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Chiefs of the Plantation : Authority and Contestation on the South Africa-Zimbabwe Border

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  • Publisher:
    MQUP, 2019
    Note: This book was purchased with support from the Government of Canada's Social Development Partnerships Program - Disability Component.


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    South African agriculture is characterized by growing labour unrest, evinced in recent years by high-profile strikes, but little is known about the sources and forms of day-to-day struggle. In Chiefs of the Plantation Lincoln Addison examines how labour conflict is fuelled by changing management practices and how workers respond and resist across spatial, sexual, and spiritual domains. Depicting, in rich ethnographic detail, daily life on a plantation, Addison describes how agriculture has been restructured in the post-apartheid era through a delegation of authority from white landowners to black intermediaries. He explains that while this labour regime enables the profitability of plantations, it gives rise to a fragile moral economy in which perceptions of what is tolerable and what is exploitation frequently clash. In this environment, transactional sex and Christian worship emerge as important terrains of gendered and spiritual contestation where women and low-ranking workers remain resilient in the face of unequal power relations. Meanwhile, plantations project an appearance of benevolent paternalism, particularly in the narratives and self-identity of white landowners. This book reveals how, in the everyday life of the community, both the plantation and the compound where the workers live serve as central grounds for the negotiation of labour relations. A groundbreaking study that uncovers how migrant plantation workers challenge their exploitation, Chiefs of the Plantation is a rare glimpse into the often hidden world of labour struggle on contemporary plantations.

    Original Publisher: [S.l.], MQUP
    Language(s): English