Accepted paper:

Women, Space and Power : understanding the dynamics of Ukuthwala (bride abduction) in South Africa

Author:

Thatshisiwe Ndlovu (Public Affairs Research Institute )

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the ways in which the ukuthwala custom (bride abduction) in South Africa is a marriage custom where culture is highly contested with women's bodies as the sites of struggle. The paper argues that contestations over culture are gendered.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the ways in which the ukuthwala custom (bride abduction) in South Africa is a marriage custom where culture is highly contested with women's bodies as the sites of struggle. The paper argues that contestations over culture are gendered, female bodies are the sites of these contestations. The paper questions who sanctions the custom and why and highlights the major players in the defining of the struggle. With the realization that women are not silent victims, the paper explores the ways in which resistance is incorporated into the everyday lives of women, theorising the nature of women's every day resistance in long running social conflicts. Drawing from life history narratives of "thwalaed" women's lived experiences, the paper examines the following critical points, first how do black women's dynamic positions shape their possibilities for negotiation and resistance, secondly, what are the strategies women employ to resist the imposition of these dehumanizing practices. As it's mainstay the paper emphasises that these women's resistance is not concerned with large scale protests or overt activism, rather it depends on daily subtle resistance (Scott, 1986).The paper is based on a year of ethnographic study in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. The central focus for the study was Engcobo area where the accused in a landmark case ruling that criminalised ukuthwala came from.

panel Anth33
Intimate relationships, marriage, and social change in southern Africa