Polygyny emphasises the mother-children unit
Caldwell et al. should be credited for looking at polygyny like this—instead of the usual approach which pities the co-wives for competing with one another for the husband’s favours. In polygyny, according to Caldwell et al. and the sources to which they refer, “the economic unit is the woman and her children—and in contemporary society she is sufficiently economically independent that the dissolution of a marriage is not a financial disaster” (Caldwell et al. 1989:202). I have my doubts regarding the second half of the statement, and the authors do not offer any documentation; the economic situation of the divorced wife will depend a lot on the circumstances, and in patrilineal/patrilocal societies dissolution of a poly – gynous marriage may well be tough on the woman. Nevertheless, the observation regarding the daily life which is centred on the mother-children unit fits my experience, and it also fits into the lines of Ifi Amadiume’s thinking, which places a
By training I am a sociologist, not an anthropologist; I have conducted ‘anthropologocal’ fieldwork, however, in northern Mozambique.