A reflexive understanding of woman/woman marriages among the Gikuyu of Kenya

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Virginia Tech

This study concerns the practices of woman/woman marriage among the Gikuyu of Kenya. Though widely practiced, such marriages have seldom been studied, and virtually not at all among the Gikuyu. Such practices had been only lightly, and inadequately, addressed over five decades ago by Leakey (1938/1977). This study, designed as preliminary fieldwork, explores Gikuyu woman/woman marriage practices to gain useful basic information to provide a point of entry for future research.

In this study I address shortcomings of previous research on woman/woman marriages, such as the prevalent emphasis on reductionist explanations for their occurrences. On the basis of preliminary fieldwork among Gikuyu women engaged in these practices, and my experiences as a member of Gikuyu society, I assert that women have much greater latitude in choosing how and why they participate in woman/woman marriages than the literature suggests. Such marriages take diverse, and often complex forms that are not adequately addressed by single-explanation definitions or descriptions. Secondly, the study attempts to locate a space for these practices in the feminist and family studies literatures, while questioning the absence of woman/woman marriages from both arenas of discourse. I argue that the exclusion of woman/woman marriages from feminist discourse and the family studies literatures is not an accident, as both discourses have marginalized voices from so-called "third world" locations.