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Expectations of Modernity

Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt

James Ferguson
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 343
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  • Book Info
    Expectations of Modernity
    Book Description:

    Once lauded as the wave of the African future, Zambia's economic boom in the 1960s and early 1970s was fueled by the export of copper and other primary materials. Since the mid-1970s, however, the urban economy has rapidly deteriorated, leaving workers scrambling to get by.Expectations of Modernityexplores the social and cultural responses to this prolonged period of sharp economic decline. Focusing on the experiences of mineworkers in the Copperbelt region, James Ferguson traces the failure of standard narratives of urbanization and social change to make sense of the Copperbelt's recent history. He instead develops alternative analytic tools appropriate for an "ethnography of decline." Ferguson shows how the Zambian copper workers understand their own experience of social, cultural, and economic "advance" and "decline." Ferguson's ethnographic study transports us into their lives-the dynamics of their relations with family and friends, as well as copper companies and government agencies. Theoretically sophisticated and vividly written,Expectations of Modernitywill appeal not only to those interested in Africa today, but to anyone contemplating the illusory successes of today's globalizing economy.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92228-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of Cases
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  7. CHAPTER ONE The Copperbelt in Theory From “Emerging Africa” to the Ethnography of Decline
    (pp. 1-37)

    In the mid-1960s, everyone knew, Africa was “emerging.” And no place was emerging faster or more hopefully than Zambia, the newly independent nation that had previously been known as Northern Rhodesia. The initiation of large-scale copper mining in the late 1920s had set off a burst of industrial development that had utterly transformed the country; by the time of Independence in 1964, that industrial growth seemed sure to propel the new nation rapidly along the path of what was called “modernization.” From being a purely rural agricultural territory at the time of its takeover by Cecil Rhodes’s British South Africa...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Expectations of Permanence Mobile Workers, Modernist Narratives, and the “Full House” of Urban-Rural Residential Strategies
    (pp. 38-81)

    Urbanization has long been conceived as the dominant strand in the process of “social change” in Zambia, and the Copperbelt as a key locus for that process. Many of the most crucial and hotly debated questions posed about the larger society have hinged on the fundamental conception of “urbanizationm”—from colonial-era conflicts over “the Native question” and the role of urban Africans, to post-Independence ideas of an emerging Zambia whose modernity was guaranteed by its industrial urban core, to more recent structural adjustment prescriptions for checking “overurbanization” and “urban bias.” But there has been an uncertainty at the core of all...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Rural Connections, Urban Styles Theorizing Cultural Dualism
    (pp. 82-122)

    In an era of decline, expectations of urban permanence have been disappointed, and Copperbelt workers have been increasingly obliged (whether they wish to or not) to contemplate and plan for rural futures. Indeed, migration on the Copperbelt has been, in recent years, more a matter of leaving the city than coming to it. But while coming to town is a chapter in a well-rehearsed story (urbanization), fleeing it opens up a tale not quite so easily told. Social scientists, confronted with the apparent anomaly of urban-to-rural migration, tend to abandon the familiar “-izations” of the modernist narrative for premodern circular...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR “Back to the Land”? The Micropolitical Economy of “Return” Migration
    (pp. 123-165)

    To get a good understanding of the ways that the harsh political-economic realities of the Copperbelt’s recent past have conditioned workers’ urban lives, we must have a view of the range of different ways in which workers have experienced and dealt with those realities. But to capture that “full house” of variation-to convey the sense of a real “bush” of possible trajectories, thick with branches (and not a spindly tree with a few spare ideal types)-we need to move from the general analytic model developed in the last chapter toward the ethnographic concreteness of actual lives played out over time....

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Expectations of Domesticity Men, Women, and “the Modern Family”
    (pp. 166-206)

    I first became aware that something had happened to my idea of modernity not during my fieldwork in Zambia but some years earlier, when I paid my first adult visit to Disneyland. The spectacular, glittering amusement park that I had visited several times during my middle-class, southern California childhood had aged badly; like the deteriorating Anaheim neighborhood in which it lay, it had seen better days. With the premises visibly fraying at the edges, the Magic Kingdom was losing its magic; the seamless illusions on which the Disneyland experience depended were in danger of being laid bare as cheap gimmicks...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Asia in Miniature Signification, Noise, and Cosmopolitan Style
    (pp. 207-233)

    The photograph on the following page is a reminder of an unsettling sort of fieldwork experience. At a glance, it looks like an example of a familiar genre of anthropological field photo: the ethnographer in a celebratory state of good-natured communion with his informants: a classic field snapshot that serves simultaneously as a personal keepsake of a pleasant evening and a public testimonial of the achievement of good rapport. But this fieldwork photo has a twist. For the people in the photo are not my Copperbelt informants but a group of strangers I ran into in a Lusaka bar. I...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Global Disconnect Abjection and the Aftermath of Modernism
    (pp. 234-254)

    When Godfrey Wilson published his “Essay on the Economics of Detribalization in Northern Rhodesia” in 1941, he considered that the Africans of Northern Rhodesia had just entered into an economically and culturally interconnected “world society,” a “huge world-wide community” within which they would soon find a place for themselves as something more than peasants and unskilled workers (Wilson 1941, 12-13). The “civilized” clothing and manners to which so many urban Africans attached such importance, he argued, amounted to a claim to full membership in that worldwide community. Indeed, Wilson suggested, it was for this very reason that many white settlers...

  14. Postscript: December 1998
    (pp. 255-258)

    As we move into the final year of the twentieth century, the long process of economic decline that I have described for the Zambian Copperbelt seems almost shockingly relevant to the news of the day. In Russia, the last few years have brought “the worst economic and social devastation ever suffered by a modern country in peacetime,” according to one authority; in the name of reform, the country has experienced “its virtual demodernization” (Cohen 1998). Indonesia is in the midst of an economic collapse that makes the U.S. depression of the 1930s look mild, while many other Asian economies are...

  15. Appendix: Mineworkers’ Letters
    (pp. 259-268)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 269-294)
  17. References
    (pp. 295-320)
  18. Index
    (pp. 321-326)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 327-333)