‘At least I am married’

Muslim–Christian marriage and gender in southwest Nigeria

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Author:
Insa Nolte University of Birmingham m.i.nolte@bham.ac.uk

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This article explores religious coexistence among the Yoruba of southwest Nigeria. It focuses on interfaith marriages, frequent especially between Muslim men and Christian women, as a practice that brings Islam and Christianity into a mutually productive relationship. The article explores the tension between the general understanding that interfaith marriage is a positive anchor of Muslim–Christian relations and the widespread individual scepticism towards such marriages. Rooted in distinct discourses, Muslim and Christian attitudes to interfaith marriage have undergone changes along different trajectories since the 1980s. At the same time, they share a ‘family resemblance’ because members of both religions emphasise the importance of marriage and its unequally gendered nature. The unequal and asymmetric relationships between the two religions constitute part of a wider religious field, where the shared belief in the importance of conjugality is central to the gendered social order. Thus, even though Muslim–Christian marriages are often understood as problematic, they are still seen as less problematic than the failure to marry.

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