The panel examines current bridewealth practices from the perspective of identity. Across a wide range of societies, we focus on bridewealth in relations to socio-economic, and political transformations. It emphasizes the meaning of bridewealth for people involved in bridewealth transactions.
Bridewealth is a topic of longstanding interest within the discipline of anthropology; a sizeable canon discusses bridewealth in relation to topics such as social reproduction, kinship, gift exchange, and the traffic in women under conditions of patriarchy. Much of this work has approached the topic from a relatively 'wide' lens, querying what is accomplished through bridewealth exchange and what underlying societal values and relations are sustained and produced through bridewealth negotiations and transactions. With notable exceptions, women themselves have often been muted in such discussions despite their centrality for bridewealth tout court. Given the persistence of bridewealth across a range of societies, and now also in urban centers, in this panel we revisit the topic from the perspective of identity. How is bridewealth interpreted and experienced in contexts where more and more aspects of life are interpreted trough economic-rationalist principles? As social, economic, and political transformations continue to transform family, domesticity, and impetuses for marriage, childbearing, and reproduction, how can we account for the persistence of bridewealth? How have topics such as human rights and gender equality come to bear on people's experience of bridewealth? How is bridewealth being sustained or transformed through the dramatic increase in human migration in the era of globalization? Drawing on ethnographic research from a range of societies, this panel explores such questions, and others through analyses of contemporary bridewealth exchange Colleagues interested in these themes are welcome to contact us.