This essay examines widowhood rites and traditions in Northern Muslim Sudan, including those sanctioned by religion (that is, property inheritance and widows’ internment) and those endorsed by local communities. The microhistorical ethnographic accounts in this essay illustrate the deep psychological and physical suffering that narrators experienced as they navigated the labyrinth of socially sanctioned practices in their communities. They also communicate lessons about deep structures of power and the blurred boundaries of religion and ritual. The narratives reveal that despite the tenacity of male governance, female in-laws wield tremendous power in the rites that widows deem discriminatory. While interlocutors in this essay stress the near impossibility of a widow escaping the tentacles of authority and the empathy deficit stemming from it, others who have resisted these widowhood rituals show us how women can conjure the agency to negotiate both the bottlenecks and the thresholds in their paths.

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