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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Women, 'Elite Polygyny,' and Buganda State Formation
Author:Musisi, Nakanyike B.
Periodical:Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
Geographic term:Uganda
Buganda polity
Women's Issues
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Cultural Roles
Marital Relations and Nuptiality
Abstract:This historical examination of transformation in polygyny in the Buganda kingdom of Uganda is intended to accomplish two goals: first, to contribute to current debates on the relationships among State formation, women's status, and marriage forms in Africa; and second, to contribute to the ethnohistoric literature that situates women at the centre of the activities of State formation. Emphasizing 'elite polygyny', the article investigates the origin and development of polygyny in Buganda from the earliest time to 1900. The author uses the term 'elite polygyny' to refer to the 'grand polygyny' practiced by the political elite and characterized by the extravagance of having more than four wives, as compared with the more common 'small polygyny' involving only two or three wives. She shows how polygyny underwent changes at different stages of Buganda's development and how the social structures characteristic of family and marriage life were influenced by the political and economic underpinnings of the State. In highly stratified Buganda, 'elite polygyny' became an integral part of the process of class and State formation. Polygyny augmented both ascribed and achieved rank. 'Elite polygyny' thus must be understood in relation to the emergence, consolidation, and expansion of the Buganda State with the concomitant development of social inequality. Notes, ref.