Do African men and women think about and act out their ethnicity in different ways? Most studies of ethnicity in Africa consider men’s experiences, but rarely have scholars examined whether women have the same idea of what it means to be, for example, Igbo or Tswana or Kikuyu. Or, studies have invoked the adage “women have no tribe” to indicate a woman’s loss of ethnicity as she marries into her husband’s community. This volume engages directly the issue of women’s ethnicity and makes stimulating contributions to debates about how and why women’s movements have a unifying role in African political organization and peace movements.
Drawing on extensive field research in many different regions of Africa, the contributors demonstrate in their essays that women do make choices about the forms of ethnicity they embrace, creating alternatives to male-centered definitions—in some cases rejecting a specific ethnic identity in favor of an interethnic alliance, in others reinterpreting the meaning of ethnicity within gendered domains, and in others performing ethnic power in gendered ways. Their analysis helps explain why African women may be more likely to champion interethnic political movements while men often promote an ethnicity based on martial masculinity. Bringing together anthropologists, historians, linguists, and political scientists, Gendering Ethnicity in African Women’s Lives offers a diverse and timely look at a neglected but important topic.