Reinterpreting the rural-urban connection: Migration practices and socio-cultural dispositions of Buhera workers in Harare

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    Abstract

    In the academic debate on labour migration and urbanisation in Southern Africa the persistence of links between urban workers and people in rural areas has proved a pertinent issue. As is implied by the term labour migration, economic forces have always been regarded as a major determinant of migratory behaviour. State-centred perspectives have dominated studies of rural–urban migration in Zimbabwe, where a restrictive legal framework regulated migration to urban centres during the colonial era in an attempt to prevent large numbers of Africans becoming permanent town dwellers. This ethnographic study of labour migrants in Harare originating from the Buhera district, however, shifts away from perspectives that reduce migratory behaviour to an effect of state intervention and/or economic forces. Such external forces are mediated by migrants’ networks that encompass both rural and urban localities. Rather than being only economically motivated, individual migrants’ participation in these networks has to be understood as an expression of a socio-cultural pattern in which rural identification and kinship ideology are of major importance. Viewing migration practices in this way—i.e. as observable outcomes of migrants’ socio-cultural dispositions—not only helps us to understand better the preferences that motivate economic behaviour but also challenges conventional perspectives in which the rural and urban are often viewed as distinct social worlds and the urbanisation process as part of a wider evolutionary development or transition towards a modern class society.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)81-111
    Number of pages31
    JournalAfrica
    Volume71
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2001

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