[Paper spotlight] Cultural Transmission of Foundational Schemas among Congo Basin Hunter-Gatherers

This paper by Sonoda and colleagues in African Study Monographs examines how BaYaka children acquire foundational schemas.

Abstract: Congo Basin hunter-gatherer societies are said to share cultural models, such as egalitarianism, respect for individual autonomy, and the process of giving and sharing. In this paper, we assume foundational schemas as any coherence connected to these cultural models at a fundamental level. In describing the process of reproduction and acquisition of foundational schemas in everyday interaction found in two different societies, we aim to assess whether foundational schemas have the potential to challenge social and ecological changes. For several decades, these societies have faced multiple social and ecological changes. These include sedentarization, the reduction of access to their territory and resources, higher access to schooling, and variable access to health services among others. Considering the increasing access of external actors into their territories, one could wonder what the impacts are on hunter-gatherer’s transmission of foundational schemas and cultural knowledge. Therefore, this paper explores the processes of cultural transmission and reproduction of foundational schemas among Congo Basin hunter-gatherer children, by focusing specifically on children’s interactions as well as interactions between children and adults, while performing their daily activities. By presenting data from long-term fieldwork conducted among the Mbendjele BaYaka from Republic of the Congo and the Baka from Cameroon, this paper aims to bring new elements to understanding the processes involved in the transmission of cultural values. By taking a child-focused approach, this article discusses how a foundational schema emerges in the production of cultural knowledge, what kind of changes challenge transmission of foundational schemas, and how the current challenges faced by these societies are affecting this transmission.