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Dynamiques du genre en Afrique

Séance du 9 mars 2017, 10h à 13h
IMAF/ Malher, salle 106, 9 rue Malher 75004 Paris

- Elke E. Stockreiter, American University, Washington, DC
Towards a history of gender : Sources and interpretations from colonial Zanzibar and 19th- early 20th century Mali

This presentation explores sources that help us understand constructions of gender in Zanzibar under British colonial rule (1890-1963) and the southern Niger Inland Delta from the early 19th-century until early French colonial rule. In Zanzibar, Islamic court records have provided valuable and new insights into gender roles among all socio-economic strata from 1900 onward. As British rule restricted the application of Islamic law to personal status law, cases regarding marriage, divorce, and inheritance have enabled us to explore litigants’ and Muslim judges’ interpretations of female roles. Rather than seeing gender as a strict dichotomy, these sources propose an understanding of gender structures as interacting with Islamic law, which also protects the weak – defined through gender and social status. Although women, many of whom were former slaves, negotiated their roles struggling against dominant ideologies that placed women below men, they acted from within a socio-legal context and could successfully draw on legal doctrines to pursue their claims. In most cases, women did not address Islamic courts to rebel against social norms, such as purdah and arranged marriage, but to reshape their meanings on their own terms.
A reconstruction of gender roles in the southern Niger Inland Delta, especially the area of Djenné, from the era of the jihads (1818 onwards) until French conquest in the early 1890s relies on Arabic sources, oral traditions, and travellers’ accounts. Court records created under French colonial have proved vital in reevaluating and gendering slavery and writing socio-legal history. Unlike Arabic court records written by Muslim judges on the East African coast, their content is noticeably deprived of rich details that facilitate the reconstruction of litigants’ complex socio-economic backgrounds and relations. This presentation offers a gender history largely based on Zanzibar’s colonial judicial records and probes ways of bringing to life gender dynamics in the area of Djenné from Amadou Lobbo’s jihad until World War I.

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