1st Edition

Middle Class African Marriage A Family Study of Ghanaian Senior Civil Servants

By Christine Oppong Copyright 1981

    In the 1970s among peoples of the third world migration, paid employment, and urban living had caused changes in domestic economies, in decision making in households, and in the sexual division of labour and power. This was particularly so in areas formerly subjected to colonial domination and therefore the influence of European mores and institutions.

    This book, previously published in 1974 as Marriage Among a Matrilineal Elite, this edition in 1981, provides one of the few detailed accounts of such changes, by a writer who has lived the kind of life she describes, that of the urban educated Akan of Southern Ghana – people who have migrated from farming and fishing villages to Accra the capital to find employment in government institutions after protracted higher education, often overseas.

    The study is particularly interesting because it focuses upon people from an ethnic area practicing matrilineal descent and inheritance, in which women and men have traditionally both worked in agriculture: in which husbands and wives have customarily resided in separate houses, affording both sexes considerable autonomy as spouses and in which women have held important political offices, as well as sharing responsibilities for maintenance of dependent children. Akan women provide an important model of responsible energetic females, who have in the past and to some extent in the present, avoided the domestic trap of wifely dependence. But, as we read, the trap is open to those who forsake traditional patterns of economic endeavour or whose resources vis á vis their men folk are reduced.

    The book was also a significant contribution to the comparative sociology of the family at the time, providing an exercise in methodology in which the aim has been to evolve ways of documenting and comparing two major aspects of change in conjugal family relationships. On one hand, the division of labour, resources and power between spouses – the ‘jointness or segregation’ of the conjugal role relationship – and on the other, the extent to which the conjugal family is a functionally discrete unit in a number of domestic activity areas: in popular and ambiguous terms whether the family is ‘extended’ or ‘nuclear’. The use of sociological concepts developed in other areas of the world gives this book a significant position in the development of a cross culturally valid sociology of the family. The subject matter and conceptual frameworks used here will thus be of interest to sociologists, economists and anthropologists in general and to specialists in African and Black studies, Women’s Studies and Sex Roles in particular, as well as to the male and female feminists around the world.

    List of Tables.  Foreword by Professor Meyer Fortes.  Acknowledgement.  Map.  Preface.  1. The Problem  2. Custom and Innovation  3. Government Servants and Kinsmen  4. The Allocation of Resources  5. Power and Decision-Making  6. Tension and Change.  Appendix: Questionnaire, Indices.  Select Akan Bibliography.  General Bibliography.  Select Recent Bibliography.  Index.


    Christine Oppong