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Ghost Marriage and the Cattle Trade among the Atuot of the Southern Sudan

  • John W. Burton

This essay attempts to interpret the apparent association between participation in the cattle trade of the Southern Sudan and the decreasing frequency of ghost marriage among the Atuot. The commentary on social change is peripheral to the analysis since this phenomenon is a constant rather than extraordinary social process. Arens (1976: 2) has recently emphasized the same point, adding ‘social change by its nature is a broad and ill-defined concept that cannot claim a distinct area of enquiry but rather allows for the choice of an infinite variety of areas for discussion.’ Because societies and cultures are products of historical processes they are likewise open and subject to perpetual change.

This study begins with a cursory discussion of recent Nilotic history followed by a summary description of the cattle trade. Certain forms of traditional Atuot marriage are then examined. In the conclusion, reference is drawn to data which support the assertion that involvement in this sector of the Sudanese economy directly influences the frequency of ghost marriage.

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Arens, W. 1976 ‘Introduction,’ in Arens, W. (ed.) A Century of Change in Eastern Africa. The Hague: Mouton.
Deng, F. M. 1972 The Dinka of the Sudan. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1939Nuer time-reckoning,’ Africa 12: 189216.
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1945 Some Aspects of Marriage and the Family among the Nuer. Lusaka: Rhodes- Livingstone Institute Paper II.
Gray, R. 1961 A History of the Southern Sudan. London: Oxford University Press.
Merton, R. 1968 Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.
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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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