You are here

Friends for Life, Friends for Death

Cohorts and Consciousness among the Lunda-Ndembu
James A. Pritchett

BUY Cloth · 280 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813926247 · $55.00 · May 2007
BUY Paper · 280 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813926254 · $29.50 · Sep 2009

Breaking away from traditional ethnographic accounts often limited by theoretical frameworks and rhetorical styles, Friends for Life, Friends for Death offers an insider’s view into the day-to-day lives of a self-selected group of male friends within the Lunda-Ndembu society in northwestern Zambia. During his two decades of fieldwork in this region, James Pritchett followed a group of Lunda-Ndembu males, here called Amabwambu (the friends), revealing the importance of the clique both as a principal agent for receiving and interpreting information from and about the world and as a place where strategies could be hatched, tested, and applied. Viewing friendship, versus kinship, as a critical rather than peripheral element of the Lunda-Ndembu and other groups, the author offers new insights into the ways social structures are able to stay viable even in the face of radical change.


"This is a unique and fascinating book....I do not believe I have encountered, except perhaps in the work of Elizabeth Colson, a non-fiction work that better conveys the notion of what it is like in a corner of rural central Africa....Pritchett writes with grace and power. The photographs and thelusivee sidebars with Lusaka newspaper stories ca. 1959–1968 are welcome embellishments. The book would be useful in many types and levels of African studies courses, but its accessibility will also make it a fine introduction to rural Africa for the general reader."

International Journal of African Historical Studies

"Pritchett writes with clarity and élan. Even the occasional obligatory forays into theory are blessedly free of jargon. He is a born storyteller, perhaps part of the mutual attraction between him and his Lunda hosts. One imagines that even now he and his family are the subject of stories and skits around the fire--stories far more affectionate than those about the demon Patterson."

H-Net Reviews

"Using the lifestyles and memories of successive generations of Ndembu men, Pritchett writes this ambient social history in a wholly new space. The author maintains an ironic presence in the story and reminds us of contemporary national and international contexts, from Rhodesia to the present. This original and eminently readable study is recommended for all who have a serious interest in Africa.

Wyatt McGaffey, Haverford College

Creating a life—a daily round, a career, an ever-moving conversation, an ever-changing sense of mutuality, an ever-expanding notion of what inhabiting a periphery means—is the theme of this fine evocation of friendship amongst a group of mission educated young men in a rural Africa that has learned through experience and modern communications just how ‘back of beyond’ those lives are and will remain."

Jane Guyer, Johns Hopkins University

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books