This groundbreaking book addresses issues of the keenest interest to anthropologists, specialists on Africa, and those concerned with international aid and development. Drawing on extensive research among the Luo people in western Kenya and abroad over many years, Parker Shipton provides an insightful general ethnography. In particular, he focuses closely on nonmonetary forms of exchange and entrustment, moving beyond anthropology's traditional understanding of gifts, loans, and reciprocity. He proposes a new view of the social and symbolic dimensions of economy over the full life course, including transfers between generations. He shows why the enduring cultural values and aspirations of East African people-and others around the world-complicate issues of credit, debt, and compensation.
The book examines how the Luo assess obligations to intimates and strangers, including the dead and the not-yet-born. Borrowing, lending, and serial passing along have ritual, religious, and emotional dimensions no less than economic ones, Shipton shows, and insight into these connections demands a broad rethinking of all international aid plans and programs.
Parker Shipton is associate professor of anthropology and research fellow in African studies, Boston University. He has conducted research in Kenya, The Gambia, Colombia, and elsewhere and is former president of the Association for Africanist Anthropology, a division of the American Anthropological Association. He lives in Cambridge, MA.