Against the background of a history of apartheid and colonialism, high levels of unemployment, an established tradition of hegemonic masculinity, pervasive violence, especially gender-based violence, as well as some of the highest levels of inequality in the world, this mini-dissertation focuses on the accounts of a cross-class selection of African women who live in South Africa and who self-identify as being in a relationship with an abusive intimate partner. It is based on eight in depth interviews with women, many of whom are immigrants or migrants from elsewhere on the continent, and all of whom are either married or in long-term relationships with their partners and have children. The study focused on the factors that impacted on their decision to stay on in the abusive relationship as well as on their internal thoughts and how these illuminate their decision to stay. In particular, the study explores how to make sense of the notion of 'agency' when considering women who stay on in an abusive relationship, and draws on the work of Margaret Archer on reflexivity and internal thoughts, as distinct from and in addition to a Bourdieusian focus on habitus and a structural analysis of the social context in which the abuse takes place and of factors that impede participants’ ability to leave the abusive relationship.
The study identifies the key factors women cite as playing a role in their decision to stay, namely fear of violence; a concern with providing a 'home' for children; cultural considerations and family pressures; and structural factors (finance, migration status, employment status and a lack of adequate support structures). In addition, one of the major contributions of this study is its focus on the participants' self-described internal thought processes to consider to what extent these processes could be described as demonstrative of or enabling 'agency' in difficult circumstances.
Mini-dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2015.