Anthropologists usually think of domesticity as the activities related to the home and the family. Such activities have complex meanings associated with the sense of space, work, gender, and power. The contributors to this interdisciplinary collection of papers examine how indigenous African notions of domesticity interact with Western notions to transform the meaning of such activities. They explore the interactions of notions of domesticity in a number of settings in the twentieth century and the kinds of personal troubles and public issues these interactions have provoked. They also demonstrate that domesticity, as it emerged in Africa through the colonial encounter, was culturally constructed, and they show how ideologies of work, space, and gender interact with broader political-economic processes.
In her introduction, Hansen explains how the meaning of domesticity has changed and been contested in the West, specifies which of these shifting meanings are relevant in the African context, and summarizes the historical processes that have affected African ideologies of domesticity.