Event ethics and their elasticity: weddings in Botswana and the exploration of the tacit extraordinary

This is a chapter by ASCL senior researcher Rijk van Dijk in the special issue of the journal Africa: Ethical Fields in Africa. Whereas Michael Lambek situates the exploration of the significance of ‘ordinary ethics’ in the everyday as the study of ‘the ethical in the conjunction or movement between explicit local pronouncements and implicit local practices and circumstances’, this article takes the opposite view by drawing attention to special events that appear to engage – or provide space for – extraordinary ethics. Special events and their extraordinary ethics bring into relief the implicitness of the ordinary in everyday ethics. Weddings in Botswana are moments in the social life of the individual, the family and the community that produce such event ethics. On one level, the event ethics relate to the execution of these highly stylized weddings in terms of concerns about their performance and marital arrangements. On another level, the event ethics can have tacit dimensions that belong to the special nature of the occasion. This article argues not only that ‘ordinary ethics’ may be privileged through the study of what is tacit in social interactions, but that ‘event ethics’ also demonstrate the importance of the tacit.

Read more about this article.

Africa, Volume 87, Issue 3, September 2017, pp. 462-478.

Author(s) / editor(s)

Rijk van Dijk

About the author(s) / editor(s)

Prof. Rijk van Dijk is a senior researcher at the African Studies Centre Leiden. He co-edited The Quest for Fruition through Ngoma (2000) and The Social Life of Connectivity in Africa (2012). His current research is on Pentecostalism, consumerism and marriage in Botswana.

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