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Term 2 Week 3: Marriage

This week we will examine the history of marriage in southern African societies. Marriage has been central to social and economic relations in southern Africa throughout our period of study, though marital relations and practices have not remained static. Our discussions will examine how understandings of marriage and marriage practices have changed over time, the impacts of colonialism and post-colonial neo-liberalism, and shifting understandings of bridewealth.

Core Reading

Adam Kuper, 'Traditions of kinship, marriage and bridewealth in southern Africa', Anthropology Southern Africa 40 (2017), pp. 267-280.

Nafisa Essop Sheik, 'Customs in Common: Marriage, Law and the Making of Difference in Colonial Natal', Gender and History, 29, 3 (2017), pp. 589-604.

Diana Jeater, Marriage, Perversion and Power: the Construction of Moral Discourse in Southern Rhodesia, 1894-1930 (Oxford, 1993), chapters 3 and 8. Ebook

Deborah James, 'Not marrying in South Africa: consumption, aspiration and the new middle class', Anthropology Southern Africa 40 (2017), pp. 1-14.

Seminar Questions

1. How did colonial policies impact marriage practices?

2. How have African marriage practices been shaped by class dynamics?

3. Why have marriage rates declined in recent decades in southern Africa?

4. What is the relationship between kinship, marriage and bridewealth in southern African societies and how has this changed over time?

Primary Sources

Examples of colonial ethnography on marriage can be found in A.R. Radcliffe-Brown and D. Forde (eds), African Systems of Kinship and Marriage (London, 1950) [see chapters by Schapera, Gluckmann and Richards]

Human Rights Watch, Ending Child Marriage in Africa: Opening the Door for Girls' Education, Health, and Freedom from Violence (2015).

Further Reading

Nicola Ansell, '"Because it's Our Culture!" (Re)negotiating the Meaning of Lobola in Southern African Secondary Schools', Journal of Southern African Studies, 27, 4 (2001), pp. 697-716.

A. R. Booth, '"European Courts Protect Women and Witches": Colonial Law Courts as Redistributors of Power in Swaziland 1920-1950’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 18 (1992), pp. 253-275.

Lene Bull Christiansen, '"Respectable Women" versus "Small Houses": Feminist Negotiations of Sexual Morality, Marriage and the Challenge of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe', Journal of Southern African Studies, 39, 3 (2013), pp. 511-526.

Annie Bunting, Benjamin N. Lawrance, Richard L. Roberts (eds), Marriage by Force?: Contestation over Consent and Coercion in Africa (Athens OH, 2016).

M. Channock, ‘Making Customary Law: Men, Women, and Courts in Colonial Northern Rhodesia’, in M. Hay and M. Wright (eds), African Women and the Law: Historical Perspectives (Boston, 1982), pp. 53-67.

Nafisa Essop Sheik, 'African Marriage Regulation and the Remaking of Gendered Authority in Colonial Natal, 1843–1875', African Studies Review, 57, 2 (2014), pp. 73-92

Deborah Gaitskell, 'Housewives, Maids or Mothers: Some Contradictions of Domesticity for Christian Women in Johannesburg, 1903–39', Journal of African History, 24, 2 (1983), pp. 241-256.

E.J. Krige, and J. Comaroff (eds), Essays on African Marriage in Southern Africa (Cape Town, 1981).

Adam Kuper, Wives for Cattle: Bridewealth and Marriage in Southern Africa (London, 1982)

Sarah M. Mathis, 'Disobedient Daughters? Changing Women's Roles in Rural Households in KwaZulu-Natal', Journal of Southern African Studies, 37, 4 (2011), pp. 831-848.

Elena Moore, 'Transmission and Change in South African Motherhood: Black Mothers in Three-Generational Cape Town Families', Journal of Southern African Studies, 39 1 (2013), pp. 151-170.

Julia Pauli & Francois Dawids, 'The struggle for marriage: elite and non-elite weddings in rural Namibia', Anthropology Southern Africa 40 (2017), pp. 15-28.

Julia Pauli & Rijk van Dijk, 'Marriage as an end or the end of marriage? Change and continuity in Southern African marriages', Anthropology Southern Africa 40 (2017), pp. 257-266.

Dorrit Posel and Stephanie Rudwick, 'Marriage and Bridewealth (Ilobolo) in Contemporary Zulu Society', African Studies Review 57, 2 (2014), pp. 51-72.

Elizabeth Schmidt, Peasants, Traders, & Wives: Shona Women in the History of Zimbabwe, 1870-1939 (Portsmouth NH, 1992).

David Shapiro and Tesfayi Gebreselassie, 'Marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa: Trends, Determinants, and Consequences', Population Research and Policy Review, 33, 2, Special Issue: First Union Patterns Around the World (2014), pp. 229-255.

Jacqueline Solway, '“Slow marriage”, “fast bogadi”: change and continuity in marriage in Botswana', Anthropology Southern Africa 40 (2017), pp. 309-322.