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Going Home? Belonging and Burial in the Era of AIDS


In Eastern Uganda, a married woman should be buried at her husband's home, raising questions such as: which husband? were they really married? These questions become urgent when a woman dies at the home of her parents or brothers, a situation that has become increasingly common as women ill with AIDS seek care from their families of orientation. In Bunyole, the ways in which a woman ‘belongs’ to two different homes are brought out as discussions proceed about where she should be buried. This article uses accounts of cases where there was uncertainty about the burial site to show how people justify the choice of a ‘final home’. ‘Arguments of cultural rules’ are used to underwrite demands about bridewealth, while ‘arguments of affection’ are put forward in sympathy for women who needed care or were loved by children. The location of the grave provides a vantage point for looking at how home and marriage take on significance for women in distress. The explanations provide a window on the ways families reason about rights, obligation, virtue and compassion. They show the enduring importance of a woman's natal family; in the era of AIDS, mortally ill women are usually cared for by parents and siblings even though their corpses may be carried to a husband's home for burial.


Dans la partie orientale de l'Ouganda, la femme mariée doit être inhumée au domicile de son époux, ce qui soulève des questions du type: quel époux ? étaient-ils réellement mariés ? Ces questions deviennent pressantes lorsque la femme décède au domicile de ses parents ou de ses frères, ce qui arrive de plus en plus souvent car les femmes malades du SIDA s'en remettent à leur famille d'orientation pour prendre soin d'elles. Dans le comté de Bunyole, l'appartenance d'une femme à deux domiciles ressort dans les discussions visant à déterminer le lieu d'inhumation. Ce papier se sert de récits de cas dans lesquels existait une incertitude quant au lieu d'inhumation, pour montrer comment se justifie le choix du ≫dernier domicile≪. On avance d'un côté des ≫arguments de règles culturelles≪ pour appuyer des revendications portant sur le patrimoine de l'épouse, et de l'autre des ≫arguments d'affection≪ en marque de compassion pour des femmes en nécessité de soins ou aimées de leurs enfants. L'emplacement de la tombe fournit une fenêtre d'observation sur l'importance que prennent le domicile et le mariage pour les femmes en souffrance. Les explications nous éclairent sur le raisonnement des familles en matière de droits, d'obligations, de vertu et de compassion. Elles montrent l'importance durable de la famille natale de la femme; dans les cas de SIDA, ce sont généralement les parents et les frères et soeurs de la femme malade qui prennent soin d'elle, même si le corps peut ensuite être inhumé au domicile de l'époux.

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E. Maxine Ankrah . 1993. ‘The impact of HIV/AIDS on the family and other significant relationships: the African clan revisited’, AIDS Care 5 (1): 522.

N. Thomas Hakansson . 1994. ‘The detachability of women: gender and kinship in processes of socioeconomic change among the Gusii of Kenya’, American Ethnologist 21 (3): 516538.

N. Kaleeba , S. Kalibala , M. Kaseje , P. Ssebbanja , S. Anderson , E. Van Praag , G. Tembo , and E. Katabira . 1997. ‘Participatory evaluation of counselling, medical and social services of The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) in Uganda’, AIDS Care 9 (1): 1326.

Robert A LeVine . 1982. ‘Gusii funerals: meanings of life and death in an African community’, Ethos 10 (1): 2665.

J. W. McGrath , E. Maxine Ankrah , D. A. Schumann , S. Nkumbi , and M. Lubega . 1993. ‘AIDS and the urban family: its impact in Kampala, Uganda’, AIDS Care 5 (1): 5570.

J. Seeley , E. Kajura , C. Bachengana , M. Okongo , U. Wagner , and D. Mulder . 1993. ‘The extended family and support for people with AIDS in a rural population in south west Uganda: a safety net with holes?’, AIDS Care 5: 117–22.

Patricia Stamp . 1991. ‘Burying Otieno: the politics of gender and ethnicity in Kenya’, Signs 16 (4): 808845.

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