Volltext: Anthropos, 68.1973

Leisure, Busywork, and Housekeeping 
clear trees and heavy bush in preparing new fields, and they also help in the 
harvest. But the entire agricultural activity of the men takes no more than 
ten days of the year. The women toil in the fields, while the men remain in the 
compound drinking palm wine and “putting story”. 
Kaberry does not mention the presence of any single woman, but she 
does describe the plight of the bachelor. The men said of him: “He works hard. 
Indeed he works almost as hard as a woman” (1952: 80)! 
The interdependence of the sexes appears at first unlikely from the 
division of labor (or leisure) which the Nsaw practice. However, Kaberry 
suggests that the diligence of the women has been overestimated. She writes: 
... a Nsaw woman devoted only about 53.1 % of the days of the year to farm work, 
enjoyed some 30.8 % in leisure, and lost about 16.1 % through personal illness or the care 
of sick relatives (1952: 144). 
On the other hand the heavy financial responsibilities of the men toward 
their families have been overlooked. Drinking wine and sociability are intrinsic 
to participation in the men’s clubs. These clubs act as a from of credit union 
which raises money for rotating hosts. This money is essential to the men in 
meeting larger expenses of the family. Men are active as traders and craftsmen, 
and participate in markets to a far greater extent than women. It is the men’s 
responsibility to provide their families with salt and oil and if possible with 
meat and fish, to provide clothes if the family is Christian, and to accumulate 
money for bride-price payments. In addition to meeting these financial obli 
gations through trade and the clubs, the men must provide material for house 
building; they engage in hunting and the raising of plantains, and in former 
times they gave military service to the Fon 2 . 
Thus although the Nsaw practice a division of labor which assigns 
subsistence activities almost entirely to women, women recognize their eco 
nomic dependence on men as readily as the men confirm their dependence on 
the agricultural labor of women. 
Another example of the uneven division of labor by sex is to be found 
in the description of the Rajputs of Khalapur given by Minturn and Hitch 
cock (1963). The major economic activity is plow cultivation of cash crops 
and of some subsistence crops. This work is performed entirely by men. The 
women of this caste group are confined to the courtyard, and observe the 
restrictions of purdah. Minturn and Hitchcock write: 
Most men wish to keep their wives in purdah, although it is a luxury, since to do 
this the men must do without their help in the fields and hire servants to help them run 
the house (1963: 240). 
2 Lanka (1967) suggests that among the Suyà of Central Brazil, the work of the 
women is solitary and its productivity is focused on the “elementary family”. The work 
of the men in this group is focused also on productivity for the communal household 
(maloca) and for the tribe. This arrangement, he felt, reflected the former arrangement of 
Suyà dwellings. Although the Suyà do not resemble the Nsaw in division of labor by sex, 
there is a similarity in the economic spheres in which the two sexes operate.


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