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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Becoming a 'bwana' and burley tobacco in the Central Region of Malawi
Author:Prowse, MartinISNI
Year:2009
Periodical:Journal of Modern African Studies
Volume:47
Issue:4
Pages:575-602
Language:English
Geographic term:Malawi
Subjects:small farms
tobacco
consumption
social status
rural economy
Abstract:Smallholders now grow most of Malawi's main export crop, burley tobacco. Based on nineteen months' fieldwork (August 2002-June 2004) in the Central Region, this article offers a sociological interpretation of why some smallholder growers spend a proportion of burley income on alcohol and consumer goods in rural towns and trading centres. This practice, known as 'kuziziritsa ku khosi' (literally 'to cool the throat', but referred to as 'cooling off') is a form of conspicuous consumption and can be seen as a form of inculcated behaviour whereby smallholders reproduce elements of one model of success in this region: that of the Malawian tobacco 'bwana' (boss/master). The article discusses implications from this form of potlatch behaviour by describing the contrasting fortunes of two non-farm rural enterprises, examining data on how tobacco production and 'cooling off' is viewed by wives, and comparing the crop preferences of husbands and wives. It concludes by suggesting that the concept of conspicuous consumption may provide an alternative prism to the instrumental lens of neopatrimonialism through which to view apparently unintelligible investment decisions in African economies. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]
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