Political parties in contemporary Malawi organize their female members to dance and sing songs of praise at their public functions. One of the characteristics of the political environment that produces women's praise singing and dancing in Malawi is the unequal relationship between politicians and the people they lead, which can generally be characterized as patron-client. Politicians enact their roles as patrons at public functions by giving material gifts to women performers, giving them an incentive to join the party, dance in its service, and ultimately vote for its politicians. This article explores the institution of women's political praise dancing and singing in Malawi party politics, especially during the campaigning for the second multiparty elections that took place in 1999. I situate this practice within the context of patron-client relationships and question whether women are acting as conscious agents when they dance or whether they are strategically manipulated and exploited by politicians.


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pp. 43-64
Launched on MUSE
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