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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Mr Seamus Murphy

BA Sociology (UCD), BA Information Studies (UCD), MA Social Anthropology of Development (SOAS), MPhil Res (SOAS)


Seamus Murphy
Mr Seamus Murphy
Email address:
Thesis title:
'Power, Development Discourses, and Food Security; the changing entitlements of Lake Chilwa’s resource-users'.
Internal Supervisors


Interests in the impact of development paradigms on the food security of southern Malawi's populations, with particular focus on natural resource management policies.

PhD Research

This ongoing research focuses on the populations surrounding Lake Chilwa in Southern Malawi. Examining the agricultural practices of lake-shore households, mobility of trade throughout the region, and mobility of seasonal migrant fishers involved in the lake's fishery, this anthropological project seeks to understand the impact that significant economic changes are having on individual households and specific actors. In this endorheic environment of Lake Chilwa, which periodically passes through ecological cycles of lake recession, mobility between resources and connections between them are critical to food security. However, as Lake Chilwa enters its next major lake-recession, surrounding households struggle to cope with wider changes involving rapid urbanization, fishery modernization, and increasing commercialization of lake-shore agriculture and fish markets. Traditionally among these matrilineal communities, 'sorority groups' have sustained control over agricultural production of important food-crops. In these circumstances, dialectic relations between affinal males and matrilineal kin-groups have been fundamental to household food supply. However, economic change has impacted on social structures, leading to marginalisation of certain households and specific actors. The rise of waged labour and cash-crop production in newly rented irrigation schemes place new pressures on household production. In these lake shore villages, where fish trade still exhibits remnants of traditional, in-kind, interactions, the emergence of cash and market economy has historically replaced an exchange economy constituted by complex spheres of exchange. Emerging issues in village and fishery-conflicts point towards an increasingly competitive ontology that is increasingly expressed in tales of sorcery. The entrenchment of general-purpose money systems along with economic pressure from growing urban markets mark the arrival of capital market arrangements that are rupturing important spheres of exchange and social relations that have traditionally existed around them.


Centre for Social Research, Malawi