Economy, Society, and Environment in Central Africa
Publication Year: 2006
Nachituti’s Gift challenges conventional theories of economic development with a compelling comparative case study of inland fisheries in Zambia and Congo from pre- to postcolonial times. Neoclassical development models conjure a simple, abstract progression from wealth held in people to money or commodities; instead, Gordon argues, primary social networks and oral charters like “Nachituti’s Gift” remained decisive long after the rise of intensive trade and market activities. Interweaving oral traditions, songs, and interviews as well as extensive archival research, Gordon’s lively tale is at once a subtle analysis of economic and social transformations, an insightful exercise in environmental history, and a revealing study of comparative politics.
“A powerful portrayal of the complexity, fluidity, and subtlety of Lake Mweru fishers’ production strategies . . . . Natchituti’s Gift adds nuance and evidence to some of the most important and sophisticated conversations going on in African studies today.”—Kirk Arden Hoppe, International Journal of African Historical Studies
“A lively and intelligent book, which offers a solid contribution to ongoing debates about the interplay of the politics of environment, history and economy.”—Joost Fontein, Africa
“Well researched and referenced . . . . [Natchituti’s Gift] will be of interest to those in a wide variety of disciplines including anthropology, African Studies, history, geography, and environmental studies.”—Heidi G. Frontani, H-SAfrica
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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Preface and Acknowledgments
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When I first arrived in Mweru-Luapula, the fertile floodplains, rivers, and lakes that form part of the political boundary between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), I planned to investigate how chiefs, businesspeople, and politicians had secured power and profit during the colonial and postcolonial periods. In graduate school, after ...
Translation and Orthography
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Over the last two centuries, several related Bantu languages have been spoken in the Luapula Valley. Nowadays, the people of the Luapula Valley speak a distinctive dialect of Bemba (or Chibemba), one of Zambia’s more important national languages; in the DRC, Bemba is combined with a Swahili dialect. These languages differ substantially ...
Introduction: Tenure, Wealth, and Environment
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Fishmongers, mostly women, lay bundles of fish bought or bartered from fishers early that morning on tables roughly hewn from sticks and planks. There is no ice to cool the fish; only a tablecloth of flies shields them from the tropical sun. Animated buyers haggle over prices with sellers who become more accommodating as the day wears on and the ...
Part 1: STORIES OF CONQUEST
1. Nachituti’s Gift: The Kazembe Kingdom and Owners of the Land
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My first encounter with the story of Nachituti was in October 1997, during a visit to Lunde, the royal graveyard of the Kazembe rulers. Mwata Kazembe XVIII Munona Chinyanta, who died less than one year later, invited me to a ceremony to introduce me to Lunda customs; he also wanted me to photograph the ceremony and to transport ...
2. The Colonial Net: Chiefs on a Colonial Border
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From the boardrooms of the European capitals, where in the 1880s European diplomats and rulers shared what King Leopold II once termed the “magnifique gâteau africain,” the Luapula Valley must have seemed a tiny morsel.1 Avid readers of missionaries and explorers like David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley probably knew the ...
3. The Meanings of Wealth: People and Things
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Life stories of the men of Mweru-Luapula like that of Kolala’s grandfather, Charles Harrington, one of the many sons left behind in the valley by the colonial official H. T. Harrington (Bwana Kijana), celebrate entrepreneurship and the accumulation of monetary wealth. The stories usually emphasize the ties of friendship and family that enabled the ...
Part 2: The Fishery
4. Mpumbu: Colonialism and Conservation
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The spawning of the mpumbu fish was a much celebrated annual event. For a few days after the first heavy rains and flooding, usually in February, thousands of fish from Lake Mweru crowded near the rapids of Mambilima and in the tributaries of the Luapula. The large females, heavy with eggs, were set upon by numerous males until covered in a ...
5. Pale: States and Patrons
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In the late 1970s and 1980s, Katebe Katoto, son of the entrepreneur Nissim Soriano and Mwata Kazembe XIV Chinyanta Nankula’s sister, owned and managed the largest fishing venture on the lake. Katebe Katoto’s fishing camp at Mulonde on the northwestern shore of Lake Mweru produced five to seven tons of fish per day during the high season ...
6. Chisense: Wealth and Family
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Grace Chama was eager to talk of her duties as a single mother, household head, and fish trader. The thirty-nine-year-old mother of four divided her time between her sister’s home in Lusaka and Kabuta fish camp on the southeastern shores of Lake Mweru where her children stayed. She traveled hundreds of miles from Kariba and Kafue in the ...
Conclusion: Tragic Assumptions
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The history of a rather peripheral venture in the economic landscape of the twentieth century forces us to reflect on some of the central and still fashionable assumptions and formulas underlying that most imperial of social sciences, “development studies.” One of its leading proponents and much-quoted scholars, Hernando de Soto, has recently ...
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Publication Year: 2006