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Róheim, G. (1944). Married Life in an African Tribe: By I. Schapera. (With a foreword by Professor Malinowski). New York: Sheridan House, Inc., 1941. 364 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 13:114-115.

(1944). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 13:114-115

Married Life in an African Tribe: By I. Schapera. (With a foreword by Professor Malinowski). New York: Sheridan House, Inc., 1941. 364 pp.

Review by:
Géza Róheim

Professor Schapera of the University of Capetown gives us the result of fourteen months work among the Kgatla of the Bechuanaland Protectorate. This is not a study of a primitive culture. Quite apart from European contacts the mere size of the settlements (the Mochudi of eight thousand inhabitants p. 107) is something quite different from a primitive tribe.

In the elaborate set of customs introducing marriage, in the circumlocutions used for these customs, the student of European folklore will find himself in a familiar world. The series of formal matrimonial approaches are collectively called 'to seek'. At one phase of the negotiations a paternal uncle, accompanied by another member of the boy's family, is sent to the girl's father 'to beg for a calabash of water'. Several days after this proposal certain gifts are made to seal the betrothal. This is called 'the goods brought.' This is the girl's 'debt' or rather obligation because henceforth she is bound to the boy and must watch her conduct. The ceremonial appearance of the boy's parents unaccompanied by any other relatives is explained 'because procreation is the act of two people only'. Most important, however, is the bogadi, live-stock given by the boy's people to the girl's father. Early European observers interpreted this as the purchase money for the wife; modern anthropologists, including the author, put the same thing more euphemistically as the token or symbol of the bond. There is more to it, however. 'Theoretically it should always be even, each animal with its pair, to show that two people are being bound together.' Probably the linked couples of animals are symbols for the boy's parents and the symbolized primal scene, a magic prototype of the new union. Relatives enter very intimately into the life of a married couple.

Some features of this society are typical of many primitive groups. Thus for instance, the choice of the maternal uncle as father-in-law, and cross-cousin marriages. 'From an early age they are familiar with the nature of copulation and much of their play consists of games with a definitely sexual character. As they grow older they are given special instruction in matters of sex.

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