Stefanie Knauder. Globalization, Urban Progress, Urban Problems, Rural Disadvantages: Evidence from Mozambique. Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate, 2000. xviii + 329 pp. $165.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-84014-843-5.
Reviewed by Kathleen Sheldon (Center for the Study of Women, University of California, Los Angeles)
Published on H-SAfrica (July, 2001)
Urban Sociology in Mozambique
'Urban Sociology in Mozambique'
As a researcher of urban issues in Mozambique, I eagerly anticipated the publication of Stefanie Knauder's book on globalization and urban and rural conditions in Mozambique. Unfortunately, despite some nuggets of useful information, this book is not successful in presenting her research. One chapter at the beginning and the last two chapters are exclusively on sociological theories of development and globalization, leaving only 150 pages devoted to the Mozambican data. The discussion of the theories is wide-ranging but unfocused, as a succession of other analyses are taken up and either approved or disproved. It is never clear just what Knauder's own perspective is, other than a general progressive support for the present anti-globalization movement (she dedicates the book to the anti-World Trade Organization protesters in Seattle and London). The connection between the Mozambican case study and the larger theory is not explored.
Knauder began with a request from the Mozambican government for a study of housing problems in the peri-urban areas of Maputo and Beira. She eventually developed an elaborate research program that was designed to compare rural, peri-urban, and urban living conditions, and included all three sectors in both Maputo and Beira. Several different neighborhoods in each city were included, so that there were eighteen research sites involved. A lengthy questionnaire was administered, primarily by Mozambican university students, though they are not named. She hoped to make a contribution to urban studies in Mozambique, and comments that a computer search from her home university in Austria found almost nothing on that topic (p. 21). I found over one hundred references on urban issues and urban history in my personal database on Mozambique, though it is clear that she did not have access to most of those sources while pursuing her own project. This is regrettable, as she is unable to properly situate her work within the existing body of research, much of it by Mozambicans.
Her goal was to provide some raw data that could be used by urban planners and others. And she does include a great deal of detailed information on life in the peri-urban areas and compares that with rural and urban residence. Particularly useful are the sections on the infrastructure of housing and neighborhood amenities such as the availability of sanitary facilities, transportation, shops, health facilities, and so forth. The research results are presented entirely in statistical format, with numerous bar graphs and charts, and the statistics repeated in the text. The lack of a straightforward narrative makes it difficult to sort out the primary results. It appears that based on material aspects of life (access to water, education, and similar measures) the most urbanized have the best living conditions (the "urban progress" of the title), while the peri-urban represent "urban problems," partly because they can see how far they have come from the rural alternative while they have a clear view of the huge gap between themselves and true "urban" dwellers. The "rural disadvantages" refers to the isolated and undeveloped conditions of the vast majority of rural dwellers, though her research is skewed by the better developed "village" of Massaca outside of Boane near Maputo.
Knauder does not include any stories from people who were interviewed, which might have given some life to the numbers. Some of the material, such as descriptions of housing with details on the type of floors and windows, number of rooms, total square footage, and so forth, does not lend itself to more narrative. But the chapters on social interactions with kin and neighbors, community involvement, and especially a chapter on "Satisfaction and depression" directly address how people felt. The questions inquired whether they were happy and content with their living conditions, and asked if they would say "I suffer a lot" or "I don't suffer" (over 95 percent replied yes, "I suffer," p. 201). Where are the individual stories of suffering that would inform the reader about urban and peri-urban residents' circumstances and how they perceived them? The absence of any African voices in this book robs Mozambicans of their own agency in dealing with their conditions. They appear to be entirely at the mercy of "globalization," which she conceives of in general terms as "the underlying world-wide process in which the North wins and the developing world loses" (p. 19). Many Mozambicans have made intense efforts to survive and to improve their situation, but those efforts are not surveyed in this research.
Knauder gets sidetracked by issues that are peripheral or unimportant to the study itself. For instance, she is concerned with sharply demarcating the boundaries between urban, peri-urban, and rural, though many scholars now see a continuum, as family members may have connections in more than one sector. Many families live in peri-urban areas, where the women cultivate in urban gardens while the men work for a wage in the urban area. She does make a passing reference to the ruralization of the cities (p. 81), but this realization does not deter her from her desire to establish clear boundaries between each sector. Her definition of a city is a place where people are engaged in occupations "other than agriculture" (p. 25), though later she admits that many women perform urban agriculture. In a section on what policy steps should be taken to improve people's lives, she suggests that the government give more attention and funding to urban agriculture (pp. 255-258). Yet she never mentions either the extensive Green Zones projects already in place in both Maputo and Beira, nor the important role the woman-dominated General Union of Cooperatives (UGC) has had in supporting urban women farmers. If no survey respondent mentioned these organizations, and the questionnaire was unlikely to elicit such a comment, then these and other important factors in urban life are simply absent from the study.
The omission of such central topics indicates a more general problem with the treatment of women and gender in the book. For the most part gender issues are not separated out in the study, though both men and women were queried by the researchers, and each research team included a man and a woman. Heads of household are presumed to be male, though many female heads were discovered, and one chapter addresses that issue in a limited way: "We speak of a female household head only if an unmarried woman, single, separated, divorced, or widowed is leading the household. . . . there is actually no reason for assigning the headship of a married couple automatically to the man, except a tradition as old as mankind" (p. 157). Although they attempted to question the household head (male) and his first wife, the replies were not coded for the gender of the respondent. None of the categories are disaggregated by gender, making it difficult to learn about differences between male and female labor force participation, level of education, religious affiliation, and so forth. The household head approach results in the invisibility of women's experiences, as they are buried in the "black box" of household information.
Many of the problems with the readability of the book can be laid at the doorstep of Ashgate, a publisher that has not served Knauder well. There are grammatical, spelling, and editorial problems on every page, ranging from mismatched tenses and a lack of noun and verb agreement, to using "primate" instead of "primary" (p. 7) and "seized" for "ceased" (p. 114), as two examples from many. Even Barry Pinsky, whose work she cites, appears as Perry Pinsky in the bibliography, while others, such as Seavfors, cited on p. 6, simply do not show up in the bibliography at all. The lack of an index made it impossible to look for particular sets of information. These errors are distracting at the least, and the publisher must take some of the responsibility for allowing a book to be printed with no evidence of any editorial control. The myriad flaws in both content and style raise some serious questions about the direction of a publishing industry where many worthy books are searching for a home, yet Ashgate can publish a book that reads like a first draft. Knauder deserved an editor who would encourage her to focus her analysis and liven up the narrative, making her information more accessible to the readers she hoped to reach.
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Kathleen Sheldon. Review of Knauder, Stefanie, Globalization, Urban Progress, Urban Problems, Rural Disadvantages: Evidence from Mozambique.
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Copyright © 2001 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.