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Accepted Paper:

A marital modernity? Exploring new relational techniques in Botswana  
Rijk van Dijk (African Studies Centre Leiden)

Paper short abstract:

In Botswana new relational techniques including counseling, romance, testing and shared economic projects shape a marital break with the past. This paper explores how these techniques are informing a counter-cultural critique, voiced by members of the younger generation in the country in particular.

Paper long abstract:

While in the study of marital relations in Africa modern changes are often understood as permutations of an older marital history, this paper aims for a perspective in which the significance of discontinuities for the forming of relationships by a younger generation is taken as the paradigmatic point of departure. In Botswana, many are concerned with a re-thinking of the nature and quality of intimate relationships. This process is related to: a booming and blossoming economy, a rise of educated middle classes, an emergent fascination for a romantic and global styling of marriage and weddings, and a concern with techniques of the self that transpire in an increasing reliance on (professional, commercial or church-based) marital counseling. Combining a self-styling of relationships and an increasing control over the marital process, the younger generation manages to voice a counter-cultural critique, often focused on how the elderly generation perceives of certain marital ideologies and practices. Yet, more than 'just' a generational break, this paper explores how within the younger generation itself this (re-)forming of their relationships is leading to divergence. The discontinuities, which the new relational techniques are introducing, are thus multifaceted. The marital modernity addresses different contestations at the same time; the past and the present, the old and the young, the more- and the less-privileged, and the more or the less informed by the relational techniques that have become available. Based on empirical research, this divergence is at the heart of the paper's exploration of marital arrangements in Botswana today.

Panel P018
Rethinking marriage: exchange and emotion in comparative perspective
  Session 1