Accepted Paper:

The modern woman's guide to success: uncertainty and class in cosmopolitan Maputo  


Ana Sofia Tillo (University of Oxford )

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper discusses the anxiety surrounding class identity for elite women in Maputo. Through the ethnography of a local bridal magazine, the paper explores how personal relationships became inseparable from the performance of class, anchored in the fantasy of inclusion in a global cosmopolitan hierarchy.

Paper long abstract:

The glossy cover of "Brides and Events: The modern woman's guide to success" stares at shoppers from the shelves of magazine stands in Maputo, Mozambique. Throughout the magazine's pages women of the elite and emerging urban middle class smile in white dresses and lace veils, all under the slogan "living their dreams".

More than offering a lens onto how distinction is performed amongst Maputo elites, this paper seeks to explore why their performance of class is inseparable from anxiety and the fantasy of cosmopolitanism, hence dealing with questions of uncertainty, status, self-representation and identity in the post-colony.

In a city where membership of an elite social class cannot be divorced from the influence of the FRELIMO ruling party, wedding celebrations have become a key locus for the negotiation of status. Women who cannot marry into the elite have found that marrying like the elite is the best next option for access to urban networks of prestige. Simultaneously members of the elite, often referred to locally and in the literature (Sumich) as the 'FRELIMO Family', experience the rise of the middle class with anxiety and deep concern that outsiders might permeate the confined boundaries of their close knit social group. On every page 'Brides& Events' magazine hints at the contours of the concept of success and the key sources of insecurity for elite women in Mozambique, coloring over their aspirations and anxieties with a soft shade of bridal white.

Panel IW006
Anxiety at the top (EN)