Accepted Paper:

'Starting is hard': beginning a family and becoming a man in rural Malawi  


Daniel Wroe

Paper short abstract:

Based on an ethnographic case study from a rural Malawian village, this paper explores how intergenerational relationships provide opportunities for young men to escape 'waithood', specifically where an older generation has been through a comparable life stage.

Paper long abstract:

Young men in Africa have been described living in 'waithood', denied opportunities to attain adulthood, socially defined. Not passive, these young men transform the conditions of their 'waithood' and seek to escape it. Based on an ethnographic case study of the elopement of a young man and women in a rural Malawian village, the paper emphasises the opportunities intergenerational relationships provide for young men in rural areas to challenge social and economic inequalities and assert a position at the centre of local political life. In a context where young people frequently migrate to urban areas, middle-aged and elderly people's fears about their care in the future are an impetus for their support of younger men. Elders' recollections of their own times of 'waithood' also make moral critiques of young men's situations difficult to sustain. This second point raises an important analytical question about what it might mean to be entering an era where there are now two generations that have experienced comparable times of 'waithood'.

Panel L01
The dynamics of youth inequalities: aspirations, agency and multidimensional poverty (Paper)