Re-contextualizing the Female-headed Household: Culture and Agency in Uganda

Paula Jean Davis

in Categories and Contexts

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199270576
Published online April 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191600883 | DOI:

Series: International Studies in Demography

Re-contextualizing the Female-headed Household: Culture and Agency in Uganda

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  • History of Economic Thought


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The household is a standard social category used in demographic census and survey work around the world where it is taken to represent both the family and the basic economic unit of society. From an anthropological perspective, however, there can be a great difference between ‘the household’ as defined by demographers and the concrete networks of kinship relations that extend beyond the household and connect certain households to one another. It is shown that the women in urban Kampala, who would be demographically enumerated as residing in female‐headed households, in fact typically form, as ‘Senga aunts’, an integral part of a dual family household paired with a rurally located brother's household. Application of the conventional demographic category of household can only result in a complete misreading of family structure and economic relationships in this part of Africa. Routine demographic practices such as household surveys are of questionable value without more careful attention to the local contexts in which active agents create their culturally diverse household forms.

Keywords: demographic census and survey; female‐headed household; gender; household; Kampala; Senga aunt

Chapter.  13450 words. 

Subjects: History of Economic Thought

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