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Problematic polygamy: implications of changing typologies and definitions of polygamy

Ernestina E. Coast, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Sara Randall, University College London
Valerie Golaz, Centre Francais sur la Population et le Developpement (CEPED)
Bilampoa Gnoumou Thiombiano, Université de Ouagadougou

The persistence or decline of polygamy is often used as an indicator of social change in Africa. However, most data and research use the term “polygamy” without reflecting on what is being measured. Thus, international comparative research often ignores temporal and spatial differences in the conceptualisation of polygamy, and the implications for subsequent analyses. We use three different approaches in order to uncover the implications of these different understandings of “polygamy”: 1) analysis of definitions used in Anglophone and Francophone surveys and censuses post-1950. 2) interview with key informants involved in the production and consumption of survey and census data. 3) secondary analyses of large-scale datasets, including: DHS for Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania and Burkina Faso and the census for Mali.

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Presented in Session 87: Marriage markets, endogamy, polygamy, and heterogamy