The Politics of Environmental Control in Northeastern Tanzania, 1840-1940

The Politics of Environmental Control in Northeastern Tanzania, 1840-1940

The Politics of Environmental Control in Northeastern Tanzania, 1840-1940

The Politics of Environmental Control in Northeastern Tanzania, 1840-1940

Synopsis

"The Politics of Environmental Control in Northeastern Tanzania is a historical study of the relationship between political and environmental change in Tanzania's northeastern lowlands, an impoverished region that has been afflicted by severe food shortages throughout the twentieth century. Politics and trade, the author contends, determined whether the farmers of northeastern Tanzania would control environmental forces. Arguing that neither factor is accorded sufficient emphasis in African peasant history, James L. Giblin shows that politics and trade have fundamentally affected the region's history, and that the recognition of their past importance shapes the way modern farmers judge the policies of the Tanzanian state. Covering a period during which successive external forces - first precolonial merchant capital from Zanzibar, then German and British colonialism - dominated northeastern Tanzania, the author argues that the ability of farming communities to control cattle infections depended on how external forces affected patronage and redistribution of wealth. The most important relations of production were between patron and client rather than within households, so the politics of patronage determined whether precolonial farmers succeeded in controlling disease, accumulating livestock and food reserves, and preventing drought from causing famine. The Politics of Environmental Control in Northeastern Tanzania will be of interest to students and scholars of anthropology, history, and African studies." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Late-precolonial farming communities controlled the disease environment not simply by clearing and burning vegetation, nor even merely by producing foodstuffs and circulating them among patrons and clients, for the politics of patronage played a major role. Political conflicts often determined entitlement to patronage, and thus guaranteed or denied clients the resources needed to continue working the land during droughts and crop failures. The primary sources of information about precolonial politics are accounts from Uzigua which describe the chieftains' lives and the settlement of small territories called si. They suggest that political conflicts involved ambitious individuals who tried to overcome the restraint of reciprocal obligations and dependents who tried to check ambition by constraining adherence to the norms of reciprocity. None of these stories are better-known in Handeni District, however, than those which concern the most famous of the first-generation chieftains, Mhelamwana.

Mhelamwana

Residents of Manga, the birthplace of Mhelamwana in southeastern Handeni District, say that when his parents died shortly after his birth, the community concluded that Mhelamwana must be a kigego (pl. vigego), an individual marked by peculiarities of physical appearance or circumstances surrounding birth as one who will cause death or misfortune to befall those around him. Thus, when the boy's fearful kin urged Kimambulizo, a relative who had taken responsibility for the orphan, to banish the maleficent child, he sent Mhelamwana to live with a man named Kijiamahungwe in the nearby region of Udoe. Years later, when Mhelamwana was an adolescent, he happened to be taunting a playmate one day by boasting . . .

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