure the rule of law in a constitutional state.

    Married But Available was published in the same year which could suggest that the author was partly inspired by these events in his native country to convey the usual rhetoric from “leaders” when they try to justify their use of force against opponents of their views. He obsviously also drew from happenings (strikes) at the University of Buea where he taught sociology in the 1990s. Those who might recognize themselves in some of the characters in this novel would not welcome Nyamnjoh with open arms given the derisive way he turns fact into fiction.

    Nonetheless, the problems raised in Married But Available are continent-wide. For instance, the portrayal of how tribalism and regionalism permeate decision making in Mimboland (especially at the University of Mimbo) could be useful in undertanding the issue of Ivoirité (or who is a true Ivorian) ignited by politicians and fanned by sections of the press in Ivory Coast.

    Ivoirité has bedeviled Ivory Coast politics for over a decade and surely remains a factor in the post-electoral deadlock where Laurent Gbagbo claims to have won the presidential poll of November 2010 and is unwilling to step down in favor of his rival Alassane Ouattara (once pouted as not Ivorian enough), who is considered by the international community as the winner of the election as proclaimed by the country’s independent electoral commission.

    Leadership 
    Gbagbo and his supporters have faulted the United Nations, the African Union and the West African regional body (ECOWAS) for interference in a country’s internal affairs. Gbagbo’s Interior minister Emile Guirieoulou said, in a VOA report that, Mr. Gbagbo’s government “will not tolerate meddling” by outsiders in Ivory Coast’s internal affairs.

    A situation which vaguely resembles the reaction of University of Mimbo authorities to an article on managerial mediocrity at the institution by Dr Mukala Satannie, a western lecturer married to a diplomat working in Mimboland.

    “No outsider has the right to dictate priorities to my university,” is the VC’s answer on radio. The diction is staggeringly similar to what is used in real-life Ivory Coast. 
    In a clever use of the voice of Dr BP, an outspoken lecturer who was found dead at his home, his skull shattered, his brain and genitals missing, the author delivers precious advice to those who wield power on the African continent:

    “Woe betides the leader who takes decisions without consultation, and who excludes from leadership people who have a lot of talent because he or she is too afraid to be contradicted or to discover that no single individual however gifted has a monopoly of good ideas.”

    A good leader is one who is able to purge him or herself of the delusion that bosses are necessarily better than the people under them, Dr BP says. Whether African presidents, their governments and other appointees really care for such scholarship on democratic principles is another matter.

    Media 
    In any case, they should have read or heard lessons on democracy from the multitude of (often critical) privately owned newspapers, radio and television stations that blossomed in many African countries since the return to multi-party politics in the 1990s, as exemplified by the Talking Drum newspaper in Married But Available.

    Through the relationship between Lily Loveless and Bobinga Iroko, the star journalist of the newspaper, the author expertly highlights the challenges facing the African media as the continent grapples with democracy. In some countries where the political space is overwhelmingly occupied by the ruling party/elite, the media seem to have taken the role of the opposition.

    Iroko appears to be married to journalism and ideals such as the quest of truth, freedom of expression and democracy. It is evident in his determination to write an editorial following Dr. BP’s murder instead of joining the bandwagon to do a piece on homosexuality. But isn’t he available to sensationalism and personal vendettas as well?
    “As journalists we do more than mirror the society…we seek to eliminate the ugly and enhance the beautiful,” Iroko tells Lily.

    Nyamnjoh, in his academic papers and non-fictional books such as Africa’s Media, Democracy and the Politics of Belonging (UNISA Press, 2005), has expressed doubts about the media’s positive role in promoting democratization on the continent given their lack of professionalism and respect for evidence.

    This is echoed in Married But Available when Lily wonders whether Bobinga Iroko is the top-notch investigative journalist he claims to be or simply a rumor monger (pg 31).
    How a novel constructed around a young, western woman’s doctoral research into sexuality in Africa ends up with such insights into media, democracy and politics in the continent is testimony to the author’s ingenuity. But multiple digressions into mini-stories with elaborate descriptions and colorful anecdotes of marital infidelity might distract an unspecting reader from other themes explored in this rich work.

  • Review of Francis Nyamnjoh’s ’Married but Available’ 27 August 2015 17:45, author(s)-editor(s) Vicensia Shule

    2009-12-10, Issue 461 http://pambazuka.org/en/category/bo...

    Vicensia Shule gives an appreciative review of Francis Nyamnjoh’s ’Married but Available’.

    The title of Francis Nyamnjoh’s ’Married but Available’ (MBA) is both inviting and intriguing. Being MBA as opposed to having an MBA! Reading the cover page, it was evident to me that the author had set out to refute, or at least interrogate, the existing practice of people being simultaneously married and available for relationships with persons other their married partners. This is a practice that can be traced to almost all societies of the world. Nyamnjoh sheds light on this phenomenon not only in relation to the traditions of the fictional Mimboland in which the novel is set, but more on the global motives behind the possibility of marriage and availability. The most fascinating aspect of Mimboland is its unique ‘products’, such as Mimbo Wonder beer, Air Mimbo and the University of Mimbo, which surface throughout the novel.

    Arranged in 30 chapters totalling 371 pages, the novel tells the story of Lilly Loveless, a researcher from Muzunguland (another fictional place) who visits Mimboland to study about sexuality and power relations in relation to consumerism. Britney, a student of the University of Mimbo, assists Lilly Loveless in her research. From these two characters, we see how the author has elevated the role of research assistants in the field of ‘anthropological’ research. Britney’s experience as an insider seems to override the researcher’s knowledge, especially in the way she presents data, as opposed to Lilly Loveless who is obsessed with theories that she can barely substantiate empirically. The author uses names which tell the reader about the character of the characters. For example, names such as Dr Wiseman Lovemore, Professor Dustbin Olala, Dr Simba Spineless, Desire, Dr Sexwhale, Helena Paradise, Amanda Hope and Adapepe reflect the personality and character traits of the characters who bear them and answer the question ‘why’ these characters behave the way they do.

    The author uses Lilly Loveless’ doctoral research topic to convey the theme of the novel and the obsession with and dangers of consumerism in our present day world. The novel centres on stories of social mingling, political machinations, economic stagnation and burning desire. It is evident that MBA reflects the current situation of the digital revolution. In it we see how the internet and mobile phones function as instant forms of communication. In celebrating the technological revolution in human bodies, the author shows how women’s ovaries can be frozen for future use. We see how the media struggles to shape the life of people in Mimboland. The Talking Drum, one of the famous musical instruments in West Africa, represents the name of the famous newspaper in Mimboland edited by none other than the most talkative hypercritical Bobinga Iroko (Godlove).

    The language adds to the aesthetic success of the narrative. Expressions such as Japanese handbrake, used to refer to men who are slow in providing financial assistance to women, and flying shirts, which refer to young men who are financially incapacitated, give the novel a truly West African flavour. The writer uses terms that are deeply rooted in the cultures of his ‘native’ country, Cameroon, even as his novel is clearly beyond Cameroon in theme and appeal. Although Nyamnjoh uses fictional names for places and characters in the novel, it is not difficult for the reader to identify these with real-life places and figures in Cameroon’s historical present. The use of Pidgin English in many parts of the novel makes the narrative more fascinating and heightens the humour, although it poses a great challenge to a non-West African reader who battles to understand the language, especially in places where no translations are provided. For the most part, the author avoids euphemisms, using direct language instead. Perhaps it is because the subject under discussion is sex and research, and hence warrants a degree of openness and bluntness, especially in the era of HIV/AIDS.

    It is unfortunate that I have not read other novels by Nyamnjoh to be able to state conclusively what his ideological standpoint is on the matter of male–female relationships. But I have to say that this novel ’Married but Available’ has ultimately portrayed Nyamnjoh as a mature scholar with experience in research skills, a writer whose language is rich in imagery and sense of humour devoid of dullness. He has certainly portrayed women as ‘ingenious’ when it comes to issues of sexuality and possessions, although the cultural settings do not always give them such accreditations.

    Regardless of the success of the novel, its style demands that the reader has a certain level of knowledge of research concepts to build the plot, which to some extent means that mostly intellectuals with field-research experience can fully grasp the novel’s narrative style. Although he manages to balance the stories in terms of gender representation, there is still some context-specific use of terms such as watchman (guard/security guard) and houseboy (housekeeper). Tout ensemble, Nyamnjoh’s ’Married but Available’ is a great addition to African literature and in my opinion it will serve as interesting ‘raw material’ for other media such as film series and radio soaps.

    BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

    * Francis Nyamnjoh, ’Married but Available’, Langaa Research and Publishing, Bamenda, ISBN: 9789956558278, 2009. * Vicensia Shule is a performing artist working at the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. * Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.

  • Review of Francis Nyamnjoh’s Married But Available 27 August 2015 17:49, author(s)-editor(s) Omobolaji Olarinmoye

    Researching sexuality in Africa
    2009-02-05, Issue 418
    http://pambazuka.org/en/category/bo...

    The book Married But Available is a unique one, unique in the sense that it is first an exposé – a mischievous and daring one for that matter – on the issue of sexuality (in Africa and the discourse guiding research on the issue) and more importantly (at least for the reviewer) a critique of the process of data collection for research in the social sciences. In other words, through an examination of sexuality in Mimboland (a fictional country based on the author’s home country of Cameroon, but which could easily represent any African country), the book addresses the issue of how to or not to undertake social research and examines the consequences, personal and public, of sloppy data collection.

    At a first glance, the idea of a book on social science research methods is not an obvious choice, but Nyamnjoh’s is an effective critique of how research on societies in the global South is done, especially by outsiders to such societies. The choice of sexuality was an powerful medium for the basis of such a critique. Set in Mimboland, the research on sexuality, orchestrated by Lilly Loveless (and her local collaborators, Dr Wiseman Lovemore, Bobinga Iroko, and Britney) highlights the socio-political and economic power dynamics that structure sexual relations in Mimboland (read Africa at large).

    Through skilful use of the context of Mimboland, a typical African state wracked with poverty due to bad governance and dependent on foreign aid, the author is able to weave together in a concise manner the issues involved in the debate on African sexuality and explore in full the nature of male–female, young–old and elite–subaltern sexual relations. The book highlights how sexuality is socially defined and how such definitions are influenced by position of the actors involved. In short, the book shows how religion and politics interact with class, culture and poverty to structure sexual relations.

    What is most important to note is that the exposé on sexuality is a function of a subtle exploration of the process of data collection in the social sciences. In other words, the titillating details on sexuality in Mimboland so lovingly shared by the author with his readers resulted from the application or misapplication of social science research methods. Through the efforts of Lilly, Britney, Iroko and Lovemore to examine the dynamics of sexuality in Mimboland, the author is able to put social science research methodology under the spotlight. He identifies the problems and advantages inherent in the use of established research methods and most importantly provides solutions. The chapter covering the interview Lilly had with the mobile phone dealer demonstrates the need to be innovative in data collection.

    Nyamnjoh goes a step further to discuss issues that are not given prominence in discussions of research methodology, issues such as personal experiences of the researcher in the shape of Lilly’s sexual escapades with African men during her first visit to Africa (p. 57–60), Lovemore’s marital problems (p. 166–193), Bobinga Iroko’s personal tragedy (pp. 360–368) and Britney’s twisted relations with her overseas boyfriend as reflected in her emails to him. The book also highlights the need for flexibility in response to situations arising within the study site (an interview Lilly has with a mobile-phone dealer shows the need to be innovative in data collection (p. 123–127)), as well as in relation to ethics, context, questions of bias and how they affect the choice of research topic, research instruments, research subjects, the choice of study site, modes of application of research instruments, the choice of research assistants and final interpretation of research data.

    The challenges faced daily in conducting research in Africa are highlighted in Nyamnjoh’s discussion of the power relations involved in research, as reflected in the need for letters of affiliation and invitation for the outside researcher (p. 1–3), the politics of collaboration (Lovemore, a PhD holder practically pleads with a conceited foreign PhD student to co-publish a paper with him (p. 15–16)), and the politics of resource allocation in universities seen in the actions of the vice-chancellor and the registrar in the form of appointments, promotions and allocations of funding for research and attendance at conferences.

    The problem is that the above analysis of research methodology is not very obvious to the reader as the comments and issues pertaining to research methodology are so skilfully integrated into the prose of the book that it is only a researcher with fieldwork experience who can immediately grasp the lessons the author seeks to convey to the readers. In other words, while the theme of the book is most pertinent for highlighting the issues involved in conducting social research – especially in the South by ‘outsiders’ – it tends, due to the excitement the taboo status it raises in the minds of readers and the juicy morsels the author most delightfully throws out, to overshadow the more serious goal of the book, which is to critique social science research methodology.

    But sincerely I cannot think of any other way of achieving the twin goals the book set out to achieve: examining sexuality in an African country in a frank manner while critique social science research methodology. The book is an excellent one, a very pleasurable read and one that I recommend for those interested in sexuality issues (especially for its insights into the intricacies and politics of the field). In the hands of a skilled and experienced instructor, the book will be useful for the teaching of social science research methods, especially for the excitement it brings to what is considered by most students to be a very boring subject.

    * Omobolaji Olarinmoye is with the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, Nigeria.

    * Francis B Nyamnjoh’s Married But Available is published by Langaa Research & Publishing Common Initiative Group, Cameroon.

    * Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/.