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Accepted Paper:

Young women, infrastructures of intimacy and delayed marriage in Yaounde, Cameroon  
Ewa Majczak (London School of Economics)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how young urban women living in Yaoundé search for a suitable marriage candidate. I show how such searches constitute an exhausting and daunting enterprise requiring resources and amounts of work that can lead to a love-burn-out.

Paper long abstract:

Young urban women living in Yaoundé, Cameroon consider marriage with a suitable male candidate of their choice an important goal in their lives. Yet in the post-Cold war context securing a suitable candidate has become increasingly difficult. Due to, amongst others, ongoing economic decay, intense migration and high unemployment rates, suitable candidates have become scarce and harder to catch. Persistent in their endeavors, young women recourse to multiple means in view of finding a candidate. These means involve both networks of kin and peers as well as digital social networks at home and abroad. These are considered not alternative but complementary means to increase chances of securing a suitable candidate - ensuring young women’s wealth in prospects.

This paper traces changing political economy of marriage in urban Cameroon across two generations. I show how in contemporary Cameroon the complementary infrastructures of intimacy required to keep one’s options open involve an increased amount of resources and work – emotional, economic and social - if searching for a suitable marriage candidate is to be maintained. Young women find such work exhausting and daunting enterprise that can lead to a love burn out. Thus, the work invested in these enterprises could at times limit what it was meant to produce. While their mothers’ generation had rejected “traditional” marriage (Goheen 1996), the young women living in post-Cold war Cameroon while desiring marriage were unwillingly led to delay it and questioned whether it would happen at all.

Panel P025a
The Hope of Marriage: Transforming Intimate Worlds and Social Futures I
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -