This paper explores how, through its ‘technologies’ of violence, the custom of ukuthwala (bride abduction) creates a terrorised subject in women who find themselves entangled in its web. Based on ethnographic research conducted in Engcobo, Eastern Cape, it explores the dynamics, complexities, and nuances of the custom that push beyond narrow interpretations of its expression and practices. Theorising from thwalwa’ed (women married through ukuthwala) women’s narratives of their lived experiences and from an explicitly feminist critical lens, this paper exposes how patriarchy provisionally creates the feminine and the thwalwa’ed through violence. I draw insights from Pumla Gqola’s work on cultures of sexual violence to discuss the constant fear produced as an affective and material relation to the endurance of patriarchy. I highlight how imprisonment, stigmatisation, mystification, and sacralisation of physical and sexual violence function as technologies through which the thwalwa’ed subject is constituted.

Author: Thatshisiwe Ndlovu