Fertility and Household Labour in Tanzania: Demography, Economy, and Society in Rufiji District, C.1870-1986

Fertility and Household Labour in Tanzania: Demography, Economy, and Society in Rufiji District, C.1870-1986

Fertility and Household Labour in Tanzania: Demography, Economy, and Society in Rufiji District, C.1870-1986

Fertility and Household Labour in Tanzania: Demography, Economy, and Society in Rufiji District, C.1870-1986

Synopsis

This book is an interdisciplinary study of the way in which human reproduction interweaves with the reproduction of society and economy in coastal Tanzania. Combining demography, history, and sociology, and with a breadth of theoretical discussion and empirical detail, it offers a new methodology for the study of African fertility and the role of household demography in agrarian economies. Part I provides a political economy of changing fertility. Demographic patterns are situated within the wider social and economic context, in particular the transformation of marriage in relation to kinship and local political structures, and child-spacing dynamics rooted in the moral exonomy of gender. In Part II, the author examines the implications of demographic patterns for people's work-loads and economic fortunes at the individual and household level. Based on extensive field-work in a Tanzanian village, the analysis shows the importance of women's involvement in rice cultivation, and the fluidity of life cycles.

Excerpt

This book is a study of human, social, and economic reproduction in Rufıji, a district of coastal Tanzania. It contains two parts, each of which addresses a particular question. In the first half I ask how fertility in Rufıji changed over the twentieth century, and what social and economic transformations were involved. In the second half, attention shifts to one village, Mng'aru, and I examine the influence of household demography on the work patterns of men and women.

A guiding theme through the book is a particular approach to the study of reproduction. In this sense, although also an historical and sociological description of Rufıji, the work is at another level an attempt to develop and apply a set of methods for analysing reproduction. Particular notions of reproduction are central to the treatment of history and economy here.

Defining Reproduction

What, then, is 'reproduction'? The term is often used as synonymous for the biological processes of birth and death. However, it can and has also been used to refer to a much wider range of processes--indeed any process involving renewal.

My original impulse to investigate human reproduction did not come through demography, but rather through a desire to understand the day- to-day burdens of domestic work for women in rural Africa, and to locate that understanding within the wider structures of national and world economies. Among the factors influencing the situation of rural African women, child- bearing and rearing appeared to loom large. Furthermore, explanations of high fertility seemed to be tied up with a multitude of other social phenomena and structures: modernization, colonial exploitation, women's education, women's status, the control of men over women, and the exchange of the latter between corporate kin groups, the labour and security value of children.

One writer who paid particular attention to the articulation of domestic relations in Africa, including fertility and marriage, with wider economic structures, was Claude Meillassoux (1981, 1983). Merging Marxist concerns of exchange, production and exploitation with Lévi-Strauss's analysis of kinship, Meillassoux developed the notion of the 'domestic community', in which the labour of junior men and the reproductive powers of women were controlled and exchanged by senior men. Colonial capitalism entered, but did not destroy, the domestic community, producing new strains and greater levels of exploitation.

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