Weig, Doerte (2013). Motility and Relational Mobility of the Baka in North-Eastern Gabon. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.


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This thesis offers a first scientific portrait of the Baka in North-Eastern Gabon, a group of post-foragers living along the River Ivindo, and the way they practice and conceptualise mobility. The inquiry encompasses the long-term historical and the daily or short-term current mobility of this group, elicited through life histories and participant observation. The central premise of this work is that mobility is relational. Relational refers to interaction of movement and fixity, of position and outcome, and to the understanding of mobility as socially produced. The second concept employed is that of motility, the capacity or potential to be mobile. As motility analyses what comes before observable movement, of potential and actualised outcome as mobility or immobility, it takes up the idea of mobility as relational. The Baka living on the Ivindo migrated from Cameroon and Congo into Gabon over the last approximately 60 years. In contrast to established approaches to forest forager mobility, which focus mainly on resource mobility during an annual cycle, this study considers the long-term and larger geographical perspective and shows that the quality of personal relations between Baka and their neighbours is decisive in mobility considerations. Previously these relations were characterised as a structural opposition between two ethnic groups. This analysis demonstrates the heterogeneity of people and their interactions, in the past and the present, to argue, firstly, that relations are more appropriately conceptualised as multilateral, and, secondly, that an inquiry remains incomplete without considering affections and emotions. A principal mobility factor for the Baka is the search for a good life, meaning economic improvement and freedom from violence. This search coincides with a diversification of Baka livelihoods to include subsistence practices as well as working in the gold sites of Gabon. Employing motility shows the aspirations and limitations of Baka personal and group mobility in gold work. Motility is also understood as ‘mobility capital’ and thereby helps document social change, and how gold work is undertaken with reference to Baka egalitarian social organisation to be successful. By including group and individual as well as different temporalities in the analysis, and detailing the impact of social values on mobilities, motility gives depth to the analysis of mobility.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
Translated title:
Motilität and Relationale Mobilität der Baka im Nord-Osten von GabunGerman
Motilité et Mobilité Relationnelle des Baka au Nord-Est du GabonFrench
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Weig, Doertedoerte.weig@uni-koeln.deUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-52387
Date: January 2013
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Fächergruppe 4: Außereuropäische Sprachen, Kulturen und Gesellschaften > Institut für Ethnologie
Subjects: Philosophy
Social sciences
Customs, etiquette, folklore
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Baka, Mobility, Motility, Gabon, Social Change, Egalitarianism, social anthropologyEnglish
Baka, Mobilität, Motilität, Gabun, soziale Veränderung, EgalitarismusGerman
Baka, Mobilité, Motilité, Gabon, changements sociaux, égalitarismeFrench
Date of oral exam: 8 May 2013
NameAcademic Title
Widlok, ThomasProf
Bollig, MichaelProf
Pelican, MichaelaAsst. Prof
Funders: DFG
Projects: SFB 806, E3
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/id/eprint/5238


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