Creating spaces for action. ANC-women politicians’ views on bridewealth and gender-related power

The first aim of this work has been to analyse and understand the ways in which a group of ANC-women politicians reason about bridewealth/lobola – an institution about which they express differing views, in particular about whether or not it is oppressive to women. The main body of the empirical material is based on 27 interviews conducted in South Africa in the period 1996-1998.One finding of the study is that there are explicit defining discourses on lobola as well as more implicitly expressed understandings. The explicit discourses make a distinction between ’good lobola’ – which is expressed in a family-related discourse as ’a bond between families’ – and ’bad lobola’ which is expressed in, for instance, an economic discourse about ’the purchase of women’. The family-related discourse is interpreted as part of a discursive strategy to create spaces for action with respect to relations of gender-related power. (Re)definitions of lobola may be used not only to counter men’s abuse of monetary lobola but also to counter ’traditional’ gender meanings associated with lobola…


Chapter 1 – Introduction
The aim of the study
An methodological journey
A theoretical journey partly guided by hidden motivations
The women interviewed
The analytical approach and its theoretical motivations
Gender- meanings and relations
Gender-related power
Discourse and discursive strategy
Actor and structure
Chapter 2 – Background
Women in the struggle for liberation
A brief historical overview
1980’s and 1990’s
The issue of ‘motherism’
Academic discourses on lobola
Functional discourses
A woman-centered approach
Materialistic discourses
An actor centered approach
Chapter 3 – Discursive strategies
To keep the true meaning of lobola
Good- and bad lobola
Gendered meanings, non-gendered meanings and gender-related power Us and them
Distinction making, individualisation and non-gendering – discursive strategies?
”It’s proof that he is the head of the house” – negotiating the meaning of
Good and bad lobola
”In the African tradition you must respect a man”
Making a space for action through discursive strategies?
Non-gendering as a strategy to make a space of action in relation to
gender-related power
”Personally, I don’t know what is African culture”: an ambivalent view
on lobola
“He cannot even say that he has bought me” – negotiating the meaning of lobola
Two discourses on lobola
Non-gendering – a strategy to counter male and family power
The man without responsibility – discursive strategies for independence
become constitutive of gender-related power
An economic discourse and a family-related discourse?
Women’s independence in exile
“The first one who paid lobola decided to beat me”
”I just don’t want to be tied down by that institution”
Non-gendering and individualisation as discursive strategies?
Individualising and essentialising identity and distinction-making as discursive strategies?
The man without responsibility
Final discussion
Chapter 4 –– A political discourse on lobola?
A political contextualisation of the women’s discourses
The personal is not political?
A political discourse on lobola?
The political discourse on lobola in the context of political pragmatism
Political contexts
Missionaries, anthropologists and colonial administrators
‘Culture’ – a political minefield
Customary law
The ‘imperialism’ of Western feminism
A discourse on lobola related to political contexts
Final discussion
Chapter 5 – Lobola in a socio-cultural context of gender- meanings and relations
Dealing with socio-cultural contexts in the process of interpretation
Lobola and the dichotomization of gender- meanings and relations
Violence and the dichotomization of sexuality
Dirty women and potent men
Violence against girls and women
Male violence against women
The power of families
The power of families and gender-related power
Lobola, gender-related power and men as actors
Lobola, gender-related power and socio-cultural change
Final discussion
Chapter 6 – From ‘doing gender’ to ‘doing what?’
A non-essentialising approach to gender
The sex/gender distinction and ‘doing gender’
‘Doing gender’ and gender-related power
Gender, gender-meanings and relations and gender-related power
Dichotomous and non-dichotomous gender-meanings and relations
A relational and contextual approach to agency and structure
A ‘relational’ break with agency and structure
A discourse on politics as a means to create a new identity and space for action in personal life
Agency and structure in the context of identity and relations
The economic discourse on lobola and socio-cultural structure
Dichotomous – and non-dichotomous gender relations and identities
Interviews 1996
Interviews 1998
Appendix 1– Method
The subject of study and its specification
The women interviewed
The interviews
Language and culture differences
Interviewing ’politicians’
The empirical material
The concrete interpretation of interviews
Transcription of interviews
Ethical considerations
Appendix 2 – Interview-guide

Author: Nilsson, Frida

Source: Uppsala University Library

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