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Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century

Edited by Catherine M. Coles and Beverly Mack

Publication Year: 1991

    The Hausa are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, with populations in Nigeria, Niger, and Ghana.  Their long history of city-states and Islamic caliphates, their complex trading economies, and their cultural traditions have attracted the attention of historians, political economists, linguists, and anthropologists. The large body of scholarship on Hausa society, however, has assumed the subordination of women to men.
    Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century refutes the notion that Hausa women are pawns in a patriarchal Muslim society.  The contributors, all of whom have done field research in Hausaland, explore the ways Hausa women have balanced the demands of Islamic expectations and Western choices as their society moved from a precolonial system through British colonial administration to inclusion in the modern Nigerian nation. This volume examines the roles of a wide variety of women, from wives and workers to political activists and mythical figures, and it emphasizes that women have been educators and spiritual leaders in Hausa society since precolonial times.  From royalty to slaves and concubines, in traditional Hausa cities and in newer towns, from the urban poor to the newly educated elite, the "invisible women" whose lives are documented here demonstrate that standard accounts of Hausa society must be revised.
    Scholars of Hausa and neighboring West African societies will find in this collection a wealth of new material and a model of how research on women can be integrated with general accounts of Hausa social, religious, political, and economic life. For students and scholars looking at gender and women's roles cross-culturally, this volume provides an invaluable African perspective.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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pp. vii-viii

Two generations ago Isa Wali, a bright young intellectual of orthodox Muslim background but educated in the colonial schools of Northern Nigeria, wrote a series of articles on the position of women in Islam. This started a ferment that has continued in postcolonial Hausaland among the intelligentsia through coups and counter-coups, periods of military rule and periods...

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pp. ix-x

None of the research discussed in this volume, nor the chapters themselves, would have been possible without the hospitality, generosity, and assistance of the Hausa women about whom we have written, and of their families and friends. Our thanks are inadequate for what they have given us in terms of time, interest, and support of many kinds...

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Note on Foreign Terms

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pp. xi-xii

Many Arabic terms have become a part of the Hausa language, in which a glottal stop is marked in roman script by an apostrophe. Because this study focuses on Hausa, glottal stops for vowels are marked in this way. Ayns and hamzas are not distinguished in Arabic terms used here, but are only indicated by an apostrophe,,,

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Chapter 1: Women in Twentieth-Century Hausa Society

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pp. 3-26

This collection of articles presents data and analyses from recent scholarly research on women in twentieth-century Hausa society. Specifically it emanates from two panels organized for the 1984 meetings of the African Studies Association in Los Angeles, to which scjlOlars who had conducted research into all aspects of Hausa society were invited. The panelists explored the current state of knowledge and directions...

Part 1: Hausa Women in Islam

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Chapter 2: Islamic Leadership Positions for Women in Contemporary Kano Society

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pp. 29-49

This chapter reports on the lives of several contemporary women in Kano, Nigeria, who occupy significant leadership roles of an Islamic nature. Although it is premature to base any generalizations about the society as a whole on such a small sampling, we will indicate new directions for further research. Earlier studies have been criticized for giving excessive attention to the role of women in spirit possession cults and the use of Islam...

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Chapter 3: From Accra to Kano: One Woman's Experience

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pp. 50-68

In 1984 economic deterioration and other related forces induced Hajiya's husband, a trader, to relocate his expectant wife and their five children from Accra, Ghana, to Kano. This northern Nigerian city was foreign neither to Hajiya nor him: both are Hausa from families who hail from the Kano area; he has traveled frequently to Kano on business; she has periodically visited her father, a wealthy businessman who lives there...

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Chapter 4: Islamic Values, the State, and "the Development of Women": The Case of Niger

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pp. 69-89

Political developments in the Republic of Niger over the last decade are transforming the role ofIslam at both the mass and national levels. These changes together with the elaboration of a proposal for the restructuring of Nigerien political life that is now underway will influence the tone, substance, and implementation of development in that country...

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Chapter 5: Hausa-Fulani Women: The State of the Struggle

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pp. 90-106

The history of Nigerian women's struggle to improve their situation is similar to that of their counterparts in other areas of the world. As is true everywhere, they have been more successful in certain fields than in others. In northern Nigeria particularly, sociocultural factors associated with Islam have had considerable effect on women's literacy...

Part 2: The Power of Women

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Chapter 6: Royal Wives in Kano

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pp. 109-129

Structurally the Kano palace is a microcosm of the traditional walled city of Kano. Just as Kano's Old City historically was protected by a high wall with access only through gates set at intervals, so too the palace community of several thousand people is surrounded by a wall enclosing its myriad chambers, courtyards, stables, and gardens...

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Chapter 7: Women and the Law in Early-Twentieth-Century Kano

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pp. 130-144

One day in the dry season of 1913-14, a man named Salim came before the Emir of Kano's judicial council with a special request. He reported to the council: My mother Yamu was angry with me, so I was afraid, and I come to you so that I will not disobey my master. For it is known that the lot of those who go against their master is hell. I come to arrange a conciliation between her and myself...

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Chapter 8: The Role of Women in Kano City Politics

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pp. 145-159

In Hausa society the social hierarchy, which is male-dominated, is defined in sacred rather than in secular terms. Kano City is 99 percent Muslim. Equality for women in an Islamic society is circumscribed by the teachings of the Qur'an, which defines women's role in both the family and society. The revelation of the Qur'an to the Prophet Mohammed...

Part 3: Women in the Changing Economy

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Chapter 9: Hausa Women's Work in a Declining Urban Economy: Kaduna, Nigeria, 1980-1985

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pp. 163-191

This essay presents findings from research conducted in 1981 and 1985 on changes in Muslim Hausa women's income-earning activities in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. During July and August of 1985 while in Kaduna my attention was drawn to the substantial contributions women were making to basic subsistence and household maintenance...

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Chapter 10: Hausa Women in the Urban Economy of Kano

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pp. 192-203

The role of women in urban economic activity in Third World nations has, until recently, been neglected or intentionally overlooked by planners and development economists. But women in every society playa crucial economic role both indirectly, by supporting other workers with household activities, and directly, by participating in the economic...

Part 4: Women's Voices: Feminine Gender in Ritual, the Arts, and Media

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Chapter 11: Gender Relationships and Religion:Women in the Hausa Bori of Ader, Niger

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pp. 207-220

In the Ader region of Niger, the rules governing the functioning of the bori spirit possession cult, in which both sexes participate, assert the equality of the sexes. Participation for everyone is said to be subject to the same religious and cultural imperatives; women and men have equal access to the different roles that constitute the structure...

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Chapter 12: Marriage in the Hausa Tatsuniya Tradition: A Cultural and Cosmic Balance

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pp. 221-231

Ga ta nan, ga ta nanku-"Here it is, here is a tale for you," the traditional storyteller begins. Ta zo, muji ta, the children reply-"Let it come, let's hear it." Storytelling is as old as humanity, and so it is among the Hausa, where folktale narrative (tatsuniya) is an important form of entertainment among children and adults alike...

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Chapter 13: Women's Roles in the Contemporary Hausa Theater of Niger

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pp. 232-243

Women are assuming an increasingly important place in Niger's Hausa theater, demonstrating their changing roles in contemporary society. In the past, Orthodox Islam discouraged public theatrical manifestations, although it has never entirely eliminated spirit possession...

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Chapter 14: Ideology, the Mass Media, and Women:A Study from Radio Kaduna, Nigeria

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pp. 244-252

Ideology has been defined as "a 'representation' of the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence" (Althusser 1977:152). In other words, ideologies are the ideas and beliefs through which people make sense of and relate to the world. Ideologies are not simply imaginary, however; they do not exist only in people's...


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pp. 261-288


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pp. 289-290


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pp. 291-297

E-ISBN-13: 9780299130237
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299130244

Publication Year: 1991