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Gendering Ethnicity in African Women’s Lives
Edited by Jan Bender Shetler
Afterword by Dorothy L. Hodgson

Women in Africa and the Diaspora
Stanlie James and Aili Mari Tripp, Series Editors

“An important, original, and timely anthology bringing a feminist scholarly perspective to the workings of ethnicity and women’s lives in Africa.”
—Victoria Bernal, University of California, Irvine

Do African men and women think about and act out their ethnicity in different ways? Most studies of ethnicity in Africa consider men’s experiences, but rarely have scholars examined whether women have the same idea of what it means to be, for example, Igbo or Tswana or Kikuyu. Or, studies have invoked the adage “women have no tribe” to indicate a woman’s loss of ethnicity as she marries into her husband’s community. This volume engages directly the issue of women’s ethnicity and makes stimulating contributions to debates about how and why women’s movements have a unifying role in African political organization and peace movements..

Drawing on extensive field research in many different regions of Africa, the contributors demonstrate in their essays that women do make choices about the forms of ethnicity they embrace, creating alternatives to male-centered definitions—in some cases rejecting a specific ethnic identity in favor of an interethnic alliance, in others reinterpreting the meaning of ethnicity within gendered domains, and in others performing ethnic power in gendered ways. Their analysis helps explain why African women may be more likely to champion interethnic political movements while men often promote an ethnicity based on martial masculinity. Bringing together anthropologists, historians, linguists, and political scientists, Gendering Ethnicity in African Women’s Lives offers a diverse and timely look at a neglected but important topic.


Author. Photo credit, Name Jan Bender Shetler is a professor of history at Goshen College. She is the author of Imagining Serengeti and Telling Our Own Stories: Local Histories from South Mara, Tanzania.


Contributors: Ousseina D. Alidou, Jennie E. Burnet, Poppy Fry, Heidi Gengenbach, Meghan Healy-Clancy, Dorothy L. Hodgson, Jill E. Kelly, Ndubueze L. Mbah, Ethan R. Sanders, Heike I. Schmidt, Jan Bender Shetler, and Wendy Urban-Mead





“By insisting that gender is central to our understanding of ethnicity, and interrogating the past with a focus on gendered ethnicity, this collection makes an important contribution to the field of African studies. . . . The insights contained in this book are of significance to scholars not only of Africa, but of other regions of the world as well.”
African Studies Review

“A critical contribution to our understanding of the creation and practice of ethnicity in African societies.”
—Elizabeth Schmidt, Loyola University Maryland

“This volume fills a long-overdue need for a book-length treatment of the nexus of gender and ethnicity.”
—Monica Udvardy, University of Kentucky

“For the historian, these musings on sources, memory, and historiographic silences provide a highly stimulating invitation to rethink our approach to the history of identity in Africa. A very fine historically nuanced collection.”
—Barbara M. Cooper, Rutgers University



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Of Related Interest


Genocide Lives in Us
Women, Memory, and Silence in Rwanda
Jennie E. Burnet



May 2015
LC: 2014030779 HQ
348 pp.   6 x 9

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Paper $55.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-30394-5
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