Accepted Paper:

Matrifocality in poverty and relocation: of social, mental and infra structures in Banda Aceh  

Author:

Silvia Vignato (Università Milano-Bicocca)

Paper short abstract:

In the paper I ask in what way and to what extent the structure of matrifocality copes with destructive episodes like the 2004 tsunami and a civil war in Aceh through the analysis of a very poor, diminished household and its evolution (2008-16).

Paper long abstract:

The story of a decaying house issued from an agency of Humanitarian Aid after Tsunami, of its symbolic value in a reconstructed landscape and of its transformation into the sign of poverty does not match the reconstruction of an inner "structure of feeling" such as the matrifocal attitude of the women and men inhabiting it.

The "mother" at the centre of this study embodied a powerful cultural creative alertness enabling great endurance when the fundamental material base of a household, the house, is unexpectedly washed away together with that material aspect of society that is the village.

She mobilized all her physical, mental, social and cultural assets and was allotted a house.

Marleni reconstructed an affective and meaningful matrifocal unit in that house, practiced an economic rationality based on her work as a cleaner and consciously raised her long displaced teen-aged daughter, Mimi, into the same emotional, economic and affective principles until she died, in 2012, of a sudden stroke, aged 43.

Mimi at 17 had to lead the household while the house was fast degradating until she, her father and brother faced sheer poverty. When she married, Mimi "brought her husband back" to that very house. Although she now says that she hates that decaying construction, Mimi says that a woman is like a house: she cannot collapse. That feeling of strength, of appropriatedness, of fulfilled duties as well as the newly found job make her say that in the decaying shack she now has "a good life".

Panel P141
Oikos: households, markets and nation