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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/7agr-1235

technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

More or Less Similar: Class-Based Continuities and Ruptures of Kin Relations in Namibian Marriages



immigration and diasporas

kinship and families

Until the end of apartheid in 1990, class mobility was severely restricted for most Namibians. Only very few families had the possibility to hold elite positions in the so-called ‘homelands’. In post-apartheid Namibia, new educational and occupational opportunities have stimulated the growth of a black middle class, leading to more class heterogeneity within kin groups. Depending on one’s class position, kin relations might be experienced as supportive resources or never-ending burdens. During weddings, these class tensions become especially visible. Based on long-term fieldwork in rural and urban Namibia since 2003, I analyze the influence of class on two weddings. Bride and groom of the first wedding had moved up the social ladder, living comfortable urban middle class lives, while most of their rural kin remained impoverished. Nevertheless, the couple expected that kin would support the facilitation of their wedding in the rural hometown. Instead, kin withdrew from the wedding, emphasizing differences and ‘growing apart’. In contrast, kin supported the rural wedding of the second couple. Like the first couple, bride and groom belonged to the urban middle class. Contrary to the first couple, however, their rural kin groups had already been part of the pre-independence elite. Not class mobility and an increase in class heterogeneity but class similarity and continuity framed the couple’s interaction with their kin. This indicates that in class homogeneous families, especially long-term elite families, kinship strengthens class reproduction. In emergent multi-class families, however, kinship is more conflict-laden, possibly even hindering class consolidation.


Transcript English (automatic)

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