Negotiating Socio-Cultural Traditions and Economics Under Globalization: “Marriage Settlements” in African Bantu Communities
The practice of making payments before, in exchange of, during or after the marriage of an individual, especially women, in traditional weddings or formal marriages, is generally characterized as marriage settlement, consisting of dowry and bride-wealth. In the past, determination of the amount, schedule, and the acceptance of payment of marriage settlement was considered a way of cementing relations between families and often communities, bestowing stature depending on the amount. These payments were thought to primarily serve as “appreciation” towards the bride’s family, but also served the function of insurance in the event of the loss of the husband; a means of providing for the widow and surviving children. In some agrarian communities, they were also seen as a way of compensating the bride’s family for loss of labor. The advent of western contact with African countries for the most part had no effect on the payment of marriage settlements, despite families entering new economic and production activities. Why did the payment of marriage settlements continue, despite the change in income-generating activities? In western society, the importance of marriage settlements gradually declined with industrialization: a comparative trajectory should be expected amongst rural, agrarian Bantu communities as they transition (ed) from pre-industrial societies. However, despite entering the globalized era and new social and economic models increasingly divorced from agrarian activities, marriage settlements and the attendant ceremonies continue to be a valued and prevalent cultural phenomenon. What explains continued attraction to and of marriage settlements even in this industrialized era? This research asserts that a) marriage settlements serve an economic rather than their hitherto cultural function; b) that daughters are a wealth and heritage transmission mechanism, and c) that globalization has only affected the form, not the philosophy of marriage settlements. Marriage settlement is a culturally-informed, significant residual constraint to women economic empowerment within (re)production economic structures. These structures facilitate women disenfranchisement through class, gender and socio-cultural and traditions.
Stephen M. Magu,
Negotiating Socio-Cultural Traditions and Economics Under Globalization: “Marriage Settlements” in African Bantu Communities, Journal of Business and Economic Development.
Vol. 2, No. 2,
2017, pp. 107-115.
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