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Title: An ethnographic study of Shebeens in Lesotho
Author: Malahleha, Gwendoline Mphoko
ISNI:       0000 0001 3617 2814
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 1984
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This study, carried out in one of the disadvantaged residential areas of Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, primarily presents the shebeen establishment as it is perceived by the actors in that setting. It is an ethnographic study of two unlicensed drinking houses; Shebeen United Nations and Peggy Bel Air Spot (pseudonyms). The study shows that shebeens came about as a consequence of a complex historical, economic, social and legal process. Traditionally liquor was not a commercial commodity. However, with the advent of European colonialism during the nineteenth century, European liquor had a demonstration effect which affected the indigenous liquor production and consumption patterns. As a result, traditional liquor became a commodity to be bought and sold in the market to whoever had money to buy it. When prohibition of European liquor was lifted in 1961, it was generally assumed that this heralded the demise of shebeens but this did not happen. Instead thousands of shebeens sprang up. Shebeens have become a meeting place for people of varying degrees of respectability. It is an intersection of the straight and the deviant world - contrary to the commonly held belief that the straight world and its actors are separated spatially and temporally from the deviant world and its actors. Furthermbre, within the shebeen there is a flattening of the stratification pyramid so that men and women interact under conditions of equality. These establishments are mainly found in slums, low income and high density population areas. They are also found along the main roads at intersections and in most villages. Like most public drinking houses, the moral order prevailing in these establishments is considered questionable by some members of the community. As the establishment caters for a varied patronage, it therefore has varied activities. Some of the activities which the general population would consider deviant are ligitimized in the shebeen. Thus normally law abiding citizens become situationally deviant in these settings. The shebeen has a potential to generate a wide range of networks---economic, social, cultural and political, and has an impact far beyond its formal setting. On a world basis, management of public drinking houses is the monopoly of men. However, the shebeen is a woman dominated institution, thus upsetting the traditional patterns of male domination in the spheres of commerce, politics and social affairs generally. Speculating about the future of the establishment, it appears that it is going to be with us for a long time and there is no indication that its popularity is diminishing. For as long a there is no other establishment that can bridge the gap between the old and the new experiences and between the have and the have nots, then the shebeen will endure.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: African ethnography