RWAR Seminar: ‘Marriage regimes from above and below’ – 15 August 2014



Marriage regimes from above and below: Preliminary thoughts based on South African research by Michael Yarbrough

  • Date: Friday, 15 August 2014
  • Time: 12h30 – 14h00 (light refreshments from 12h15)
  • Venue: All Africa House Seminar Room, All Africa House, Middle Campus, University of Cape Town


How does state marriage law shape understandings of marriage in everyday life, and vice versa? With both law and marriage forming fundamental structures of most every society, this question is profoundly important yet surprisingly understudied. South Africa presents an especially auspicious location for addressing this lack because, uniquely among the world’s jurisdictions, it has recently expanded its marriage laws for two major groups of people: those following African systems of customary law; and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender. Another expansion for Muslim marriage has been hard-fought for many years with as yet no resolution.

In this seminar, Michael Yarbrough will share insights learned from multiple years of comparative ethnographic research among people most directly affected by these marriage law expansions. The seminar will invite the audience to help think through the implications of his research for a broader re-theorising of marital recognition in state policy and everyday life. Highlighted themes will include the nature and limits of state law’s authority; articulations between the state and other marriage-recognising institutions; and consequences of all this for intersecting hierarchies of gender, sexuality, race, and class.

Michael W. Yarbrough is an interdisciplinary social scientist whose work focuses on the interplay between law, culture, and family. Holding a Ph.D. in sociology and a J.D. from Yale University, Yarbrough is currently an Assistant Professor of Law & Society in the Political Science Department at John Jay College, a campus of the City University of New York (CUNY), and a member of the Board of Directors for CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies. His work has received a Fulbright-Hays fellowship and been published in Social Politics, the Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, and Qualitative Sociology Review.

Click here for directions to Middle Campus.

Please RSVP to Jemima Thomas: Tel: 021 650 5906.

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