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The dynamics of bride price in Zimbabwe and the diaspora

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

My doctoral research examines different discourses on the practice of Bride Price. I explore the historic, cultural and traditional constructions of the practice and contrast these with feminist interpretations that see it as harmful. I then compare these discourses with how men and women today view the practice. Furthermore, I seek to understand if and how Bride Price intersects with gender. To what extent does it help to enforce unequal patterns of power that render women inferior and vulnerable to abuse? I do this by exploring contentious debates within and between the Zimbabweans in the diaspora (in Birmingham) and those at home (in both rural and urban settings). I examine questions of gender inequalities to elucidate how debates on African marriage were influenced by shifting ideas of urbanisation, migration and globalisation. Existing studies of African marriage focus on local macro-studies: my research is the first to place these questions within a transnational frame, examining perceptions and experiences of the practice across three different contexts. This represents an important original contribution to the scholarship and provides essential context for current debates.

This research consists of a literature review examining the current discourses on Bride Price. The literature review then informed the subsequent data collection. My findings reveal multiple contradictions. Many felt the practice is out-dated but still stated they would observe it, while others held to its centrality as an expression of cultural identity. Some supported feminist arguments that link the practice with gender inequalities. Clearly expectations around Bride Price have intensified with globalisation and migration. Diaspora Zimbabweans now face the highest Bride Price bill, with couples having to raise the money jointly. My analysis revealed that Bride Price intersects with religious beliefs on marriage which are in turn founded on patriarchal ideology that sees wives as the property of their husbands. As such my thesis supports feminist arguments that practices such as Bride Price are harmful and represent barriers to the empowerment of women.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateApr 2019

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ID: 14417427