Ethnology: An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology, Vol 50, No 2 (2011)

CELEBRATING DISTINCTIONS: COMMON AND CONSPICUOUS WEDDINGS IN RURAL NAMIBIA

Julia Pauli

Abstract


In many parts of southern Africa, weddings have become expensive, blending local ritual practices with Western middle-class consumption habits. Ethnographic fieldwork in the Fransfontein region of northwest Namibia indicates that the transformations in wedding consumption are linked to social class formation. Until the 1970s, wedding celebrations in Fransfontein were relatively modest affairs. With the establishment of new bureaucracies and the emergence of localized elites at the end of the 1970s, wedding celebrations gradually developed into costly celebrations of class distinction. An important outcome of this is that it has become increasingly more difficult for most people to marry; consequently, marriage rates have substantially declined.

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