Intricate Marital Partnerships: Elopement and Concubinage Among the Kuria in North-Eastern Tanzania

Nandera Ernest Mhando


Using participant observation and in-depth interview data in semi-urban and rural
North-eastern Tanzania, this article demonstrates that the freedom to marry is
characterized by restrictive rules. It specifically highlights that agencies are used by
individuals to enforce marital relationships through elopement and concubinage
unions, practices that are incompatible with Kuria’s widely valued expectations. Suitors
continue to be constrained by wider society expectations despite social and economic
changes that reduce parents’ authority and decline the significance of bridewealth
cattle. Changes are happening as Kuria marriage values are enacted and renegotiated by
individuals opting for different and even divergent meanings amid social and economic
transformations. These options lead to pestering, having lower status, isolation in
certain rituals, moving far away from family, ending unions, lacking certain
customary rights, delaying to enter into marriage, and escaping marital violence
and forced marriages. Therefore, this article explores the dimensions of marriage,
both at intra- and extra-familial realms.

Keywords: elopement, concubinage, marriage, participant observation, Kuria, Tanzania. 


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