Introducing ISM in Africa. The concept of institutional social mobility in the anthropological study of marriage in Botswana

Seminar date: 
09 December 2008
Speaker(s): Rijk van Dijk

By looking at current developments in the institution of marriage in Botswana, we can ask if and to what extent such an institution can be the subject of social mobility. Due to rising costs, more elaborate wedding rituals and a moral emphasis being placed on marriage (and fidelity) in an HIV/AIDS-ridden society, the institution of marriage is increasingly becoming a matter for the (upper-) middle classes only. 
Since Sorokin (1927) introduced the concept of social mobility in a study of industrialized western societies in the late 1920s, the concept appears to have undergone few changes. It has been predominantly applied to the study of how individual actors move through a system that is marked by social stratification, and that in sociological terms is identified by specific labour and class positions. This paper considers whether institutions (such as marriage) as well as individuals move up and down the social ladder, and what the causative factors are for this process to be happening in Botswana today.