Concerning distributive labour: Exploring the pragmatics of globalised interdependence

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The promotion of smallholder dairy farming in Rungwe District, Tanzania has been enormously successful, with the vast majority of households now in possession of productive dairy cows. This article compares supposedly traditional loans with self-help groups directly established by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that both reveal ‘big’ recipients rather than distributors of resources, and that those carrying out development activities often benefit most from them. Rather than advocating a moral judgement, the article suggests the value of thinking with and against the concept of distributive labour to explain the pragmatics of interdependent relations that are key to doing development. Detachment between beneficiary and donor is essential, and mediates salutary claims that distributive labour is a means to advocate for shared values about the distribution of wealth across the globe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-221
Number of pages17
JournalCritique of Anthropology
Issue number2
Early online date11 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Tanzania
  • dairy farming
  • development
  • distributive labour
  • embodied value
  • heifer-in-trust
  • wealth-in-people

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