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Empire and Women

The salvation of colonized women was a preoccupation of imperialism, and a justification for colonialism. Yet colonialism disrupted the lives of many women, depriving them of the rights and livelihoods that it purported to protect. This week’s lecture and seminar will explore the incongruity between the goals and reality of empire for women, through the lens of the British Empire in Africa.

Seminar questions

1. How did colonialism alter women’s lives?

2. Why was British colonialism so concerned with women?

3. How did Africans respond to colonial interventions into the affairs of women?

Core readings

Iris Berger, “Colonizing African Families”, in Women in Twentieth Century Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 6-29. (e-book)

Susan Pederson, “National Bodies, Unspeakable Acts: The Sexual Politics of Colonial Policy-making,” Journal of Modern History, 63.4 (Dec 1991): 647-80.

Lynn Thomas, “Colonial Uplift and Girl-Midwives”, in Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction and the State in Kenya (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), pp. 52-78. (e-book)

Further reading

A. Arrington, ‘Making Sense of Martha: Single Women and Mission Work’, Social Sciences and Missions, 23 (2010): 276-300.

Misty Bastian, "'Vultures of the Marketplace': Igbo and Other Southeastern Nigerian Women's Discourse about the Ogu Umunwaanyi (Women's War) of 1929," in Women and African Colonial History, edited by Jean Allman, Susan Geiger and Nakanyike Musisi (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2002).

Iris Berger, Women in Twentieth-Century Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016). (e-book)

Nupur Chaudhuri and Margaret Strobel (eds.), Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992). (e-book and multiple hard copies)

Janice Boddy, ‘Clash of Selves: Gender, Personhood, and Human Rights Discourse in Colonial Sudan’, Canadian Journal of African Studies, 41.3 (2007): 402-426.

Lynn Thomas, Politics of the Womb: Women, Reproduction and the State in Kenya (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). (e-book)

Christine Walley, “Searching for ‘Voices’: Feminism, Anthropology, and the Global Debates over Female Genital Operations,” Cultural Anthropology, 12.3 (1997), pp. 405-438.

Marcia Wright: Strategies of Slaves and Women: Life Stories from East/Central Africa (Boydell and Brewer, 1993). (e-book)