Marriage as an end or the end of marriage? Change and continuity in Southern African marriages

DOI: 10.1080/23323256.2016.1243451
Author(s): Julia PauliInstitute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Germany, Rijk van DijkAfrican Studies Centre, The Netherlands


Marriage used to be widespread and common throughout Southern Africa. However, over the past decades marriage rates have substantially declined in the whole region. Marriage has changed from a universal rite of passage into a conspicuous celebration of middle class lifestyles. Bridewealth or lobola remains important and is supplemented by a plethora of new rituals and expenditures. Yet, despite marriage's recent turn towards exclusivity, the institution nevertheless continues to be an important frame of reference for most people. The contributions in this special issue explore reconfigurations of marriages and weddings in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia through the last decades. While there are numerous anthropological studies on marriage in Southern Africa for the period up to the 1980s, a remarkable paucity of studies has to be noted for the time since then. The ethnographic and comparative findings on Southern African weddings and marriages compiled in this special issue pick up an important anthropological legacy and stimulate future research and theorising.

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