Choice and Constraint in a Swahili Community: Property, Hierarchy and Cognatic Descent on the East African Coast

1st Edition

Ann Patricia Caplan

Published August 22, 2018
Reference - 176 Pages
ISBN 9781138493278 - CAT# K350218
Series: African Ethnographic Studies of the 20th Century


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Originally published in 1975, this book examines property and power relations in a Swahili village on Mafia Island off Tanzania. It focuses on the cognatic descent groups which are important in many areas of village life such as land-holding, marriage, residence, Islamic activities and spirit possession cults. Some anthropologists have contended that groups with multiple membership cannot be viable social units, but this book shows that such a system can actually work. In showing how the cognatic descent groups actually operate, both an ideology of descent group membership and also numerical material about patterns of choice are presented. This involves the construction of both mechanical and statistical models, as well as a decision model to discuss the constraints governing choices.  

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