Sexuality and Gender Politics in Mozambique

October 2011
18 black and white, 21 line illustrations
328 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Library eBook
James Currey
BISAC SOC032000, SOC056000, POL053000

Sexuality and Gender Politics in Mozambique

Rethinking Gender in Africa

Signe Arnfred

Demonstrates shortcomings in Western feminist conceptualizations, and shows how insights from African feminist thinking may enhance understandings of gender, both in and beyond Africa.
Winner of the 2012 gender research award KRAKA-prisen.
This book is about gender politics in Mozambique over three decades from 1975 to 2005. The book is also about different ways of understanding gender and sexuality. Gender policies from Portuguese colonialism, through Frelimo socialism to later neo-liberal economic regimes share certain basic assumptions about men, women and gender relations. But to what extent do such assumptions fit the ways in which rural Mozambican men and women see themselves? A major line of argument in the book is that gender relations should be investigated, not assumed, and that policies not matching people's lives are not likely to succeed.
The empirical data, on which the argument is based, are first a unique body of data material collected 1982-1984 by the national women's organization, the OMM [when the author was employed as a sociologist in the organization] and secondly data resulting from more recent fieldwork in northern Mozambique.
Importantly inspired by African post-colonial feminist lines of thinking, the book engages in a project of re-mapping and re-interpreting 'culture and tradition'. In this context, the book investigates in particular matriliny [c. 40% of Mozambique's population live under conditions of matriliny] and female initiation. The findings open new avenues for gender politics, and for re-thinking sexuality and gender - in Africa and beyond.

Signe Arnfred is Associate Professor, Dept of Society & Globalization, and Centre for Gender, Power & Diversity, Roskilde University

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Table of Contents

Introduction Part I Conceptions of Gender and Gender Politics in Mozambique
Women in Mozambique: Gender Struggle and Gender Politics, 1988
Notes on Gender and Modernization. Examples from Mozambique, 1990
Family Forms and Gender Policy in Mozambique, 1990
Simone de Beauvoir in Africa: Woman - The Second Sex?: Issues of African Feminist Thought, 2001
Conceptions of Gender in Colonial and Post-colonial Discourses, 2004 Part II Night of the Women, Day of the Men: Meanings and Interpretations of Female Initiation
Feminism and Gendered Bodies: On Female Inititation in Northern Mozambique, 2008
Moonlight and Mato: Initiation Rituals in Ribáuè, 2000
Wineliwa - the Creation of Women: Initiation Rituals during Frelimo's Abaixo Politics, 1990
Female Initiation and the Coloniality of Gender, 2010
Situational Gender and Subversive Sex? African Contributions to Feminist Theorizing, 2008 Part III Implications of Matriliny in Northern Mozambique
Male Mythologies: An Inquiry into Assumptions of Feminism and Anthropology, 2006-2007
Ancestral Spirits, Land and Food: Gendered Power and Land Tenure in Ribáuè, 2001
Sex, Food and Female Power: On Women's Lives in Ribáuè, 2006-2007
Tufo Dancing: Muslim Women's Culture in Ilha de Moçambique, 2004


A fascinating and important book [and] a powerful and moving contribution to the debates around how to improve African women's lives and, hence, men's as well. It would make an effective teaching tool, and, for its sometimes combative turn of phrase among its other writing strengths, is plain enjoyable to read. AFRICAN AFFAIRS

A unique and immensely valuable anthropological and historical study [that] should be considered vital to discussions both of the modern history of Mozambique and of gender politics in southern Africa and beyond. LUCAS BULLETIN

The book is impressive on many fronts. To name two: as a narrative tracing changes in her thinking on gender in Africa over the years, it is a stellar example of a working scholar's self-reflexivity; and instructors seeking to introduce students to the complex, ongoing and productive debate concerning the efficacy of feminist theory in the African context will find the book very useful. CANADIAN JOURNAL OF AFRICAN STUDIES

Makes a welcome contribution to Mozambican studies and will also interest feminists, especially those unfamiliar with the works of African feminist scholars. MODERN AFRICAN STUDIES

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