Gender studies doctor explores polygyny

Dr Zamambo Mkhize with her book on gender narratives.

Dr Zamambo Mkhize with her book on gender narratives.

Published Jan 8, 2022


PASSIONATE about storytelling, a Durban doctor has published her first book, Polygyny and Gender: The gendered narratives of adults raised in polygynous families.

Dr Zamambo Mkhize, from Musgrave, Durban, and now a lecturer in Gender Studies at the African Gender Institute (AGI) at the UCT, launched her book at Waterside, Durban.

Mkhize said the book offered African perspectives on concepts such as gender, feminism and religion and capitalism.

“This book interrogates the construction of gender identity in adults raised in Zulu polygynous families in the Hammarsdale area in KwaZulu-Natal.

“It highlights the complexities of gender identities, as participants negotiate between modern, constitutional, individual freedoms and patriarchal, cultural customs and traditions.

“The theme raised in my book points to the contestation between individuality and collectivism in the construction of gender identity within polygynous families in Zulu culture,” said Mkhize.

She said her inspiration to write the book came from her grandfather.

“I remember a couple of years ago, I struggled after my Honours to find a topic to research for my Masters’ and my grandfather boldly stated I should research why educated, professional career women would willingly want to marry into polygynous marriages.

“This was during a time a former president was overtly polygynous and his wives were in the public limelight. The topic proved to be quite interesting to me and people in general. I continued with it for my doctorate but I shifted focus for my PhD and looked at adults raised in polygynous families and how they navigated being raised in such an interesting family system,” she said.

“Many people, when they find out about my research on polygyny, ask if I’m from a polygynous family, which is a normal question in research circles because usually people dedicate their time and resources to researching something intimately close to them personally.

“However, in my case, polygyny could not be the further from my personal life.

“People who ask always seem so disappointed when I tell them that I come from the traditional nuclear family of mom, dad and sister.”

She said she hoped the book would bring people’s attention to the experiences of adults raised in polygynous families.

“My book is unique because it offers unprecedented insight into the experiences of a special group of individuals who were raised in a polygynous family.

“Polygyny is always investigated and sensationalised, with the focus solely being on men who marry multiple women; however, the forgotten people in these unions are the children,” said Mkhize.

The Independent on Saturday