Cattle to cash: changing marriage practices among displaced people in Bentiu, South Sudan

Elizabeth Stites*, Roxani Krystalli, Alex Humphrey, Nyuon Moses Gathuoy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Even during armed conflict and displacement, weddings continue, as people enter into marriage and adapt the processes and rituals associated with this milestone. In this paper, we trace the changes to marriage practices in the Bentiu Protection of Civilians site and adjacent areas of Rubkona and Bentiu towns in South Sudan's Unity State. Specifically, we ask how, in the context of armed conflict and displacement, the shift from a cattle-based economy to one entailing greater use of cash has affected the meanings and processes of marriages. We highlight changes to bridewealth, and corresponding shifts in the engagement of relatives, community members and social networks in the rite and process of marriage. We argue that these changes both challenge social norms around the ties and broader connections that result from marriages and potentially highlight opportunities of agency for those entering a marriage during displacement. This analysis contributes to a growing body of literature that adopts a relational understanding of survival during displacement and underscores the importance of taking social connectedness seriously in the study of armed conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102632
Number of pages9
JournalWomen's Studies
Early online date31 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • South Sudan
  • Displacement
  • Conflict
  • Marriage
  • Bridewealth
  • Social capital


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