The University of Wisconsin Press

African Studies / History


Work and Control in a Peasant Economy
A History of the Lower Tchiri Valley in Malawi, 1859–1960
Elias Mandala

“In the context of existing historiography, Work and Control in a Peasant Economy represents a new level of excellence in the in-depth study of portions of rural southern Africa. Madala’s will be a book to emulate—if one can. Anything comparable would have to demonstrate excellent linguistic knowledge and a total absorption of all the anthropological material relevant to such a history.”
—Jan Vansina, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Peasants in southern Africa have too often been portrayed as technologically backward, chronically underemployed, and politically passive. Such views, says Elias Mandala in this finely particularized study of the lower Tchiri Valley in Malawi, partake more of myth than reality. Peasants are first and foremost laborers, he points out, who spend most of their lives working with their hands to meet basic human needs. In making labor the center of his analysis, Mandala refocuses attention on peasants as workers, actively engaged in the effort to control their own destinies through complex forms of both resistance and accommodation. Drawing on extensive fieldwork and archival material, Mandala weaves together aspects of peasant economy usually ignored or treated separately, such as the ecological conditions of production, the division of labor between and within households, and gender and generational conflict.

Elias C. Mandala
is associate professor of history at the University of Rochester.

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African peasants working the ground

October 1990

LC: 90-050093 HD
424 p
p.   6 x 9

The 1990 cloth and paper editions of this book are out of print.

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ISBN 978-0-299-12494-6
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