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The Strangers of New Bell

2008, author(s)-editor(s) Lynn Schler

Immigration, Public Space and Community in Colonial Douala, Cameroon, 1914-1960

Confusion, struggle, commotion and absurdity: these characterise the urban encounter between the African immigrant community and colonial officials in Douala, Cameroon. Even the physical landscape reflects a painfully enduring history of marginalisation, of exclusion from power and privilege.

This book studies a community of African immigrants - or ’strangers’ - designated to quarters in New Bell, Douala, in Cameroon, during the colonial era. New Bell was created in 1914 as part of an extensive urbanisation and relocation plan intended to reserve the Douala city centre for Europeans. New Bell housed thousands of migrants converging on Douala from Cameroon and the entire west coast of Africa. Though never completely evading colonial economic and political agendas, this vastly diverse and sometimes strife-ridden community forged alliances, solidarities, and common experiences in response to their immediate needs and long-terms goals. The author opens up an alternative historical interpretation, moving from earlier views which over-emphasise the increasing conflict and tribalisation of the colonial era. Schler focuses instead on the ability of Africans to bridge differences in culture and experience and live as neighbours in cultural and political spaces transcending postcolonial political boundaries.

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ISBN 9781868884896 | 168 pages | 244 x 170 mm | B/W Illustrations and Maps | 2008 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback