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Overview

Lecture by Julia Pauli: Neoliberalizing Namibian Marriages

02.11.2021, 18.30 Uhr
RW I - S 57

Abstract

How to become and stay happy is an important issue for many Namibian middle class couples. To achieve happiness, a satisfying marriage is perceived as crucial. Couples interviewed in 2015 and 2016 in the Namibian capital Windhoek emphasize how hard they work to have emotionally fulfilling marriages. They stress that when it comes to love and marriage, nothing should be taken for granted. Much of the couples’ thinking borrows from neoliberal constructions of the self. Ideas on how to improve oneself have become common since Namibia’s Independence in 1990 when Namibia’s former socialist liberation movement SWAPO turned into a capitalism embracing, all-time government. Advice on different techniques of self-formation is now readily available in stores, churches or fitness gyms. Supermarkets provide self-help literature on how to have a happy marriage by, for example, communicating successful. This neoliberalizing of marriage has far reaching social consequences. It devaluates other aspects of conjugality, especially kin alliances and economic security. Disseminating from urban middle class marriages, being happy in a relationship is increasingly becoming the ultimate goal of all types of conjugality. Building on recent work by Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz (2019), the paper explores how these new forms of managing intimate worlds shape wider social transformations. 

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