SOMETHING GOOD BUT NOTHING TO BE PROUD OF : Inheritance and Succession Practices, and Sociopolitical Stakes in Times of Decentralization in Marracuene, Mozambique

Sammanfattning: This ethnographic study focuses on inheritance and succession practices and sociopolitical stakes in present-day Marracuene in southern Mozambique. It explores how in contexts of rapid economic, social, cultural and political change, individuals, social actors and institutions deal with inheritance and succession rights, both when the property holders and incumbents are still alive and after they have passed away. Besides exploring legal processes, this study approaches inheritance and succession as social, cultural, economic and political processes.The study is based on twelve months of fieldwork, and, to a lesser extent, archival research. It focuses on inheritance and succession through five entry points. First, the study looks at how people deal with inheritance and succession rights pertaining to their own life situation. Second, it explores cultural understandings, as well as different strategies and arguments mobilized to secure and safeguard inheritance and succession rights. Third, the study investigates how individuals anticipate what is going to happen with inheritance and succession after their passing. Fourth, it explores how in global, national and local arenas rights and interests of traditionally weak social actors, such as widows and orphans, are defended and protected from disinheritance and dispossession. Fifth, the study analyses the extent to which local inheritance and succession practices relate to, and are influenced by, ongoing sociopolitical transformations, such as decentralization and urbanization, in Marracuene.Ethnographically, the study describes and analyzes actual inheritance and succession practices and strategies of individuals, kin groups and various sociopolitical institutions. The study furthermore describes and analyzes local politics, notably in relation to decentralization processes, so as to analyze the practical implications of the fact that chieftaincy and other community-based positions are nowadays defined as “community authorities,” according to the Mozambican state law.  The findings show that there are general principles of inheritance and succession: a man is supposed to transfer inheritance to his wife and children and to be succeeded by his eldest child. However, such principles are often overruled, which can lead to disinheritance and dispossession of widows and orphans. The actual inheritance and succession practices result from a combination of factors. They include the economic and cultural values of the properties and positions in question (and the ways through which they were acquired), the power and authority of the actors, the power relations between different social actors involved in each case, the normative orders referred to and their interpretation and practical implementation, and the institutions involved in the process of decision-making. Overall, people have different understandings of inheritance and succession that furthermore more influence practices. In a local context of legal pluralism, individuals and groups tend to combine different normative orders and practices to claim and secure their rights, or to protect themselves whenever their rights are questioned. Through detailed ethnographic descriptions, the study demonstrates that inheritance and succession are complex processes and depend on economic, social, cultural and political factors at play in specific circumstances.