When Women Support the Patriarchal Family: The Dynamics of Marriage in a Gécamines Mining Camp (Katanga Province, DR Congo)


  • Benjamin Rubbers


Based on ethnographic research among the ex-Gécamines workers of Panda (Likasi, DR Congo), this article studies the dynamics of the spousal relationship in a post-industrial context that has been long characterized by paternalism. The results of this research suggest that, though men and women living in this mining community talk about their spousal relationships by invoking the ideal of Christian marriage promoted during the colonial period, in practice such relationships faced important changes following Congolese independence in 1960. The nationalization and subsequent dramatic decline of Gécamines caused changes which directly affected three central dimensions of the colonial family model, namely monogamy, the ideal of domesticity, and male authority. If men and women continue to reference this model, it is because, in times of growing poverty, it allows spouses to remind one another of their respective duties as docile housewives and responsible husbands, and to command respect as virtuous Christian families in the local community.