Libmonster ID: BY-2375
Author(s) of the publication: E. S. LVOVA

Author: E. S. LVOVA

Before us is a new book by I. G. Rybalkina " Family in Africa "(Moscow, Institute of Africa of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 2011, 238 p.), an author well known for her monographs, articles, and chapters in collective works on the continent's tender problems.

The institution of the family today, as at all times, remains one of the most important institutions of any society. The UN General Assembly, which declared 1994 the "Year of the Family", called it the basic unit of society.

To this day, the family continues to play a particularly significant role in all economic and political processes among the peoples of Africa. After all, many problems are still being solved in African countries at the family-clan level. Its impact can be either positive or negative, slowing down many progressive changes. There are still traditional (preserved in the old form or modernized) relationships. As the author rightly points out, the underestimation of them in sub-Saharan African societies is rooted in failures in the implementation of numerous family planning programs, economic and political recommendations.

The author continues the development of the problem, which was started by the Russian Africanist I. E. Sinitsyna, Doctor of Law, who worked for many years at the Institute of General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences. However, more than 20 years have passed since the publication of her monograph "Man and Family in Africa" (Moscow, 1989). During this time, considerable changes have taken place in the structure of the family as an institution, and the assessment of its role in society has been revised. Therefore, the work of I. G. Rybalkina, covering the current state of the problem, is certainly very relevant and timely.

Having thoroughly studied both official documents of international organizations and individual organizations of a number of African countries-

page 75

The author analyzes the features of family and marriage structures, their typology, forms, and trends of evolution. For the first time in Russian African studies, the latest trends in the transformation of family forms under the influence of globalization and migration processes in urban and rural areas, the AIDS pandemic on the structure of the family and its living conditions are studied.

The three parts of the monograph reflect almost all the problems of the modern family in sub-Saharan Africa.

The first one examines the African family in historical retrospect and its projections to the present. The author shows the diversity of family forms among different ethnic groups of the continent. Seeing this diversity as fundamental general principles, she constructed a convincing scheme of family-marriage ties that has developed over the centuries and has not disappeared even today.

The second part is devoted to the study of the latest trends in family transformation. I. G. Rybalkina analyzes demographic, political, and social aspects of the family's existence; the influence of the confessional situation on it; the current situation of this social institution; changing stereotypes of marriage and family relations. It provides not only a description of the situation of rural and (to a lesser extent) urban families in African countries, but also a description of changes in the demographic, political,and social spheres of family life. There are also trends in the further development of these interactions.

Innovative and very important topics are covered in the third part of the monograph: socio-economic, legal and other factors affecting the African family. In particular, changes in the sphere of marriage and family relations are noted due to the ever-accelerating urbanization, the emergence of new forms of marriage (civil, church, traditional or free union in its pure form).

Family relations have never been considered so broadly in the context of migration and refugee issues, as the author did in the chapter "Migration and Family interaction". As a rule, modern authors, politicians or public figures who study migration processes and refugee problems leave this range of issues "behind the scenes". Meanwhile, crowded migrations and changes of permanent residence (within countries, to other countries of the continent and beyond) are an integral and very essential part of the life of modern ethnic groups, states, and individual families. In these conditions, which are very different from the traditional ones, the very essence of family and marriage relations is changing, the number of single-parent families and orphans is growing, and big problems arise in raising children. The current financial and economic crisis is also aggravating the situation - a separate chapter is also devoted to this.

One of the most difficult problems, which the author also analyzes in some detail, is family and marriage legislation. All countries in Africa have encountered inconsistencies and severe contradictions between the norms (including in the field of family and marriage relations) of customary law in traditional societies, and the legal norms of State family codes based on the legislation of former metropolitan countries. It is enough to recall the sensational " Otieni Case "(the trial of the funeral rite at the burial of a famous Kenyan lawyer: depending on the ritual, the status of a widow and her inheritance rights change)* In Kenya in the 80s of the last century, I. G. Rybalkina analyzed the peculiarities of legal reality on the example of family and marriage legislation in the countries of the South African region. The choice of this region for analyzing the problem is very good.

At first glance, it seems inappropriate to include the chapter "Women's health and its impact on family life" in the context of the study, but only at first glance. Indeed, the well-being of the modern African family directly depends on the state of women's health. Economic, social, and political factors, as the author rightly proved, increase the role of women, and often the very institution of the family is based on a woman: the hostess, breadwinner, and caregiver. Her health ceases to be a purely personal matter and becomes the basis for a more or less prosperous position of the entire family team.

The author traces the trends of family development both directly in Africa itself and abroad, i.e. in the migration environment; some ways of solving difficulties in this direction are proposed. One cannot but agree with the author that modern Africans need legal and state support, while "... it is necessary to take into account the special factors of intergenerational relations and the peculiarities of sexual relations, as well as the specifics of the distribution of material and financial resources" (p.208) to support the family as the most important element of the existence of society. Strategies for long-term development programmes need to be adapted to the prevailing conditions in Africa , and a peer-reviewed monograph can help.

The book by I. G. Rybalkina is written in a good accessible language. It is of interest not only to the scientific community, but also to a wide range of curious readers interested in global social, demographic, and gender issues, including issues of intra-family relations.

E. S. LVOVA, Doctor of Historical Sciences, ISAA, Lomonosov Moscow State University

* For more information, see: Sinitsyna I. E. Afrikans pri zhizni i posle smert '... / / Okoldovannaya real'nost ' (Mir afrikanskoi mentalnosti). Moscow, 1994, p. 177.


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