Accepted Papers:

Who cares? Dealing with life after death of a spouse in Coastal Community, Tanzania  


Vendelin Simon Tarmo (University of Dar es salaam)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper examines how the elderly widows deal with the loss of their spouses in Coastal Community, Tanzania. The death not only marks loss of a spouse or an 'acquired intimacy' between the spouses but brings a new uncertainty by losing a conjugal relationship during old age.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on my ethnographic research in Rufiji, after an elderly woman becomes a widow, her fate depends on the ties she has during the life course. Being aware of the heterogeneity, this is particularly true for the sixty years plus elderly in this community with ageing population.

Since it is considered to be a shame and too old to establish a new conjugal relationship, consanguinal ties become a cushion for the later life. Interestingly, with younger people flowing to the urban areas and the elderly and women in particular being reluctant to join them, the sibling's reunion during old age becomes a trend. This means, after the funeral and mourning period is over; the elderly abandon her place of residence where she spent life with a deceased husband and re-join her sister or brother. She has to fit into the domains of either sister or brother in law, depending to whom she is relocating.

By focusing on life after death of a spouse, the paper enhances the discussion on the kinship ties and brings forth relations that emerge after death.

Panel W085
Mourning, intimacy and the special character of the conjugal relationship