‘Race’, Religion, Romance: Youth Striving for an Optimal Dating Experience

Fatima Bapumia


This paper discusses how social actors engage with the notion of race and religion in
private spheres. It specifically shows how young people use religion to rationalise their
dating preferences, and in so doing are inclined to heighten the existing ethno-racial
boundaries. The interview excerpts used as examples in this paper are drawn from an
ethnographic study that I conducted in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya from 2012-2015. In this
paper I demonstrate that the common knowledge and personal experiences of secondary
school students—with regards to norms and values of self and others—tend to influence
their choice of dating partners, their everyday experiences of being in an intimate
relationship, and their overall opinion of inter-racial marriages. Also, whereas closed
groups such as the Balouch and South Asian communities advocate for racial endogamy
and perpetuate sexual double standards, teenagers from these groups use religion as a
tool to manipulate given community norms and values.


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