The Gendered Nature of the Economy on the Zambian Copperbelt and its Uneven Impact on the Development of Cultural Modernity

Ever since mining companies’ placement of restrictions on women’s independent sources
of income engendered a male-dominant and -dependent economic structure on the Copperbelt,
familial relations have become the source of micropolitical and microeconomic contestations
between male mineworkers and the other inhabitants of the Copperbelt (e.g., wives, extended
family) who make claims on their earning power (Ferguson, 1999). The social and cultural
dynamics resulting from such a gender-economic structure had uneven effects on the
development of modernity. While the recognition of class consciousness, use of industrial action,
and the establishment of formalized class-based associations/unions constitute an achievement of
modern cultural forms, the continued lack of a nuclear family norm represents the maintenance
of some traditional forms of societal life, and thus a contradiction of modernity.

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