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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Sex in troubled times: moral panic, polyamory and freedom in north-west Namibia
Author:Van Wolputte, StevenISNI
Year:2016
Periodical:Anthropology Southern Africa (ISSN 2332-3264)
Volume:39
Issue:1
Pages:31-45
Language:English
Geographic term:Namibia
Subjects:Herero
Himba
marriage
sexuality
gender relations
Link:https://doi.org/10.1080/23323256.2016.1147967
Abstract:In Namibia, early missionaries among the Herero were intrigued by the important role of the matriclan, as it did not fit their ideals of a pastoral society. Despite their obsession with female sexuality, metonymically expressed in concerns over political organisation and kinship, female agency did not feature in their considerations. At first sight, contemporary public discourse on 'traditional' sexuality in north-western Namibia is characterised by an opposite tendency, informed by genuine and justified concerns over gender equality. However, by concentrating on exotic practices such as 'wife-swapping' and by embedding them in a normative and moralising discourse on marriage and sexuality, this discourse threatens to fall into the same trap as that of the erstwhile missionaries, namely of essentialising categories of gender and desire. This paper provides an ethnography of polyamorous practices in north-west Namibia, arguing they provide women with a great degree of freedom and space for agency. Women in present-day Namibia who engage in these polyamorous relationships thus find themselves in the paradox of having to choose between political emancipation and sexual liberty. Bibliogr., notes, sum. [Journal abstract]
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