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Divorce as Process, Botswana Style

Customary Courts, Gender Activism and Legal Pluralism in Historical Perspective

Pnina Werbner and Richard Werbner

This article aims to unravel the complex negotiations surrounding property settlements and custody in cases of divorce in customary courts in Botswana today in the light of an earlier legacy of penalising divorce initiators. It argues that women’s attempts to get their husbands to initiate divorce proceedings can entangle women in lengthy negotiations and ultimately frustrate the aim of achieving a divorce. Repeated court hearings can last for years, we show. At the same time, in Botswana’s statutory courts today, an equal division of property irrespective of the causes of marital breakdown has become established practice. In the article, we aim to show that customary laws regarding property settlement in divorce have indeed changed, gradually adjusting to notions of equity in women’s rights in marriage, in response to a wider ideological, critical movement, even though chiefs or headmen presiding over customary courts do not always explicitly acknowledge this change.

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A Case of Insult

Emotion, Law, and Witchcraft Accusations in a Botswana Village Customary Court

Pnina Werbner and Richard Werbner

Legal anthropologists have been latecomers in the debate surrounding law and emotion, a movement responding to the notion that the law is ‘imbued with emotion’. As in the US and Europe, in Botswana cases of public insults are emotionally charged, and this is particularly so in witchcraft insult hearings. Akin to hate crimes, these insults threaten public peace, kinship amity, and decency. Members of a customary court mobilize an elaborate moral lexicon from everyday life in order not simply to ascertain the forensic facts, but to persuade offenders to regain their rational good sense, reach a self-conscious emotional balance, and recover spiritual calmness. The procedure culminates in a dialogue intended to restore public peace and to elicit an apology or show of regret from defendants and forgiveness from insulted plaintiffs.

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Cultural Research and Refugee Studies

New Knowledge, Methodologies, and Practical Implications—A Panel Commentary

Khalid Koser, Pnina Werbner and Ien Ang

Khalid Koser: I will focus particularly on the notion of future research directions … from a refugee studies perspective. I think what today’s workshop has confirmed to me, yet again, is the strength of anthropology in this whole area of refugee studies. There is no doubt that anthropology is one of the leading disciplines in the study of refugees … Anthropology and law have got refugee studies wrapped up, while other disciplines have not really made enough of a contribution to this area.

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Ien Ang, George Baca, Rohan Bastin, Jacob Copeman, Thomas Ernst, Jonathan Friedman, Kingsley Garbett, Diana Glazebrook, Greg Gow, Keith Hart, André Iteanu, Roger Just, Bruce Kapferer, Judith Kapferer, Khalid Koser, Neil Maclean, Jukka Siikala, Amy Stambach, Christopher C. Taylor, Pnina Werbner and Amanda Wise

Notes on Contributors