Tribal Cohesion in a Money Economy: A Study of the Mambwe People of Northern Rhodesia

Tribal Cohesion in a Money Economy: A Study of the Mambwe People of Northern Rhodesia

Tribal Cohesion in a Money Economy: A Study of the Mambwe People of Northern Rhodesia

Tribal Cohesion in a Money Economy: A Study of the Mambwe People of Northern Rhodesia

Excerpt

Every year in Northern Rhodesia thousands of African tribesmen put aside their hoes and migrate to the coppermining towns in search of work and wages. After a year or two at work they return to their tribal lands and resume their cultivation. The ceaseless movement of these Africans in search of work is an important part of the economic and social life of the country, and has had a profound effect on both African and European communities. The Mambwe people who are the subject of this book are involved in this system of migrant labour, and at any one time more than half of all the active men between the ages of twenty and forty are absent from their villages earning wages in the towns. I have tried here to describe and analyse some of the effects of this exodus on Mambwe life and politics.

I shall try to show that the industrialization of Central Africa, which has brought about so many cultural changes, has not yet destroyed the cohesion of Mambwe society. Although the Mambwe are now accustomed to work in mines and factories, the still depend on the land for the greater part of their living, and Mambwe tribal cohesion is related to traditional Mambwe rights to the use of land for specific methods of subsistence cultivation. This type of cultivation is an integral part of the past and present Mambwe social organization, and Mambwe institutions cannot be fully understood without a description of their environment and mode of life. Accordingly, I have given a general account of the country and the people, their motives in seeking work, and the labour markets to which they apply. The Mambwe village is a basic residential and political unit of their society, and I have endeavoured to trace the changes that have taken place in the structure of the village during the last sixty years--that is, since the British came--together with the effects of wage-labour on the present-day village. I use the term 'wage-labour' throughout to distinguish the labour that the Mambwe expend on earning money from the labour they expend on cultivating their fields. I have described the larger territorial groupings into which villages are organized, and examined the clan and lineage system in relation both to these groups and to the internal political system.

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