A case of cameroonians in antepwern

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This piece of ethnographic work seeks to bring out migration and cultural identity amongst Cameroonians in the Diaspora, why Cameroonians immigrants move from their country to Belgium and the factors that motivates them to move within Belgium. The interesting part of this is that while migration maybe individually and collectively beneficial, it nevertheless poses serious socio-cultural and psychological challenges to Cameroonians who do everything possible to maintain their cultural values.

All humans are sensitive to what other may say about them. This sensitivity is even more serious when it touches on cultural issues. Culture gives a person an identity and this identity can either make a person proud or feel inferior in the face of others. This is the case of Cameroonian immigrants in Belgium, since they would like to be favorably considered around them. Hence there is a high tendency of people to drop those aspects of culture that seems advice in the eyes of others immediately they travel to the western world. But this is not the case of Cameroonian immigrants in Belgium who individually would uphold believes and customs, food, clothes, music and dancing which will eventually have a positive effect on the collective identity.

To effectively correct out and communicate this research work, different sources and techniques will be applied to correct and analyze the data respectively; secondary data will be used too. As regards primary sources, interviews, direct and participant observation, questionnaires and other methods used to carryout ethnographic research will be exploited too. Both quantitative and qualitative techniques will be applied. Data will be effectively analyzed with the use of percentages charts and graphs.


Many social scientists have advanced various definitions of migration and Cultural identity. It can however be defined as the movement of an individual or group Of persons from one locality to another, sometimes over long distances.

While migrants maybe individually and collectively beneficial. It is nevertheless Poses serious socio-cultural and psychological challenges to Cameroonians in Belgium, Who have put so many so many activities in order to preserve their cultural values which To a greater extend portray their identity to the western world. This identification of Cultural values can be seen through their appearances such as dressing, hair style, Language, groups, food, etc. Most Cameroonians in Belgium have migrated to particular Cities like Antwerp because of the strong cultural ties that exist there .Antwerp is said to Have a greater population of Cameroonians (both legal and illegal).

Important to hear that this migration of Cameroonians in Belgium to Antwerp is as a result of cultural identification. Cultural identity is seen as treasure because in the past, Cultures were regarded as local and autonomous, distinctive, or well-defined connection Between geographical spaces and cultural experiences. Migration by then was very low Scale but with the advent of globalization in the mid 1980s, led to lost of cultural identity Since there was an export of standardized version of western/ American cultures which Led to the diversification of cultural values in developing countries. Migration too began to increase as a result of globalization.

Cameroonians in Antwerp claim that even though in the foreign land their cultural Identity is not threatened by the presence of "global" goods, in fact cultural identity to them is part of globalization. There is a high degree of seriousness, commonality and similarity amongst these Cameroonians.


Migration is viewed as a very important aspect in social life .It is commonly practiced by all members of a society. Migration can be either within or outside of a society. Actors carrying out this practice advanced different reasons which range from social, economic and cultural.

The influence of new cultures and altitudes inhaled by the migrants may cause a personality change leading to a personal or partial loss of the migrants' original cultural identity. These changes may put them to loggerheads with their society of origin and may lead to tragic socio-cultural consequences if the migration becomes large scale. Cameroonians in Antwerp have an ethnic identity which is the outcome of migration. Particular modern way of organizing and regulating cultural experience and identity is specifically part of the modern cultural imagination.

The main problem in this research is to evaluate Cameroonians in Antwerp do everything possible to maintain their cultural identity in a society where there are so many immigrants with different cultures. What are those difficulties they face as a result of globalization and if there are any difficulties how do they manage it in order to maintain their identity. This research is also going to depopularize the myth that migration leads to lost of cultural identity.

Research Questions

To what extent has individual and collective migration by Cameroonians in Antwerp led to the conservation of cultural identity.

With respect to this main question, the following specific questions can be asked.

  • Reasons for migration to Belgium.
  • Reasons for migrating to Antwerp
  • Difficulties encountered at the level of cultures
  • Individual efforts to uphold cultural values
  • Collective efforts to uphold cultural identity
  • How do individuals in Belgium identify themselves?
  • What are some of the clashes between cultures?
  • How can cultural identity be seen as treasure and cultural power?
  • Find out if this cultural identity has been a threat to nation-state.


Main Objectives

To evaluate migration and cultural identification amongst Cameroonians in Antwerp.

Specific objectives

  • To find out why most Cameroonians in Belgium migrate to Antwerp
  • To point out the raison d'etre of the pulling factors of migration
  • To assess the Cameroonian cultural identity as treasure ("sameness", community and similarity).
  • To portray cultural identity as power (resisting globalization).
  • Finally to evaluate the effects of migration on cultural identity (globalization and modernity).


This study will be carried out in Belgium in the city of Antwerp. The methodology will be divided into two, i.e. data collection and data analysis.

Data and information collection

The data for this study will be collected from primary and secondary sources.

Acquisition of secondary data

Data will be collected from both published and unpublished secondary sources. They will include documents and relevant websites on the internet. These documents will include textbooks, journals, periodicals and magazines. These documents and statistics will be gotten from libraries and city halls in Antwerp.


Since field work constitute a major source of data collection in anthropological research, it will be highly utilized. There will be face to face contact with the use of interview guide. Data using random sampling techniques will be used. The sample will consist of 150 people selected randomly from 5 different ethnic groups in Antwerp and it will be selected from among men and women of 25 years and above. This ethnographic work will be carried out on a house to house and group to group basis.

Participant observation will also be useful in this research. As a result of this field work, the researcher will be bound to register in some ethnic associations so as to better carry out participant observation.

In addition to primary data collection, secondary data will be obtained from documentary and archival sources including the Cameroon embassy in Brussels, immigration office in Zaventem airport, and Antwerp city halls in order to get migration statistics of Cameroonians.

Data Analysis

After collecting these data, they are going to be sorted, classified, analyses and interpreted. Both the quantitative and qualitative techniques will be applied. In order for the data analysis to be complete, it will be publish to the society for consumption.


Thematic Delineation of Research Domain.

The term migration in this content is used to describe the movement of Cameroonians to Belgium and most important while in Belgium the move to Antwerp. Cultural identity can be seen as an identity of a group of cultures or of an individual as far as one is influenced by one belonging to a group or culture ( source: wikipedia internet).

Geographical and socio-cultural delineation of study area. This study is going to Concentrate on Cameroonians in Antwerp. Cameroon is said to be the world's 53rd largest country and has a land mass of 181, 252sq with 6.000km2 of water. It is a country located in central and West Africa, boarding the bight of Biafra, between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria. This country is very rich in natural resources and is most often described as "Africa in miniature" because it exhibits all the major climates and vegetation of the continent. With all these, it enjoys an economy boom till the mid 1980s. Before this, it was very difficult to find a Cameroonian migrating overseas. But because of the long decade economy recession, many Cameroonians are forced to move out of their countries like Belgium and the city of Antwerp in particular. Cameroon is said to have two official languages but at the same time is made of 58 different ethnic groups with different dialects. What is fascinating is that once these Cameroonians abroad, they forget about these ethnic differences and become one.

Antwerp is one of the cities in Belgium which is partly occupied by Cameroonians. It is found in the Flemish region of Belgium and is the Flanders capital. It is the most populous province with 1.7 million in habitants, Cameroonians making part of it. This city is said to have a lot of historical sites which is one of the that have attracted Cameroonians to settle there; more so, the port of Antwerp has strongly contributed to Cameroonian migration.

Map showing the location of study area (Antwerp

Literature review.

Most studies to date have focused on migration continuum. While early social scientists were more interested in migrants themselves and with the institution they taught or created for coping with their new environment (Helen 1. Safa 1975:114). This is what Helen I observed during in entitled "Migration and Development". But today anthropologists are more interested in the cultural meanings those migrants attached behind their socio-economical activities. Helen further confirms this when she says "more recently, studies have been cast in a macro-sociological framework which calls attention to the ways societal economic and political structures define and incorporate immigrant groups (Schermerhorn 1970; Zubaida 1970; Katznelson 1973; Blanur 1972)" . This is the case of Cameroonians in Antwerp whose ethnic associations is being recognized by various city halls.

Lola Romanuai-Ross in her book entitled " Ethnic identity": Creation, conflict and accommodation 1996: 366 states the importance of the fact that migrants should identify themselves amongst their ethnic groups, when she says "...cultural identities should involve some internally socialized consistency with respect to behavioral norms so that the individual and with those with whom one is in contact know what to expect in interpersonal relationship". This is the principle role played by those various Cameroonian associations in Belgium. They try to remain Cameroonian immigrants of their culture and how they should behave in their receiving country.

Jeremy Eades in his work "Migrants, workers and social order" 1987:39 confirms one of the advantages of immigrants identifying themselves in a common group when he says "...Migrants overseas usually begin by organizing themselves in ethnic forms, for their common origins provide an effective and convenient foundation for toolh mutual assistance and collective actions". Thus in such circumstances, solidarity among Cameroonian migrants are very easy to achieve.

Federick Bath (1969) definitions of ethnicity which I have decided to in cooperate in this work as part of cultural identity. Bath says "the boundaries of the pathan group varied according to situation in which individuals were engaged and the interests which is generated" Bath, 1969.

John Rex (1994:4) further proposes some criteria from which members from a particular cultural identity differentiate themselves from

  • They may simply have a consciousness of...
  • They may have specifically assigned roles...
  • They may be united with others on basis of shared culture; moral, aesthetic, technological and other behavior as subject to roles governing the life of all
  • Lastly, they may be united with others in forms of religious belief

Erich Kdog 2009: 89 states "identity serve to highlight the key features of identity, perception and affiliation". New arrivals experience changes in identity, building in the process of migration. This is true fact; there exists some slight modifications in the cultural practices as a result of diversification, new migrants might find it difficult at the beginning.


This research will be concluded pending on the results of the findings, accurate conclusions will be made after the analysis of the finding. But important to note the migration and cultural identity amongst Cameroonians in Antwerp is on its continuum.


  1. Migration and Development: Implications for ethnic identity and political conflict by Helen I. Safa and Brian M. Du Toit 1975.
  2. Ethnic identity: Creation, conflict, and accommodation by Lola Romanucci-Ross and George De Vos 1996.
  3. Migrants, workers and social order by Jeremy Eades 1987.
  4. Ethnic mobilization in a multi-cultural Europe by John Rex, Beatrice Driny 1994
  5. Ethnicity, nationalism and Globalization in Asia 2009 by Erich Kolig, Vivienne SM Angeles and Sam Wong.
  6. Living in two cultures: the socio-cultural situation of migrant workers and their families.