Surviving change by changing violently: Ukuthwala in South Africa's Eastern Cape province
SourceAnthropology Southern Africa, 38, 1-2, (2015), pp. 29-46
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ RSCR CAOS
Anthropology Southern Africa
SubjectAnthropology and Development Studies
During the last decade a comeback of the apparently extinct marriage practice called ukuthwala has been noted and has found much attention in the South African media. It has been raised as a particular concern that, apparently, ukuthwala increasingly entails the abduction and rape of underage girls as a precursor to marriage. This article aims to illustrate why this alleged "cultural throwback" occurs as the result of national socio-cultural, legal and economic processes in South Africa. Operationalising the concepts of policulturalism and Afromodernity as suggested by Comaroff and Comaroff (2012), ethnographic fieldwork revealed that local communities are establishing new autonomous identities, set against the Constitution's ideal of human rights, through the revival and change of customary practices. These revived customs are then employed as survival strategies to combat new economic challenges and the IIIV/AIDS pandemic. Concurrently, these survival strategies influence the way in which ukuthwala is practiced, re-articulating an old tradition within modernity.
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