Publication Date

Spring 4-23-1976


In this dissertation I trace the interrelation­ships among economic activities, kin ties, and religious activities of a people who have some limited access to modern technology and uneven potential for economic de­velopment. I therefore analyze the material, ideological, and institutional means which these people employ in order to raise their standard of living. While I take environmental factors into account, I describe Luapulan conditions primarily in terms of internal dynamics based on cumulative, reciprocal, or conflicting action between kin and religious groups, and between alternative (matrilineal versus Protestant) ideologies about the distribution of the products of labor.

I found that fishing communities in the valley of Luapula Province, Zambia, continue to be matrilineally organized, because matriliny provides security and holds out to the poor the hope that they may at any time improve their material well-being. Hence the continuation of this form of organization, especially its inheritance pattern, finds substantial local support. From the perspective of economic development, however, matriliny has locally recognized disadvantageous effects. In the process of trying to disengage themselves from kinship pressures which enforce wide consumer sharing, most commercial fisherman, storeowners, and contract workers have adopted an assertive form of productive individualism; have joined diverse religious groups in an effort to justify business interests; and have modified family and descent ties to restrict consumer demands. The tendency to reject matrilineal constraints is especially pronounced in the prosperous lake area. In the stagnating river area matriliny is still generally acknowledged and utilized.

The search for alternatives to matriliny on the part of the business-minded has called into question the legitimacy of all forms of grass roots organization, in­cluding types of family, descent groups, party, and church. Since organizational structures are deeply implicated in the process of acquisition and transfer of resources, lo­cal organizational uncertainties further increase the irregular and capricious access to money and capital and interfere with Luapulans' ability to plan future invest­ment that would contribute to the growth of their ven­tures.

While it has been argued that matriliny is able to flourish in an expanding economy based on relatively unrestricted resources, the fact remains that few such economic environments exist in developing nations. In­deed, economic ventures, to be successful, increasingly must be based· on relatively fixed capital and resources; as a result, a disciplined, skilled, and coordinated labor force is required. I conclude, therefore, that in the more usual situations of capital scarcities, matriliny is wasteful of time and human effort, and consequently it represents an obstacle to economic development. In Luapula--barring changes encouraged by Protestantism--individuals, as matrilinealists, remain unable to organize and coordinate their labor force, to accumulate capital, and to concentrate and hole property in perpetuity.

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First Advisor

Oakdale, Suzanne

First Committee Member (Chair)

Harry Wetherald Basehart

Second Committee Member

Bruce Rigsby

Third Committee Member

Lewis Binford