Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS)
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Browsing Southern Centre for Inequality Studies (SCIS) by Author "Castel-Branco, Ruth."
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- ItemThe machamba is for life: navigating a precarious labour market in rural Mozambique.(Southern Centre For Inequality Studies, 2022-12-01) Castel-Branco, Ruth.There is significant debate about the class dynamics of agrarian change in Africa. In his seminal work, Maidens, Meal, and Money: Capitalism and the Domestic Community, Meillassoux (1981)  predicted the cannibalisation of the peasantry with the growing dominance of capitalist relations in the countryside. Yet, nearly half a century on, evidence points to the continued relevance of the peasantry as a social, economic, and political construct. Drawing on the case of Mozambique – where two thirds of the economically active population still identify as camponês or peasant – this paper explores the contradictory meanings of the peasantry under contemporary capitalism. The first section traces the making of the proletarian-peasant in Southern Africa, critically engaging Meillassoux’s seminal work on the ‘domestic community’. The second explores the differentiated ways in which camponeses improvise a livelihood through the vignettes of a nearly landless labourer, a petty commodity producer and an emerging capitalist farmer. The third unpacks the significance of the machamba or field in navigating labour insecurity, focusing on the following dimensions of meaning: sustenance, autonomy, and social recognition. Ultimately, the paper concludes, the peasantry embodies a contradictory set of meanings which reflect processes of commodity production rather than a precapitalist past. While the cultivation of the machamba offers an autonomous source of livelihood, it is characterised by drudgery and insecurity; while it provides a reservation wage, it subsidises a system of accumulation based on widespread precarity; while it represents a victory against land dispossession, it can further entrench neoliberalism. Nevertheless, land struggles continue to be the primary driver of contentious politics in Mozambique.