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6 Spending Money: Consumption, Friendship And Friction

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Chapter Summary

Throughout the year, many African women, but also men, contributed substantial amounts of their sparse income to financial mutuals. Spending money on consumables certainly generates economic advantages. At first glance, consumer practices that are part of financial mutuals can be understood as expressions of belonging and mutual help which does not do justice to the complex social dynamics of consumption in financial mutuals. The case of the financial mutual Zolani Club revealed much more clearly than a fragmented account how consumption was regarded as pivotal to social tensions. Although consumption made it possible to create bonds of friendship and feelings of self-worth, it simultaneously led to envy, jealousy, and tensions among interdependent people. Consumption, therefore, could only partly fulfil people’s hopes and dreams, only temporarily allowed for a boundary with the violence of the outside world, and meant that conflict was part of the acquisition of status and respect.

Keywords: African women; consumption; financial mutuals; friendship; money; Zolani club



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