Producing beer : agricultural livelihoods and commodities in Serenje District of Zambia
Drawing on data collected in rural Serenje District, in the Central Province of Zambia, this thesis focuses on the production, consumption and valorisation of grain beer, a significant livelihood practice for people. The discussion is contextualised by detailed reference to both the changing national and global politico-economic scene and to local agricultural practices. I argue that an understanding of livelihood practices must take account of both 'micro' and 'macro' level factors, as these form part of the material and conceptual 'resource repertoire' of local people. Focusing on particular case examples, the discussion reveals, for rural Serenje, the multiplex ways in which value is ascribed to beer - a highly significant livelihood resource. The data highlights the socio-symbolic, ritual, and commoditised contexts in which beer is produced and consumed. The analysis of this resource highlights how the relationship between different social arenas of experience, and the socially constructed value of beer are integrated in subtle and complex ways. A central theme of the thesis focuses on issues of value and argues that value notions are multiple social constructions. Resources, then, have many different associations of value. These different kinds of value are, in certain contexts, contested by actors, and it is in contexts of social interaction, negotiation and accommodation that resources are ascribed with value. Furthermore the fixing of value in this way provides contexts in which social identities are asserted and modified. The empirical chapters of the thesis draw attention to the importance of beer and maize in terms of people's income strategies. These livelihood practices remain firmly embedded in social life, however, and therefore concern more than the singular pursuit of cash. Consolidating, establishing, and reaffirming social relations are also a fundamental part of people's 'economic' life and co-operation in securing material and social resources remains vital. Methodologically the thesis synthesises situational analysis and discourse practice paying particular attention to the concepts of practice and agency.