Holy Weddings, Unholy Marriages: Christian Spouses and Domestic Discords in Early Colonial Lesotho (Africa), 1870-1900

Dr Pule Phoofolo
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The compelling picture that emerges from the study is one of extreme instability of Christian marriages. Based on court depositions we find tensions and conflicts of unsuspected intensity, laying bare intriquing everyday facets of gender relations and marital life. Accusations of adultery, spousal violence, and various forms of mistreatment of wives, rampant desertions, run-away wives, and divorce were some of their dramatic manifestations. These testimonies of spouses, who allowed their conjugal relations to be dissected in the discursive space of the divorce court, shows how men and women struggled with each other and with the larger society to assert their autonomy, individuality, and relative power.

Keywords: African Gender Relations, Missionaries, Christianity, Mission Converts, Colonialism, Adultery Accusations, Spousal Violence, Spousal Desertions, Divorce, Infidelity, Court Depositions, Women Autonomy
Stream: History, Historiography, Sexuality, Gender, Families
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Pule Phoofolo

Senior Lecturer, History Department, Walter SiSulu University
Mthatha, Eastern Cape, South Africa

My main interests are in the social history of disease and epidemics, gender, masculinities and family history. Have published on the Great African Rinderpest Panzootic, 1889-1899 in Past and Present and in Journal of Southern African Studies. Have also published on female extramarital relations in colonial South Africa in Journal of family History.

Ref: H06P0511