James Currey and Women’s History Month

Through academic research, women in Africa have been shown to be essential to the economic and social factors in nearly every African region. What was the history of women in colonial times? How have their roles changed? How do the role of women in history vary across the African continent?

James Currey specialises in publishing research carried out across the African continent, and a large focus of past publications have been on the history of women in Africa, their role in their community as well as gender affairs.

This month we have focused on books published under the James Currey imprint, which celebrate the historical perspective of women in Africa, both as the subject matter and by exploring work from women historians.

African Women in the Atlantic World

Property, Vulnerability & Mobility, 1660-1880

Edited by Mariana P. Candido, Adam Jones

The role of women in West and West Central Africa during the period of the Atlantic slave trade and its abolition remains relatively unexamined. This book shows how African women participated in economic, social and political spaces in Atlantic coast societies. Focusing on diversity and change, the contributors examine the role of female petty traders, farmers and slaves in communities from Senegal to Angola.

Hawks and Doves in Sudan’s Armed Conflict

Al-Hakkamat Baggara Women of Darfur

by Suad M.E. Musa

Al-Hakkamat Baggara women hold an instrumental position in rural Sudan. This book uncovers their significant, but widely overlooked, role during the war in Darfur from the 1970s to today’s continuing conflict. The book explores the influence they exercised through their poems and songs, informal speech and symbolic acts, and analyses their impact in both social and political domains. Challenging the pervasive portrayal of women as natural peacebuilders and as passive and submissive, the author highlights how Sudan’s state government co-opted al-Hakkamat Baggara women to lobby on its behalf, to rally for war and to advocate for peace.

Violent Conversion

Brazilian Pentecostalism and Urban Women in Mozambique

by Linda Van de Kamp

There has been an extraordinary growth in Pentecostalism in Africa, with Brazilian Pentecostals establishing new transnational Christian connections, initiating widespread changes in religious practice and in society. This book analyses its impact in Africa, revealing new insights into the dominant role of Pentecostalism in global Christianity today. The author describes how upwardly mobile women in Maputo, Mozambique, attracted by the opportunity to pioneer new lives are taking up Pentecostalism and participating in the neo-liberal capitalist economy and in cultural change, yet risk not only alienating their families and traditional social networks, but increasing their hardship and insecurity through compulsory donations.

African Theatre 14

Contemporary Women

by Edited by Martin Banham, James Gibbs, Femi Osofisan

Drawing on expertise from across the African continent this collection reflects the realities for women working and making theatre: for example how Egyptian director Dalia Basiouny has documented the ‘Tahrir Stories’ of the Egyptian Revolution; how in Uganda women have used various theatrical devices such as oral poetry to seek common ground in a rural-urban intergenerational theatre project; and the use of physical theatre to examine disavowed memory in South Africa. There are also articles on re-thinking performance space and modes of performance for gendered advocacy in Botswana and how women are addressing gender-based violence and rape culture, comparing performance and street-based activism in South Africa and India.

Women, Land and Justice in Tanzania

by Helen Dancer

Examines how Tanzania’s land law reforms have impacted on women’s land ownership and the extent to which women are realising their interests in land through land courts. The author tracks the progression of women’s claims to land exploring three central issues: the nature of women’s claims to land in Tanzanian family contexts and the extent to which the social issues raised are addressed by Tanzania’s current laws and legal system; how agency and power relations between social and legal actors engaged in legal processes affect women’s access to justice; and Tanzanian concepts of justice and rights and how women’s claims have been judged by land courts in practice.

Women, Migration & the Cashew Economy in Southern Mozambique


by Jeanne Marie Penvenne

Between the late 1940s and independence in 1975, rural Mozambican women migrated to the capital, Lourenço Marques, to find employment in the cashew shelling industry. This book tells the labour and social history of what became Mozambique’s most important late colonial era industry through the oral history and songs of three generations of the workforce. In the 1950s Jiva Jamal Tharani recruited a largely female labour force and inaugurated industrial cashew shelling. Seasonal cashew brews had long been an essential component of the region’s household, gift and informal economies, but by the 1970s cashew exports comprised the largest share of the colony’s foreign exchange earnings.

The Front Line Runs through Every Woman

Women and Local Resistance in the Zimbabwean Liberation War

by Eleanor O’ Gorman

By contextualizing the voices of women of Chiweshe, not only is an important and under-developed aspect of Zimbabwean and African history revealed, but a new approach to comprehending the highly-tensioned lives of women in war is presented, which is characterized here as Gendered Localised Resistance. The book can be read as a unique and richly detailed account of the lives of women during the Zimbabwe civil war and liberation struggle; as a wider argument about how researchers can approach and incorporate lived experience into accounts of larger dynamics; and as a substantial and important contribution to feminist historiography and writings on women and war.

Sexuality and Gender Politics in Mozambique

Rethinking Gender in Africa

by Signe Arnfred

Gender policies from Portuguese colonialism, through Frelimo socialism, to later neo-liberal economic regimes share certain basic assumptions about women, men and gender relations – but to what extent do such assumptions fit the ways in which rural Mozambican men and women see themselves? Provides a discussion of Mozambican gender policies with a focus on the post-Independence years, but it is also a conceptual discussion – facilitated by African feminist thinking – of how to understand gender and sexuality, with the lives and views of Mozambican men and women as the point of departure.

Faith, Power and Family

Christianity and Social Change in French Cameroon

by Charlotte Walker-Said

Charlotte Walker-Said explores the radical innovations of African Catholic and Protestant evangelists who received, innovated and repurposed Christianity to challenge local and foreign governments operating in the French-administered League of Nations Mandate of Cameroon. As African believers transformed foreign missionary societies into profoundly local religious institutions, they wielded considerable authority as priests, pastors, catechists and teachers and established not only new African family and community models but also reimagined and redefined African male authority and guardianship over wives and children. Countering the economic and legal power wielded by African chiefs who sustained law and enforcement locally and sharply challenging French colonial rule, African Christian spiritual guides emerged as broadly popular reformers of African family life and local authority.

Gender, Home & Identity

Nuer Repatriation to Southern Sudan

by Katarzyna Grabska

Joint Winner of the Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology 2014
During the civil wars in southern Sudan (1983-2005) many Sudanese, including many Nuer, were in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, repatriating to southern Sudan only after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This book follows the lives of a group of Nuer who escaped the wars, and then returned to try to recreate a sense of home, community and nation. Conceptualising conflict-induced displacement as a catalyst of social change, this book explores the transformation of gender and generational relations among southern Sudanese Nuer in the aftermath of the war.

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