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Legal Oppositional Narrative

A Case Study in Cameroon

Stephen L. Bishop

This book examines the possibilities of opposition to government-supported, dominant social orders through legal writing using post-Independence (1960-61) Cameroon as its example. 'Legal writing' in this case encompasses traditional fictional works such as novels, plays, and short stories that deal with legal themes, settings, and language, but also works that are less-often considered as traditional narratives such as legal case decisions, textbooks, and articles. An investigation of such Cameroonian texts demonstrates the potential uses and effectiveness of oppositional narrative, as defined by such authors as Ross Chambers and Michel de Certeau, within postcolonial legal systems in order to influence a different reading of the legal and social order.
The investigation treats both narratives of resistance and oppositionality, and concludes that oppositional literary and legal storytelling offers more hope for subverting and changing the dominant social discourse than more conventional means of legal resistance. Although the two approaches overlap, oppositional legal narratives offer greater opportunity for fostering lasting social justice than legal narratives of resistance, especially within the legal system of Cameroon, which is both unduly influenced by an oppressive government and singular in its organization. This system is split between indigenous legal traditions, Francophone civil code law, Anglophone common law, and thus it presents a complex, pluralistic legal and social atmosphere that is unsuitable for dictatorial, revolutionary change while at the same time offering potential discursive space for oppositional writing and reading.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 188Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-1318-9 • Hardback • February 2008 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
Stephen L. Bishop is associate professor of French and Francophone literature at the University of New Mexico.
Chapter 1 Prologue: "I Cannot Write in Their Place"
Chapter 2 Introduction: Why Cameroon Matters
Chapter 3 1 Why Law and Literature Matters in the African Context
Chapter 4 2 Always Already Outlawed
Chapter 5 3 Clando Writing and Judicious Reading
Chapter 6 4 Legally Appropriate Appropriation
Chapter 7 5 Writing Clados and Reading Juridis
Chapter 8 Bibliography
Stephen Bishop's work on the legal oppositional narrative in both fictional and actual cases from Cameroon affirms the ongoing necessity to engage in a discourse rife with strategies that avoid open rebellion in favor of irony, parody, humor and derision, thereby attacking the institutions by manipulation of their own codes of expression. In the context of law and literature, Bishop breaks new ground by proposing a rare glimpse into the African experience, extrapolated from his own rich experience in Cameroon.
Jacquie Berben, Université de Nice, France

Stephen Bishop examines a simple idea — telling stories through law — from a variety of critical perspectives. His use of Cameroon as a case study illuminates the complex relationships between law, the individual and dominant discourses and institutions. This is a rich and satisfying study.
Bruce Carolan, Head of the School of Social Sciences and Law at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland

Bishop uses a variety of legal narratives in both French and English: plays, short stories, novels, and legal documents to illustrate the range of their ability to influence - or not - Cameroon's legal system.
Eloise Briere, Albany University; Research in African Literatures

This book breaks new ground in African studies and is a worthy contribution to the fields of law and literature.
Frieda Ekotto, associate professor of French and francophone studies at the University of Michigan