Bonum Certa Men Certa

David Graeber, village wives & Debian Outreachy internships

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Apr 20, 2024,
updated Apr 20, 2024

[Article 1 year old]

Reprinted with permission from

David Graeber's book Debt: The First 5000 Years takes a fascinating look at obligations between people and communities in many different cultures.

One of the most colourful stories is in Chapter 6, under the title Games with Sex and Death

She waits for an opportune moment and slips off at night to an enemy village, where she asks for sanctuary. This is always possible: all villages have their traditional enemies. Neither would an enemy village refuse a woman who came to them in such a situation. They would immediately declare her "wife of the village," who all men living there would then be obliged to protect.

When a whole group of Albanian women were trafficked to DebConf19 and seated with former Debian leader Chris Lamb for the dinner, why did nobody else object or express jealousy?

Graeber's book goes on, explaining how young men acquire wives in communal organizations.

Therefore, when a sufficient number of them reached the age of eighteen or so, they were allowed to buy the right to a common wife.

In Debian, most people arrive as volunteers but the Outreachies are being paid to be there. The payment comes from common funds of the Debian village.

The position of village wife was more than respectable. In fact, a newly married village wife was treated very much like a princess. She was not expected to plant or weed in the gardens,

People have noticed that the Github profiles of many Outreachies are totally empty.

she could help herself to others' possessions and was expected to make all sorts of mischief to the bemused indulgence of all concerned. She was also expected to make herself sexually available to all members of the age-set - perhaps ten or twelve different men - at first, pretty much whenever they wanted her.

Across all the open source villages, there are approximately one hundred women selected for the Outreachy program each year. Some of the women are doing some really good work but how do we explain those who are doing less work than volunteers?

How one woman was selected for Outreachy indernship

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