Introduction, In The Meaning of Marriage Payments

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Editors: John L Comaroff

Publisher City: London, New York

Prestations on the occasion of marriage are commonly exchanged in African societies, past and present. Anthropologists have analyzed these exchanges – often misnamed “bride price – from a number of different theoretical perspectives, stressing the rights and duties conveyed by them, their social, political, and economic implications, and their structural effects. This essay reviews, critically, those received anthropological approaches to marriage prestations, but goes on to ask what they actually mean to those involved in them, what vernacular messages might they carry, how do we make sense of them both as material and meaningful cultural practices.

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