Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Sisters and marriage in Shona society, Zimbabwe  


Andrea Mester (University of Bayreuth)

Paper short abstract:

I want to talk about how sisters influence in marriage became incorporated in the construction of the patrilineage in colonial Shona society.

Paper long abstract:

The authority of sisters in marriage negotiations, marital conflict and general family matters was never recognised in customary law nor has it found the detailed recognition in anthropological discourse it deserves. Research shows that sisters still today take in active interest in their brothers marriage. In many cases they even have the final say when it comes to distributing an inheritance within the semi-autonomous field of the family. Acting as advocates of their natal families they often display rather suppressive attitudes vis-à-vis their brothers wives. Only few hints in anthropological writing indicate, that the wife's sister had a similar position of authority when it came to settle marital conflicts in early colonial Shona society. In interviews I conducted with old women they even maintain, that the wife's sister held a higher bargaining position vis-à-vis a husband's sister. But her influence seems to have vanished almost completely.

My paper will look into the process of disappearance of matrilateral influence in marriage and the incorporation of sisters bargaining positions into a lineal structure.

Panel W067
Brother- and sisterhood in anthropological perspective