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Title:Surviving change by changing violently: ukuthwala in South Africa's Eastern Cape province
Authors:Smit, W.J.
Notermans, CatrienISNI
Periodical:Anthropology Southern Africa (ISSN 2332-3264)
Geographic term:South Africa
cultural change
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/23323256.2015.1026367
Abstract: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 reveals 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 HIV/ AIDS pandemic. Concurrently, these survival strategies influence the way in which 'ukuthwala' is practiced, re-articulating an old tradition within modernity. Bibliogr., notes, sum. [Journal abstract]