Keeping cattle? : the politics of value in the communal areas of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
This thesis is concerned with the cultural politics and economics of the ownership, exchange and consumption of cattle in Peddie District in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Specifically, the question for which I sought an explanation is why - given a long history of government attempts to limit and channel cattle ownership by rural Xhosa people, as well as what appeared to be entrenched processes of de-agrarianisation, economic decline and considerble circular migration between town and country - did many of the people living in the communal areas of the Eastern Cape (i.e. the former bantustans of Ciskei and Transkei) express a keen interest to own cattle? Drawing on nine years of research engagement in Peddie District, and thirteen months of fieldwork in two villages, this dissertation explores how cattle were practically and discursively enmeshed in people's everyday livelihoods, accumulation strategies and domestic - including gender and generational - struggles of rural homesteads in Peddie District. It was clear that cattle enjoyed considerable appeal as some of the 'big notes' in a rural economy that was dominated by social welfare transfers and casualised employment. I found that one way to gain a fuller understanding of people's investments in cattle was to analyse their variable social and structural positions within the village milieu, their economic trajectories and their broader cultural projects over time. I attempt to do this by presenting a number of biographical sketches of people pursuing two broad economic, cultural and ritual projects, i.e. that of ukwakh'umzi to build the homestead and masincedisane let us help each other. I employ case-studies to illustrate the range of differentiated interpretations, strategies and manipulations of specifically local bovine resources that variously situated people, as members of different households, employed in pursuit of these projects. For rural people in Peddie District, especially men and some widows, holding cattle meant trying to maximise their use of available physical (i.e. 'free' grazing and water resources on the commons), economic (the use of state-subsidised dipping and inoculation programmes and of household labour) and cultural resources (patriarchal values, bridewealth, norms of accumulation and sharing, and ritual practices) to advance their particular social projects, within the limited range of options open to them.