The preservation of indigenous accounting systems in a subaltern community

Kelum Jayasinghe, Dennis Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (SciVal)


The paper aims to examine how indigenous accounting practices are mobilised in the daily life of a subaltern community, and how and why the members of that community have managed to preserve such practices over time despite external pressures for change.

An ethno‐methodological field study is employed to produce a text that informs readers about the ways in which people engage in social accounting practices. It uses the concepts of structuration theory to understand how indigenous accounting systems are shaped by the interplay between the actions of agents and social structures.

The case study suggests that it is the strongly prevailing patronage based political system, as mobilised into the subaltern social structure, which makes individuals unable to change and exercise their agencies, and tends to “preserve” and “sustain” indigenous accounting systems. Social accounting is seen as the common language of the inhabitants in their everyday life, as sanctioned by the unique form of autonomy‐dependency relationship shaped by patronage politics.

Research limitations/implications
The findings imply that any form of rational transformations in indigenous accounting systems in local subaltern communities requires a phenomenological analysis of any prevailing and dominant patronage political systems.

This is the first empirical study that focuses on how and why local subaltern communities preserve their indigenous accounting practices over time. This contrasts with previous work that has focused on the presence or absence of accounting beyond work organisations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351 - 378
Number of pages28
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2009


  • Accounting
  • Communities
  • Developing countries
  • Political systems
  • Sri Lanka


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