From Cameroon to Paris

Mousgoum Architecture In and Out of Africa

Steven Nelson

From Cameroon to Paris

Steven Nelson

304 pages | 8 color plates, 101 halftones | 7 x 10 | © 2007
Cloth $69.00 ISBN: 9780226571836 Published March 2007

The kind of extraordinary domed house constructed by Chad and Cameroon’s Mousgoum peoples has long held sway over the Western imagination. In fact, as Steven Nelson shows here, this prototypical beehive-shaped structure known as the teleukhas been cast as everything from a sign of authenticity to a tourist destination to a perfect fusion of form and function in an unselfconscious culture. And in this multifaceted history of the teleuk, thought of by the Mousgoum themselves as a three-dimensional symbol of their culture, Nelson charts how a singular building’s meaning has the capacity to change over time and in different places.

Drawing on fieldwork in Cameroon and Japan as well as archival research in Africa, the United States, and Europe, Nelson explores how the teleuk has been understood by groups ranging from contemporary tourists to the Cameroonian government and—most importantly—today’s Mousgoum people. In doing so, he moves in and out of Africa to provide a window into a changing Mousgoum culture and to show how both African and Western peoples use the built environment to advance their own needs and desires. Highlighting the global impact of African architecture, From Cameroon to Paris will appeal to scholars and students of African art history and architectural history, as well as those interested in Western interactions with Africa.

Note on Language and Orthography
1. Performing Architecture
2. Parabolic Paradoxes
3. A Pineapple in Paris
4. Present Tense
Afterword - Destination Cameroon
Principal People Interviewed

Review Quotes
Karen Mason | Art Libraries Society of North America Reviews
"Nelson’s great strength is that he can provide a close reading of the images, as well as examine the teleuk within the established canon of architectural history . . . . [His] scholarship is informed by post-structuralism, feminism, and psychoanalytic theory; however, his writing remains refreshingly free from obfuscatory rhetoric and accessible to upper division undergraduates. In addition to Africanists and architectural historians, this book also will appeal to students of gender studies, popular culture, and post-colonial studies."
Kerstin Pinther | African History
"[Nelson’s work] can be read as a case study of the ways in which architecture funcitons as a template for the representation of self and non-self. With this appealing new way of looking at the built environment . . . Nelson makes a substantial contribution to the long neglected field of architectural anthropology."
Mark D. Delancey | International Journal of African Historical Studies
"A valuable contribution toward correcting the paucity of scholarly attention to such an extraordinary architectural tradition. It is noteworthy in its approach, recognizing the multiple meanings that can be ascribed to the same architectural creation depending on the viewer and context."
Sidney Littlefield Kasfir | African Studies Review
"The book makes a convincing argument that architecture has the capacity not only to reinvent its own meanings, but also to act as a repository for all the large ideas flowing through postcolonial and cultural studies: modernity, the primitive, the colonial subject, agency, memory."

Society of Architectural Historians: Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award
Honorable Mention

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