Ethnographic Field School

The Ethnographic Field School, which is sponsored by Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is designed to provide experience in conducting anthropological research in the field. In May of 1999, five students and a professor left from Dickinson College to live in Limbe, Cameroon for the six-week program. Each student was required to choose a topic and to conduct research through interviews and observations. Upon the students' return from Africa, each participant was required to submit a research paper based on their interview notes and observational findings from Cameroon, in addition to using information obtained from research in the United States. Below are photographs and information about the work accomplished, the friendships made, and the travels taken during the six weeks in Cameroon.

Listed below are the participants for the 1999 summer program. Click on their names to go to their web pages and learn more about their research:

Cameroon Facts and Photos
Sweltering rain forests and strutting sultans, game parks, and grilled chicken: Cameroon is one of Africa's most naturally and culturally diverse countries. In addition to its French and British colonial past, Cameroon has over 130 ethnic groups which speak many languages. Islam and Christianity compete for souls with an array of traditional animist beliefs. Outside of the swelling and modernized cities of Yaound, the capital, and Douala, the largest city and industrial center, rain forests stretch north from the Atlantic Ocean, giving way to savannah and semi desert in the north. Elephants and bongos congregate by the hundreds in some of Africa's best game parks, and beachcombers laze on long, isolated beaches.

Cameroon's glory days of rapid development have given way to economic volatility, cultural strife, and rising crime, especially in the larger cities and remote areas like the far north beyond Waza. Cameroonians are chafing under the long, tightening grip of their rulers more than ever--all of which makes Cameroon a challenge for travelers, but not an impossible one for those who keep their heads.

-- Lonely Planet


In Cameroon, both French and English are official languages, though French is more widely spoken, especially in large, modern cities such as Yaound and Douala. About 10% of the country relies primarily on a pidgin English, mainly in the western provinces near Nigeria. Pidgin is a native form of English. Among the many African languages spoken in Cameroon, the five major ones are Bamilk, Ewondo, Bamoun, Fulfulde, and Arabic.
Teacher assistant Lydienne Ngo and students, Lauren Sheehy, Heather Lantz, and Noelle Lamir visit the University of Beau to experience college life in Cameroon and to interview professors and Deans on the student research topics.

Cameroon Facts

Area: 475,440 sq km (183,570 sq mi)
Population: 14.7 million
Capital city: Yaound (pop 1 million)
People: Cameroon Highlanders (31%), Equatorial Bantu (19%), Kirdi (11%), Fulani (10%), Northwestern Bantu, Eastern Nigritic
Language: 24 major African language groups, French, English
Religion: Indigenous beliefs, Christian, Muslim
Government: Republic
President: Paul Biya
Prime Minister: Simon Achidi Achu


Limbe has plenty of charm, a restful, peaceful atmosphere, beautiful beaches and is a place to just relax and enjoy the sunshine.

Limbe was a great place to conduct research because it is home to many interesting sites, thanks in part to its history. Founded in 1858 by the British missionary Alfred Saker, Limbe, or Victoria as it was then called, was first settled by freed slaves from Jamaica, Ghana, and Liberia. In 1875, the Germans took over and made Limbe their largest port. This German influence can still be felt in some of the architecture and buildings in town.

Following World War I, Limbe was once again in British hands, though many Germans remained. Following World War II, the British established themselves again, this time building plantations of bananas, cocoa, oil palms, and rubber trees which line the roads as you are driving down the coastline.

Limbe is a pleasant, scenic town, filled with colonial architecture, historical monuments, an interesting waterfront, and a welcome atmosphere. Fishermen still come in with their daily catch, and fish are still sold at the markets along the bay. Grilled fish and some cold Cameroonian beers were a definite crowd favorite for the group on some of the hotter days.

Restaurants and bars can be found along the coastline. There you can simply take time out to enjoy the scenery, such as the Hotspot Restaurant, or to get something to eat. The beaches of Limbe are known for their dark rich sands which come from the lava flow of Mt. Cameroon. On one adventure, the group went to the beach for the day to enjoy the dark sand, cool water, and the great view of Equatorial New Guinea from the coast.

The Botanical Gardens, which was first established for a German agricultural experiment, is now a cool, shady, wonderland place of different varieties of tropical trees and plants. Then there is the Limbe Zoo, which has a primate sanctuary dedicated to the conservation of all African primates as well as other animals. Here, you can see gorillas and chimps playing and also meet other animals native to Cameroon.

Students traveled north of Limbe to Bamenda and investigated the Bafut Palace. In addition to day trips, students traveled to Fabaum, Kribi, Mt. Cameroon, and Douala. After the tour of the Bafut Palace, students tried out some palm wine--homemade brew from a local bar (a definite experience!).

Teaching Assistant, Elvis, and Jessie and Heather enjoy some palm wine in Bafut . . . what the students decided was a mixture of wine and salad dressing!

The group took a day trip hike to Bamona Falls . . . an amazing tropical experience!!

Food: Cameroonian food includes many fruits and vegetables, as well as grilled fish, fufu, endole, cassava, and large amounts of rice and chicken. Cameroon is known for having some of the best food in Central Africa. Sauces are usually accompanied by rice (riz) or a thick mashed potato-like substance that comes in three main forms: couscous, pe, or fufu--any of which can be made from rice, corn, manioc, plantains, or bananas. Street food is typically good, consisting mainly of grilled spiced-chicken or beef. A loaf of bread, a tomato, and avocado is a Cameroonian treat for lunch.  

Throughout our travels around Cameroon the group made friendships with people who touched their lives in many ways. The woman to the left, Mrs.Grace Lambi, cooked traditional African meals for the group twice a week, as well as providing emotional support and teaching about the customs of her culture. Her husband, shown below with Noelle, is a Professor and Dean at the University of Beau and assisted the group in making contacts for interviews, in securing lodging, and in acting as an overseer to the entire program. Along with the Lambi's there were are also two Teaching Assistants who assisted with the group's research. Both Elvis Kometa and Lydienne Ngo served as resources for research topics and as friends during the six weeks period.

A group photo before leaving Beau and heading to Douala and the group's departure for home.

Lydienne Ngo is shown with Mr. Lambi.

The flag of Cameroon.

Mrs. Lambi in her kitchen cooking another great African meal.

Writing on the black sands of Limbe on a day trip to the beach . . . just one of the group's fondest memories.
Additional Links:
Travel Page
General information on Cameroon
The Dickinson College Community Studies Center