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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Tradition and Domestic Struggle in the Courtroom: Customary Law and the Control of Women in Segregation-Era Natal
Author:McClendon, Thomas V.
Periodical:International Journal of African Historical Studies
Geographic terms:South Africa
Subjects:customary law
Development and Technology
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Ethnic and Race Relations
Law, Legal Issues, and Human Rights
Cultural Roles
Marital Relations and Nuptiality
Status of Women
Abstract:In the 1930s, African chiefs and elder men as well as the South African State were increasingly anxious about the control of African women. They were determined to make rural stability and traditionalism the firm foundation of a social order that was being undermined by rapid economic change. In rural Natal, male anxiety about the control of women was linked to social tensions arising from industrialization, increased migrancy, and reduced resources available to Africans in the countryside. While the patriarchal alliance of African men and the State used 'customary law' as a vehicle to refashion rural tradition and bring African women under control, women and other subalterns found, ironically, that white-staffed customary law courts sometimes provided an opportunity to escape rigid control, for instance by divorcing abusive or neglectful husbands. This article discusses domestic struggle over control through several cases of divorce and 'ukungena' (levirate) from rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa). The cases arose among Zulu-speaking Africans on white-owned farms in the Natal Midlands and the adjacent thornveld region. Notes, ref.