Chieftaincy Reimagined: Modernity and Tradition in the Chefferie of Batoufam, Cameroon

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



This thesis uses chieftaincy in Cameroon, and specifically the chefferie (chieftainship) of Batoufam, as a lens through which to understand the complex tensions between modernity and tradition in postcolonial Africa. After presenting a historical study of Grassfield chiefs’ role in the modern Cameroonian state, I analyze the relationship between tradition and modernity through the case study of the chief of Batoufam, Cameroon. My research drew upon several weeks of conducting over twenty-five interviews with village leaders, including the chief and several notables, in order to understand why traditional institutions in African nations are continually excluded from the global development industry. I argue that, not only can traditional institutions produce aspects of Western modernity, but these institutions in Cameroon also utilize liberal and neoliberal practices in the interest of community goals, mobilizing Western strategies for new and different purposes. I conclude that traditional institutions in Africa are not merely reproducing a Western model of modernity, but are in fact reshaping modernity itself through new conceptualizations, forms and applications. These traditional institutions thus present a critical resource for development, suggesting alternate strategies and future realities.


honors thesis; awarded honors




Grace, Jaclyn (2015). Chieftaincy Reimagined: Modernity and Tradition in the Chefferie of Batoufam, Cameroon. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.