Negotiating Culture and Responses to Domestic Violence in South Africa: Migrant Women and Service Providers’ Narratives

  • Monica Kiwanuka


This chapter examines how migrant women and domestic violence service providers’ narratives of domestic violence were shaped by notions of culture. Whilst culture as a notion has been thoroughly critiqued for the ways that it reinscribes mythical notions of race, gender and otherness, there has been less attention to how it is used in popular discourse. Nevertheless, any popular discussion about relationships between men and women and the roles that they prescribe almost inevitably draws a chorus of reference to ‘culture’. Whilst much of this can be dismissed for its thinly veiled sexism (and indeed racism), engagement with these notions of culture is more complex when it comes from women.

Drawing on narratives from migrant women who were survivors of domestic violence in South Africa, and service providers to whom they sought help I consider the shifting and complex ways in which culture was mobilised. This is in reference to describing domestic violence and how the experience of migration shaped understandings of culture as migrant women described violence, home, relationships and help seeking. This chapter therefore focuses on how migrant women and service providers’ utilise culture as both a discursive strategy and site of meaning production in constructing experiences and actions towards domestic violence migrant women experienced in South Africa.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica Kiwanuka
    • 1
  1. 1.African Centre for Migration & SocietyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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