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“My happiest time” or “my saddest time”? The spatial and generational construction of marriage among youth in rural Malawi and Lesotho

Ansell, Nicola; Hajdu, Flora; van Blerk, Lorraine; Robson, Elsbeth

Authors

Nicola Ansell

Flora Hajdu

Lorraine van Blerk

Abstract

Marriage among African teenagers is currently a central focus of campaigns by UN agencies and international NGOs. Yet, marriage has received only limited attention from geographers and has largely escaped the attention of geographers of youth. In this paper we explore the relational geographies of age that underlie young people’s motivations for, and experiences of, marriage in two rural African settings with differing marriage practices: matrilocal southern Malawi and patrilocal Lesotho. We draw on participatory research activities and life history interviews conducted with 80 10-24-year-olds. While the young people’s attitudes and experiences were varied and complex, starkly different accounts emerged from the two settings. In particular, young women in Lesotho offered very negative assessments of marriage, while those in Malawi were very much more positive. Through these examples, we highlight how young people’s marriage choices and experiences are relationally produced. Decisions about whether, when and whom to marry reflect socially entrenched expectations concerning generational allocations of resources, labour and responsibilities, which intersect with contemporary social and economic processes including poverty, unemployment, land scarcity and AIDS. Experiences of marriage, too, are produced through practices that are spatially structured and contextually situated in relation to socio-economic conditions. Thus marriage, as a 'vital conjuncture' in young people's lives, plays a key role in the relational construction of individual lifecourses and in (re)constructing relationships of age, gender and, especially, generation.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jun 1, 2018
Journal Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Print ISSN 0020-2754
Electronic ISSN 1475-5661
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 2
Pages 184-199
Institution Citation Ansell, N., Hajdu, F., van Blerk, L., & Robson, E. (2018). “My happiest time” or “my saddest time”? The spatial and generational construction of marriage among youth in rural Malawi and Lesotho. Transactions - Institute of British Geographers, 43(2), 184-199. doi:10.1111/tran.12211
DOI https://doi.org/10.1111/tran.12211
Keywords Marriage, Southern Africa, Relationality, Lifecourse, Generation, Vital conjuncture
Publisher URL http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tran.12211/full
Copyright Statement This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Additional Information Copy of article first published in: Transactions of the institute of British geographers, 2017

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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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