2010.11.01: Mali RPCV Bruce Whitehouse presents a different perspective of marriage

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Mali: Peace Corps Mali : Peace Corps Mali: Newest Stories: 2010.11.01: Mali RPCV Bruce Whitehouse presents a different perspective of marriage

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Mali RPCV Bruce Whitehouse presents a different perspective of marriage

Mali RPCV Bruce Whitehouse presents a different perspective of marriage

Even though men and women are waiting longer, they are still desperate to be in relationships. Unfortunately, infidelity is still rampant throughout the community. So the question at hand is whether polygamy is an impractical form of marriage in a chaotic society such as Bamako. "Unfortunately," Whitehouse said, "single women are destabilizing." According to the interviews of young women conducted by Covarrubias and Steinberg, women responded that it was better to be involved in a polygamist relationship than none at all because there was less pressure on the man if he wants to take another wife. "The white wedding symbolizes global modernity," Whitehouse said. The traditional ideal of marriage is shifting. The people of Bamako are concentrating on bringing in more western ideals of marriage. For example, white gowns have become a necessary component to the wedding, which is certainly not a custom tradition of Mali. "When asked where they learned about the Western weddings, the women said they got them from soap operas," Steinberg said. "There is a really high diversity of soap operas, so through limited exposure to western television they have adapted a similar mindset."

Mali RPCV Bruce Whitehouse presents a different perspective of marriage

Professor, students present a different perspective of marriage

By Loulou David

Issue date: 11/1/10 Section: News

In the small city of Bamako, Mali, the wedding season is the biggest holiday of the year. Young women and men grow up yearning to marry. However, marriage in Mali is quite different.

Bruce Whitehouse, assistant professor of anthropology, discussed his research on the politics of marriage and its change of Mali society, a country located in Northwest Africa last Tuesday.

Whitehouse first visited Africa on a Peace Corps volunteer trip in the late 1990's, later returning as an anthropologist. His observation of the Bamako civilization on one of his many trips was what brought this true interest of studying its "hybrid yet homogenized wedding practices."

Over this past summer, Whitehouse asked two undergraduate students, Sofia Covarrubias, '12, and Sarah Steinberg, '12, to accompany him on a expedition to Mali for one month to conduct research on marriage and wedding traditions in the city of Bamako.

The fellowship was funded by Lehigh's Center for Global Islamic Studies and Office of International Affairs.

Both students were chosen due to their expertise in the French language, Mali's official language.

"Professor Whitehouse knows Mali culture, so all our questions were answered," Steinberg said. "It was an incredible experience."

Mali, once a French colony has been a democracy since 1990. Although quickly modernizing, it is considered one of the poorest countries in the world.

It has a population of about 13 million people, and almost 90 percent is Islamic.

In Mali, polygamy is considered one of the most popular forms of marriage.

Although, Bamako, one of the largest cities, is still behind in their marital practices, they are still trying to modernize an underdeveloped African city.

Men are not willing to submit to monogamy, according to Whitehouse. Almost 30 percent of men end up in polygamist marriages. Almost half of all women live in polygamous marriages, making Mali one of the countries with the highest polygamy rates in the world.

A Muslim ruling allows a man to have up to four wives, which strengthens traditional Malian polygamy.

There are still young women who are looking to a different lifestyle, Whitehouse said. They are focusing more on their academic life and actually seeking out true love. Even the age of a married woman has increased dramatically, going from early teenage years to young adult.

Even though men and women are waiting longer, they are still desperate to be in relationships. Unfortunately, infidelity is still rampant throughout the community. So the question at hand is whether polygamy is an impractical form of marriage in a chaotic society such as Bamako.

"Unfortunately," Whitehouse said, "single women are destabilizing."

According to the interviews of young women conducted by Covarrubias and Steinberg, women responded that it was better to be involved in a polygamist relationship than none at all because there was less pressure on the man if he wants to take another wife.

"The white wedding symbolizes global modernity," Whitehouse said.

The traditional ideal of marriage is shifting. The people of Bamako are concentrating on bringing in more western ideals of marriage. For example, white gowns have become a necessary component to the wedding, which is certainly not a custom tradition of Mali.

"When asked where they learned about the Western weddings, the women said they got them from soap operas," Steinberg said. "There is a really high diversity of soap operas, so through limited exposure to western television they have adapted a similar mindset."

Both Whitehouse and the two students hope to continue their research on Mali's marital practices and want to recruit more students to help in the process.

The audience of students and professors reacted well to the two videos that were played and the question-and-answer forum following the speech.

"This speech was very inspiring," Stephanie Weinberg, '13 said. "As a political science major, the politics behind polygamist marriage is very intriguing, especially in an underdeveloped country like Mali."

She one-day hopes to either study aboard or is rewarded with an opportunity like this one.




Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: November, 2010; Peace Corps Mali; Directory of Mali RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Mali RPCVs; Marriage; Anthropology





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Story Source: Brown and White

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Mali; Marriage; Anthropology

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