'Relationship's many faces' Paper at 2nd Non-Monogamies and Contemporary Intimacies Conference, Vienna. 31 August - 2 September 2017


Relationship’s many faces: love, sex and (a)romanticism in Freetown, Sierra Leone


In Sierra Leone, secret societies and local traditions have previously provided the script for the country’s sex role plan based on gender parallelism. Since the civil war (1991-2002) these standards of womanhood and manhood have been confronted with constant change, due to, inter alia, migration, international influences and the media. Both the war and the Ebola pandemic (2013-2016) impelled many people to move to different areas, leading in turn to their exposure to and transmission of new ideas about relationships and intimacy. During the Ebola pandemic, cultural conceptions of partnership were under constant re-negotiation since sexual intimacy was restricted due to the risk of infection. This culture of suspicion towards sexual activity did not stop desire, but drove relationships underground accelerating the development of various new forms of sexual and (a)romantic encounters. In the hastily transforming global hub of post-pandemic Freetown, there is a disconnect between ideals of heteronormative gender parallelism and lived realities. Aromantic arrangements, remunerative encounters, non-monogamous relationships, romantic affairs, cohabitation and legal arrangements have replaced marriage as the dominant form of relationship. Based on long-term fieldwork among men and women from various backgrounds and demographics in Freetown, this paper discusses different forms of relationships and analyses improvised modes of urban sociality and intimacy related to emerging notions of (a)romanticism and choice in post war and post pandemic Sierra Leone.


2nd Non-Monogamies and Contemporary Intimacies Conference, Vienna. Austria.

Organised by the Sigmund Freud University, Vienna.

31 August - 2 September, 2017 link to nmcic homepage.

Panel reference: Slot 5. Friday, 1 September, 2017

Panel Title: Intimacies 2