Gift Remitting and Alliance Building in Zambian Modernity: Old Answers to Modern Problems

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55 Scopus citations


This article highlights the strategic nature of remittances in Zambian migration. Zambian migrants usually give only small gifts to their home-based relatives, not the large sums of money or goods used for investment that is documented in the literature on remitting elsewhere. In a case like Zambia, where so little surplus cash exists and the diversion of cash or other resources can have great material costs for the giver, why do Zambian migrants continue to remit? I argue that gift remitting develops strategic alliances that translate into insurance policies for the future, enabling Zambian migrants to "hedge their bets" in a volatile and rapidly changing socioeconomic terrain. This article focuses attention on the broad experiences and contexts of remitting and how the unpredictability of modern life may foster a renewed need for building alliances. I draw on fieldwork conducted from 1994-2001 with the Gwembe Tonga people of Zambia's Southern Province and recent ethnographic literature from Zambia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-552
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Africa
  • Economy
  • Gift
  • Intergenerational relations
  • Migration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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