What Do you need !?

Women and Gender in pre-1800 (West) Africa

I am seeking two-three presenters and a chair and/or discussant for a panel that broadly addresses women and gender in pre-nineteenth-century (West) Africa. Papers geographically situated in West Africa are preferred, but proposals addressing other regions of the continent and African diasporas are also welcome. 

With notable exceptions, the historical study of women and gender in West Africa has predominantly addressed the 1870s to the present. Colonial-era written sources are fraught, riddled with assumptions about gendered difference and women’s social institutions. European observers described West African communities in ways that rendered sexed and gendered binaries uniform and “natural” (Oyěwùmí 1997; Sinha 2012; Tamale 2020). Instead of describing the intersectional complexity of social relations, foreign historical observers assumed the universality of women’s submission to patriarchal gerontocratic order and that their personhood was predominantly informed by their roles in heteronormative monogamous or polygynous conjugal households. Scholars of contemporary West Africa have emphasized the importance of contemporary examples of matrilineality, matriarchal authority, and female homosociality in re-imagining indigenous gendered practices that predate patriarchal norms affiliated with globalized Ibrahimic religions and European colonization (Dankwa 2021; Gueye 2010; Camara 2007; Nzegwu 2006).

With this in mind, how do we (re)write the histories of (West) African women and gender before the nineteenth century? How do we destabilize the epistemological inheritance and gender subjectivities of the colonial era? This panel will use the arguments of the above and other contemporary feminist humanists and social scientists as guidelines for (re)examining women and gendered norms in pre-nineteenth-century (West) Africa. Original research papers, historiographical essays, and methodological interventions are welcome. I will contribute a research paper on gendered traditions of authority and dependency in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Senegambia. 

Please share this CFP with colleagues that have similar research interests.

Works Cited
–Camara, Fatou K. “Women and the Law: A Critique of Senegalese Family Law,” Social Identities 13, no. 3 (2007): 787-800.
–Dankwa, Serena Owusua. Knowing Women: Same-sex Intimacy, Gender, and Identity in Postcolonial Ghana. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.
–Gueye, Marame. “Woyyi Céet: Senegalese Women’s Oral Discourses on Marriage and Womanhood.” Research in African Literatures 71, no. 4 (Winter 2010): 65-86. 
–Nzegwu, Nkiru. Family Matters: Feminist Concepts in African Philosophy of Culture. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.
–Oyěwùmí, Oyèrónkẹ́. The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
–Sinha, Mrinalini. “A Global Perspective on Gender: What’s South Asia Got To Do with It?” In South Asian Feminisms, edited by Ania Loomba and Ritty A. Lukose, 356-374. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.
–Tamale, Sylvia. Decolonization and Afro-Feminism. Ottawa: Daraja Press, 2020.

If you would like to join this panel, please send a direct message to Sarah Zimmerman at sarah.zimmerman@wwu.edu before 23:59 (PDT) on March 14, 2024. I will respond to potential panelists on March 15, 2024 and I will submit the panel before the deadline on March 17, 2024. 

In your message, please include your:
1) full name, 2) email address, 3) phone number, and 4) institutional affiliation. 
Please also include:
5) your paper title, and 6) a 200-word abstract that consists of “a statement about the topic, the nature, and the extent of the research on which the paper is based, and a summary of the main argument(s)” (taken directly from the ASA submission guidelines). 

Please note: All panelists must pre-register for the ASA annual meeting prior to the March 17, 2024 submission deadline. (The pre-registration fee is refundable if our panel is rejected or a presenter is denied a visa.)