Veronica’s Story: Implications Of Dowry On Burial Disputes -- By: Charles A. O. Oduke
PP 30:1 (Winter 2016) p. 5
Veronica’s Story: Implications Of Dowry On Burial Disputes
Charles A. O. Oduke, PhD, is a Lonergan Scholar and currently a Senior Lecturer of Religion and Philosophy at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Bondo, Kenya. He formerly taught at Boston College and at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, New York.
This article is a philosophical reflection on dowry and how it bears on burial disputes among the Luo people of East Africa. Part one offers preliminary remarks to convey my position on dowry. Part two describes the implications of dowry on the burial dispute of a Luo woman named Veronica, as a way of illustrating the far-reaching effects of the dowry system. I have utilized Bernard Lonergan’s Transcendental Method in my thought process about dowry.1 This method is derived from Lonergan’s cognitional theory—experiencing, understanding my experience, judging the understanding of my experience, willingness to act informed by the judgment of the understanding of my experience, and finally leading to intellectual, moral, and religious conversion. In our efforts to raise consciousness about dowry, we can transpose the method into an invitation to engage in the following five imperatives: be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be willing, and be loving in our discourse on dowry and its long term implications.2
The word “dowry” is derived from cognate Greek (dosis noun, didōmi verb) and Latin (dōnum noun, dō verb) terms from the semantic domain of giving. Dowry is therefore a gift that is given. It is a symbolic gesture of simultaneous gratitude and benefaction to another.
In Western and some Asian societies dowry is a portion of wealth given to the bride by her family at the start of her marriage. It can take the form of real estate, money, gold, diamonds, or other precious metals or gemstones.3 In a different context, dowry can also refer to the sum of money, gold, silver, etc., required of postulants by some religious communities of cloistered nuns before a candidate enters the convent.
In contrast, in most African societies dowry takes the form of benefaction to the bride’s father by the groom. It is a goodwill gesture, a generous gift without strings attached, and if the father is deceased the dowry is received by her brothers or older male relatives. Among the Luo tribe of western Kenya the customary dowry is a negotiated amount in the form of live cows. A minimum of two is the norm; in some instances, even if additional cash has ...
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