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Session Detail (parallel)

Panel 7: Bridewealth and the productive and reproductive autonomy of women in the Pacific


Christine Jourdan, Karen Sykes

Session presentation

Bridewealth is a conspicuous component of many marriages in the Pacific; it has been vital to both reproduction and reconfiguring Pacific environments. However, the society that it reproduces has changed, and especially the place of married and unmarried women in it. The contraints bridewealth has on women’s productive and reproductive autonomy in the contemporary Pacific begins with its definition, and how it is said to obligate women. Anthropologists since the mid-twentieth century analyzed bridewealth as an analogy for economy and cosmology, while mentioning the relationships of bridewealth to women’s autonomy as an ancillary issue. The analytic focus in the twenty-first century shifted to themes that were once captured only in the ethnographers’ peripheral vision. However, the ways Pacific women embrace bridewealth in ‘traditional marriage’, and use it to enable new social actions in both family and workplace is not fully understood. Possible topics include women’s health; child spacing and limits; divorces and child custody; gender relations; marital relationships, including relations with in-laws; and access to land, including women’s economic dependence or independence.

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