Marriage, kinship and childcare in the aftermath of AIDS: rethinking "orphanhood" in the South African lowveld

Isak Niehaus
2016 Anthropology Southern Africa  
In this article I consider the significance of marriage from the vantage point of children's affiliation to domestic units during the era of South Africa's AIDS pandemic. Drawing on multi-temporal fieldwork in Impalahoek, a village in the Bushbuckridge municipality of the South African Lowveld, I suggest that AIDS-related diseases and deaths have led to the further erosion of marriage, and to the greater absence of fathers in the lives of children. However, these changes have not precipitated a
more » ... not precipitated a crisis in childcare. A survey of 22 households shows that orphaned children are generally cared for by related adults, such as matrikin and older female siblings. These arrangements are a product of a long history of improvisations, necessitated by experiences of oscillating labour migration. Moreover, they are facilitated by a diffusion of parental obligations, which is a central tenet of Northern Sotho and Shangaan models of kinship. I argue that in an economy of high unemployment and dependence upon state instituted social security systems, marriage does not appear to be decisive to children's welfare.
doi:10.1080/23323256.2016.1243449 fatcat:b3rejmet2varbpkabsedy4y6aq