Culture and Customs of Zambia

Article excerpt

Culture and Customs of Zambia. By Scott D. Taylor. Culture and Customs of Africa. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2006. Pp. xviii, 148; 1 map, 25 illustrations. $49.95 cloth.

The Republic of Zambia is not easily bound by single term characterizations. Of course, no country is. Nevertheless, having been charged with just this sort of loaded directive, Scott D. Taylor first reiterates some of the familiar descriptors. Zambia is, he writes in his preface, one of the rare enduringly peaceful African nations. It was an important frontline state against colonialism, and one of the first modern African nations to experience prodigious urbanization. It is also, he suggests, an ever-evolving product of these endowments and processes. Transregional demographic shifts and interethnic interaction have led to shared cultural mores in urban areas especially. Zambians act, he writes, neither wholly traditional nor modern; instead they create a uniquely Zambian cultural environment in which traditions and modern influences may both coexist and interact.

Taylor opens his contribution to the Greenwood Press series Culture and Customs of Africa with this promise-to explicate contemporary Zambia, a nation that hovers interstitially between worlds both geographically and socioculturally. He portrays it as a country at a crossroads between democratic and Neoliberal economic reform, but also one that is enduring a debilitating health crisis and crumbling social services. The series forward intimates that Zambians, like all other Africans, "regard culture as essential to their lives and future development" (p. vii). This is a theme that resurfaces throughout the book as Taylor discusses how Zambian culture, for better or worse, "is in the crosshairs of globalization" (p. 109).

Books in the Culture and Customs series are formatted uniformly. Each begins with an introduction to the subject country and its people from geographical, ethnic, and historical perspectives. The next chapters, respectively, cover religion, worldview; literature and other popular media; art, architecture and housing; and cuisine and traditional dress. …

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