Pro-Social Practice Amongst the Akamba of Eastern Kenya: An Alternative Volunteering Paradigm?

PhD Thesis

Munavu, Michael M. 2009. Pro-Social Practice Amongst the Akamba of Eastern Kenya: An Alternative Volunteering Paradigm? PhD Thesis University of East London School of Humanities and Social Sciences
AuthorsMunavu, Michael M.
TypePhD Thesis

The object of this thesis is the analysis of localised pro-social practices of the Akamba (Eastern Kenya). It explores how the social structures and values (socio-cultural organisation) inherent amongst the Akamba condition their 'helping practices'. Given that the relationship between these two phenomena, culture and pro-social practice, have not been analysed extensively, I develop a perspective and concept with which to launch the investigation. I adopt a conceptual framework shaped by my biography, previous research on volunteering and a commitment to local knowledge and practice.

This study is qualitative and uses community group, key informant and semistructured interviews and participant observation. The focus of the investigation is Machakos District (Eastern Province, Kenya). The ways in which the respondents from this locality (Akamba) view volunteering and self-help and the role of local socio-cultural organisation in conditioning these practices is analysed.

The thesis adopts an analytic framework based on volunteering as a 'universalised' concept. It then uses this framework as a prism through which to analyse localised
forms of pro-social practice. The study finds that the orms of pro-social practices and the factors that contribute to participation in them are conditioned by the
indigenous structures and values, inherent amongst the Akamba. Respondents participated in clan-based activities, collective work-parties, funeral ceremonies and formalised KRCS practice for various reasons. These included compulsion, reciprocity, and perceived opportunity, respectively.

In analysing the intersections between universalised notions of volunteering and the forms of self help identified in this study, differences emerge. The thesis concludes that, on the basis of these differences, the practices evident amongst the Akamba are distinct from practices typically conceived as "volunteering". An alternative model of volunteering (opportunity-based volunteering) is suggested, as is the appreciation of a
unique and distinctive form of localised helping practice (indigenous self help). The study therefore concludes that, in the case of Kenya, policies on volunteering may more accurately be perceived as policies on pro-social practices, in order to incorporate these different models of volunteering and self-help.

KeywordsCulture and pro-social practice; Socio-cultural organisation; Volunteering
Publication dates
PrintApr 2009
Publication process dates
Deposited07 Oct 2013
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