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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Widow 'dispossession' in northern Namibian inheritance
Author:Gordon, Robert J.ISNI
Periodical:Anthropology Southern Africa
Geographic term:Namibia
law of inheritance
Abstract:'Asset stripping' is said to occur particularly in matrilineal societies when young widows are stripped of their late husband's possessions. Contrary to many scholars, who see asset stripping as a recent phenomenon and who believe that recent moves by traditional Owambo leaders in Namibia to protect widows are a product of enlightenment induced by contemporary human rights activism, this paper shows that asset stripping has deep historical roots and was a subject of contention even in the earliest mission accounts of over a century ago. Moreover, the historical records show that leaders, both traditional and Church, have long tried to improve the situation for widows, but have not achieved the success they desired. The relative failure of these legal innovations to protect widows is described and analysed. The problem is a structural one, exacerbated by recent State efforts at gender equity. Finally, given the historical and structural nature of the issue, questions are raised about the current proclivity to use rapid assessment techniques, which are liable to misrepresent the wider social reality. In this respect, widow dispossession stories can be seen as morality tales that stress the importance of proper kinship behaviour, especially on the part of the potential widow. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract, edited]