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Prof Philip Burnham
Prof Philip Burnham profile picture
  • Emeritus Professor of Anthropology
  • Dept of Anthropology
  • Faculty of S&HS

General Interests

Comparative ethnographic and historical studies of African societies

Social ecology of swidden farmers and pastoralists

Cultural and institutional factors affecting social and economic development

Inter-ethnic political relations

Research Groups
Research Summary

Current Research

I (with other colleagues) am currently writing up the results of a long-term study of "The cultural context of rain forest conservation in West Africa".

I have also recently begun a new field research project entitled “An ethnographic study of recent trends in business activity in northern Cameroon”, working in collaboration with José Muñoz and Saidou Bobboy. This 22-month study, funded by the Economic & Social Research Council, is examining the dynamic interface between the informal and formal economic sectors in Adamaoua Province, northern Cameroon, viewed in the context of recent policies designed to promote the development of autochthonous, private sector business activities.

Cameroon offers an appropriate setting for a case study to evaluate such issues, both because of its growing emphasis on the promotion of the private sector in the context of structural adjustment policies and also because of the activities of the major Chad-Cameroon pipeline project, partially funded by the World Bank, which is said to be creating a buoyant environment for local businesses. The study will: a) identify the significant socio-cultural, economic and political factors shaping the organisation of local businesses; b) trace the relationship between patterns of accumulation and the social conditions in which they take place; c) specify the links and barriers between formal and informal sectors in this region of Cameroon; d) evaluate the implications of the formal/informal sector boundary for future socio-economic change in Cameroon. The project will primarily employ qualitative ethnographic methods, including participant observation, unstructured and semi-structured interviews, life histories, social network techniques and extended case studies of local businesses within diverse settings in Adamaoua Province.

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