Peasant Intellectuals: Anthropology and History in Tanzania by Steven M. Feierman

By Steven M. Feierman

Students who research peasant society now notice that peasants should not passive, yet rather able to performing of their personal pursuits. Debate has persisted, although, on no matter if coherent political principles emerge inside of peasant society, or even if peasants act in an international the place political matters are outlined via elites. in response to ethnographic study all started in 1966 that incorporates interviews with countless numbers of individuals from all degrees of Tanzanian society, "Peasant Intellectuals" goals to change the point of view from which anthropologists, historians, and political scientists research either cultural structures and rural politics. Steven Feierman supplies us the background of the struggles to outline the main uncomplicated problems with public political discourse within the Shambaa-speaking sector of Tanzania. during the last a hundred and fifty years ruling chiefs, at the one hand, and dissenting peasants at the different have debated what it's that permits a few regimes to deliver lifestyles instead of dying, prosperity instead of starvation, justice instead of inequity. Feierman makes a speciality of the position of peasant intellectuals - women and men who earn their livelihood through farming and who, at an important old moments, have prepared political routine of the best long term importance. In Shambaii, peasant intellectuals have raised the difficulty of democracy, the position of chiefs, the that means of slavery and freedom , and the character of gender kinfolk, and performed a severe position in nationalist campaigns. Feierman additionally indicates that peasant society includes a wealthy physique of other resources of political language from which destiny debates should be formed.

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Sample text

If we define the people of a given society as different from us, then we have defined them as other, distant from us, not subject to the same historical forces or living in the same moral universe. This is unacceptable. But if we say that we are indeed coeval, living in the same era, subject to the same historical forces, struggling with the same issues, then we lose the picture of cultural variation which is the heart of anthropology. The study of intellectuals and their discourse takes some steps towards mediating this contradiction.

When we study the practical interests and the consciousness of intellectuals, we move beyond the assumption that structure is form and agency is formlessness. If we understand the streams of discourse as related to the social positions and interests of the agents, then agency itself has a structure. Agency has a cultural structure- knowledge used by the particular groups of intellectuals - and it has a material structure related to the interests and alliances of the intellectuals themselves within the wider world of power and production.

Sara Berry, who writes with great subtlety about rural differentiation among Yoruba farmers of southwestern Nigeria, concludes that when the career paths of farmers lead them to draw sustenance from non-farm sources, or to accumulate capital, one can no longer call them peasants (Berry 1985:4-5, 12). This raises the question of what is a "peasant," a term widely debated in the literature. For purposes of the present analysis, peasants are farmers who produce a large part of what they consume, have access to the use of land, coordinate their own labor with that of close relatives, integrate their organization of farming labor with the organization of care-giving, domestic work, and biological reproduction, and are involved in a wider economic system in which non-peasants also playa role.

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