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Dissertation Abstract

Ren Egloff
Photography in Bamenda. An Ethnographic Study in a Cameroonian Town
(German title: Fotografie in Bamenda. Eine ethnographische Untersuchung in einer kamerunischen Stadt)


The dissertation project "Photography in Bamenda" brought some fascinating insights to light.
Bamenda, where the research was conducted, is a medium sized town in the English-speaking
part of Cameroon. The study was part of the research project "Visual Culture in Urban
Africa" which was financially supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and
directed by Prof. Till Frster (Institute for Social Anthropology, Basel).
The dissertation provides a panoramic view concerning the production, distribution and
consumption of photographs in postcolonial Bamenda. The survey starts by providing an
overview of the Bamenda photo business and its structure. Although mobile phones with
cameras are on the rise in Bamenda, professional photographers are still important because
local people often do not dispose of adequate cameras or of cameras at all. Photographers in
Bamenda turn more and more to digital cameras and have started to use Photoshop and other
software. Furthermore, the dissertation points out how photographers and their clients
negotiate photographic scenes. It describes typical photographic sceneries, props, postures,
diverse genres of backdrops and gives a taste of local aesthetic judgments. In a systematic
manner the thesis reveals numerous photographic genres in Bamenda. Likewise, it delivers a
systematic study of the basic genres of distribution and consumption in terms of photography.
In Bamenda and in its urban hinterland, photographs are consumed in various social settings
and spaces (private homes, shops, palaces etc.). Concerning sub-Saharan Africa photographic
genres and their distribution as well as their consumption have been explored very little so far.
This work with its comprehensive approach is a first attempt to fill in this wide gap.
Moreover, the dissertation adresses some fundamental cultural messages of photography in
Bamenda. As well, it describes some essential aspects of decision-making with regard to the
choice of a particular medium. Finally, based on the research done in Bamenda, the work
elaborates an overview of more than fifty basic types concerning the transformation of the
visual and mentions some important driving forces that may implement such transformations.
Among such driving forces are for instance the numerous human motives, needs and interests
which, by the way, may contribute to an economic and social competition with its search for
new, selling or impressing pictures. The transformative driving forces and the transformation
types presented could serve as a basis to develop a general theory on the visual and its change.
Therefore, this dissertation may be useful for everybody working in the field of Visual
Studies. The thesis was written in German language.