Year: 2004
Working paper number: 067
Author: Russell, Margo
Unit: SSU

Households can be taken for granted in the West because the nuclear family system with its bilateral descent ensures a fairly standard pattern of co-residence, with predictable patterns of pooling resources. In contemporary southern Africa, the tradition of patrilineal descent entails a much wider set of options for co-residence as relatives disperse to make a living in the new global economy. The agnatic idiom continues to give coherence to volatile contingent Black households. The paper traces the distinctive historical roots of Western and African households and argues against the assumption that black South Africans are engaged in some sort of transition to a Western pattern. 

Publication file: wp67.pdf