Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

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


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.


Alors que Michael Lambek situe l'exploration de l'importance de « l’éthique de l'ordinaire » au quotidien comme l’étude de « l'éthique dans la conjonction ou le mouvement entre des énonciations locales explicites et des pratiques locales implicites », cet article prend une position contraire en attirant l'attention sur des événements particuliers qui semblent faire intervenir (ou fournir un espace à) une éthique de l'extraordinaire. Ces événements particuliers et leur éthique de l'extraordinaire mettent en relief le caractère implicite de l'ordinaire dans l’éthique quotidienne. Au Botswana, les mariages sont des moments, dans la vie sociale de l'individu, de la famille et de la communauté, qui produisent une telle éthique de l’événement. Sur un plan, l’éthique de l’événement se rapporte à l'exécution de ces mariages hautement stylisés en termes de préoccupations concernant le déroulement et les arrangements conjugaux. Sur un autre plan, l’éthique de l’événement peut avoir des dimensions tacites qui relèvent de la nature particulière de l'occasion. Cet article soutient que l’« éthique de l'ordinaire » peut être privilégiée à travers l’étude de ce qui est tacite dans les interactions sociales, mais aussi que l’« éthique de l’événement » démontre également l'importance du tacite.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

J. Comaroff and J. L. Comaroff (1991) Of Revelation and Revolution. Vol. 1: Christianity, colonialism, and consciousness in South Africa. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.

J. Comaroff and S. Roberts (1977) ‘Marriage and extra-marital sexuality: the dialectics of legal change among the Kgatla’, Journal of African Law 21 (1): 99123.

T. Csordas (2013) ‘Morality as a cultural system?’, Current Anthropology 54 (5): 523–46.

J. Derrida (2007) ‘A certain impossible possibility of saying the event’, Critical Inquiry 33 (2): 441–61. Translated by G. Walker .

D. Fassin (2008) ‘Beyond good and evil? Questioning the anthropological discomfort with morals’, Anthropological Theory 8 (4): 333–44.

D. Fassin (2012) ‘Toward a critical moral anthropology’ in D. Fassin (ed.), A Companion to Moral Anthropology. Malden MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

D. Fassin (2014) ‘The ethical turn in anthropology: promises and uncertainties’, Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4 (1): 429–35.

J. D. Faubion (2011) An Anthropology of Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

W. Izzard (1985) ‘Migrants and mothers: case-studies from Botswana’, Journal of Southern African Studies 11 (2): 258–80.

M. Lempert (2013) ‘No ordinary ethics’, Anthropological Theory 13 (4): 370–93.

B. Meyer (1998) ‘“Make a complete break with the past.” Memory and post-colonial modernity in Ghanaian pentecostalist discourse’, Journal of Religion in Africa 28 (3): 316–49.

J. S. Solway (1990) ‘Affines and spouses, friends and lovers; the passing of polygyny in Botswana’, Journal of Anthropological Research 46 (1): 4166.

J. S. Solway (2016) ‘“Slow marriage”, “Fast bogadi”: change and continuity in marriage in Botswana’, Anthropology Southern Africa 39 (4): 309–22.

N. W. Townsend (1997) ‘Men, migration, and households in Botswana: an exploration of connections over time and space’, Journal of Southern African Studies 23 (3): 405–20.

R. van Dijk (2010) ‘Marriage, commodification and the romantic ethic in Botswana’ in M. Dekker and R. van Dijk (eds), Markets of Well-being: navigating health and healing in Africa. Leiden: Brill.

R. van Dijk (2012a) ‘The social cocktail: weddings and the innovative mixing of competences in Botswana’ in A. Leliveld , J.-B. Gewald and I. Pesa (eds), Transformation and Innovation in Africa. Leiden: Brill.

R. van Dijk (2012b) ‘A ritual connection: urban youth marrying in the village in Botswana’ in M. de Bruijn and R. van Dijk (eds), The Social Life of Connectivity in Africa. New York NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

R. van Dijk (2013) ‘Counselling and Pentecostal modalities of social engineering of relationships in Botswana’, Culture, Health and Sexuality 15 (4): S509S522.

R. van Dijk (2017) ‘The tent versus lobola: marriage, monetary intimacies, and the new face of responsibility in Botswana’, Anthropology Southern Africa 40 (1): 2941.

S. Vogel (2009) ‘By the light of what comes after: eventologies of the ordinary’, Women and Performance 19 (2): 247–60.

P. Werbner (2016) ‘Political prayer and the dignity of labour: Botswana's workers’ movement’, Anthropology Today 32 (1): 1418.

J. Zigon (2007) ‘Moral breakdown and ethical demand: a theoretical framework for an anthropology of moralities’, Anthropological Theory 7 (2): 131–50.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 6 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 69 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 21st July 2017 - 20th August 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.