From Cutting to Fading

A Relational Perspective on Marriage Exchange and Sociality in Rural Gambia

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 University of Oslo tone.sommerfelt@fafo.no
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Based on 21 months of field research on the northern bank of the Gambia River, this study deals with ceremonial exchange and sociality among rural Wolof speakers. In exploring the procurement and distribution of bridal trousseaus, I examine the process of exchange that shapes and limits these potentially endless affinal networks and analyze the social forms that arise from these complex sets of transfers. It is argued that redistributions of objects and money do not establish definite boundaries around units based on categorical exclusion and inclusion, but rather gradual distinctions of social proximity. In effect, I question the appropriateness of the concept of the 'cutting' of networks in this West African setting, proposing instead that 'fading' paints a clearer picture of the particular ways in which affinal networks are limited and relationships are rendered recognizable.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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