Africa Today

Africa Today 47.3/4, Summer/Autumn 2000

Special Double Issue: Sexuality and generational identities in Sub-Saharan Africa



    Allen, Denise Roth.
  • Learning the Facts of Life: Past and Present Experiences in a Rural Tanzanian Community
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    Subject Headings:
    • Sex instruction -- Tanzania.
    • Childbirth -- Study and teaching -- Tanzania.
    • Tanzania -- Rural conditions.
    Davis, Paula Jean.
  • On the Sexuality of "Town Women" in Kampala
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    Subject Headings:
    • Kampala (Uganda) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
    • Sex role -- Uganda -- Kampala -- History.
    • Single women -- Uganda -- Kampala -- History.
      "Town women" emerged in Uganda as a product of colonial urbanization and capitalist development in Kampala. The negative stereotyping of "town women" in Kampala, by scholars, colonial officials, medical officers and Ugandans alike, proceeds through a process of double liminalization. The identity of "town women" is constructed by means of a dual process of "othering," engaging two sets of binary oppositions: married woman/prostitute and town/country. Although two types of rural single women existed in precolonial Buganda, both representing a liminal category in contrast to the married woman, neither was subject to the degree of negative stereotyping that "town women experienced. In colonial Kampala, "town women" were the objects of a double liminality. Regarding the binary town/country, the liminality lies in the naming itself and refers to the capitalist center of Kampala. As independent female householders whose livelihoods were based on selling domestic services to male migrant laborers (cooking food, brewing beer, and providing sex), "town women" were exclusively identified with the "prostitute" half of the binary married woman/prostitute. In postcolonial Kampala, the negative stereotyping of "town women" continues in spite of vast changes in the economy and labor opportunities for women. The current generation of "town women" may achieve even greater economic and sexual independence, which perpetuates their liminality as "prostitutes" rather than "proper women." The current generation of "town women" have had the stigma of HIV-AIDS added to their identity, and, as "prostitutes," are labeled as the main carriers. Strategies of "town women" to produce healthy and educated children, including their adoption of HIV-AIDS orphans, may effectively counteract this negative stereotyping. To the extent that earnings from trading activities allow them to be better mothers, "town women" in Kampala may be evaluated closer to the "married woman" in the near future.
    Levin, Elise C.
  • Women's Childbearing Decisions in Guinea: Life Course Perspectives and Historical Change
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    Subject Headings:
    • Childbirth -- Guinea -- Social aspects.
    • Contraception -- Guinea -- Social aspects.
    • Family size -- Guinea -- Social aspects.
      This paper examines Guinean women's perspectives on childbearing, family size, and contraception from different stages of the life course, or kare (in Mandinka).The kare begin with deng muso (a child), and continue through sunkuru ni, sunkuru, salibani, and koro muso to muso ba koro (the highest stage, comprised of the oldest women who are closest to the ancestors). Despite some older women's claims that family size is shrinking, there is no statistical evidence of a change in fertility. Using a life course framework helps to account for some of the older women's observations. Women's reproductive intentions vary according to their life course stage, and both their actions and explanations of their own and other women's behavior reflect this variation. Yet it is women in the younger kare who say they want large numbers of children (with the exception of women in school) and those of the older kare who speak more about limited household resources and the need for contraception. While the life course framework explains a good deal of the variation in reproductive talk and behavior, one must also take into account historical changes that have occurred over the past fifty years, which also have a bearing on the life perspectives of women of different cohorts.
    Prazak, Miroslava.
  • Talking about Sex: Contemporary Construction of Sexuality in Rural Kenya
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    Subject Headings:
    • Sex in popular culture -- Kenya.
    • Sex instruction -- Kenya.
    • Sex (Psychology)
      Discussion of sexuality in Kuria District in rural Kenya is constrained by relationships of respect between parents and children. Grandparents and peers were, and continue to be, the main sources of knowledge and information on the subject. As the arbiters of norms and values, grandparents convey reproduction as the goal of sexual activity, carried out within the context of marital responsibilities. Peers provide a more practice-oriented perspective, as well as form the community of peers which ultimately enforces the norms, based on cultural notions of appropriate and inappropriate behavior. The growing importance of education, mandated by shifting economic, political, and social contexts is helping redefine roles and expectations, but has not yet become fully integrated into the discourse or processes needed to define guidelines for regulating adolescent sexuality to reflect more closely the contemporary situation within which adolescents learn about and practice appropriate sexual behaviors.
    Smith, Daniel Jordan.
  • "These Girls Today Na War-O": Premarital Sexuality and Modern Identity in Southeastern Nigeria
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    Subject Headings:
    • Premarital sex -- Nigeria -- Social aspects.
    • Igbo (African people) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
    • Marriage -- Nigeria -- Social aspects.
      Over the past few decades, several related changes have contributed to increasing the prevalence of premarital sexual relations in Nigeria. Demographic transformations such as rising age at marriage and increasing levels of urban migration are playing a part in changing the nature of male-female relationships. Sexual relationships are being socially constructed as an appropriate expression of intimacy, but also as a statement about a particular kind of modern identity. This article examines the social context of premarital sexual relations among young people in Igbo-speaking southeastern Nigeria. In particular, the paper explores conflicts between contemporary sexual identities and traditional models of gender and family as these tensions unfold in premarital sexual and reproductive decision making.
    Stewart, Kearsley.
  • Toward a Historical Perspective on Sexuality in Uganda: The Reproductive Lifeline Technique for Grandmothers and their Daughters
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    Subject Headings:
    • Sex in popular culture -- Uganda -- History.
    • Premarital sex -- Uganda -- History.
    • Fertility, Human -- Uganda -- History.
      Current health research on HIV-AIDS in Uganda is predominantly ahistorical and acultural. This is an inadequate analysis of a profoundly social epidemic, especially as the burden of disease shifts from adults to adolescents. As well, many Ugandan adults hold unexamined attitudes about adolescent sexuality, often declaring that today's youth are recklessly sexually active at a much younger age than in the past. This paper presents new data on sexuality reaching across three generations of Ugandans. These data were collected with an original qualitative social scientific research method--the reproductive lifeline technique. Building on the focus group method, this exercise is designed to produce fertility data with historical depth of several generations of women, and to encourage parents to speak more openly with their own children about reproduction and sexuality. This paper analyzes one particular demographic variable, age at first live birth, in an effort to theorize about change over time in another important variable, age at sexual debut. The results were surprising: age at first live birth has not changed significantly over the past forty years in western Uganda and some evidence suggests that age at sexual debut has not changed much either. Several explanations are offered to explain the discrepancy between the demographic evidence and the cultural norms held by adults about adolescent sexual behaviors.
    Thomas, Lynn M.
  • "The Politics of the Womb": Kenyan Debates over the Affiliation Act
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    Subject Headings:
    • Paternity -- Law and legislation -- Kenya -- History.
    • Kenya -- Politics and government -- 1963-1978.
    • Women -- Kenya -- Economic conditions -- 20th century.
      This article examines reproductive struggles and debates in late colonial and early postcolonial Kenya by reconstructing the history of the short-lived Affiliation Act, a law that granted all single women the right to sue the fathers of their children for paternity support. In 1959, the colonial government enacted this racially inclusive law in a bid to address the social problem of "illegitimacy" through familial channels, and to demonstrate the government's commitment to a nonracial future. The passage of the Affiliation Act, and women's subsequent use of it generated intense debates over the relative powers of men and women, and the value of the "modern" and "traditional" in postcolonial Kenya. Through denouncing and engaging the Affiliation Act, Kenyans argued over who should control women's sexuality, and who should bear the responsibility for, and reap the rewards of, their fertility. They also contested the vision of gender relations that should be embodied in African nationalism and should be promoted by the new Kenyan nation. This article demonstrates how material struggles stemming from pregnancy and surrounding child rearing--"the politics of the womb"--have been important to the elaboration of gender and political relations in postcolonial Africa.

Book Reviews

    Martin, Guy, 1945-
  • The Criminalization of the State in Africa, and: Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bayart, Jean-François. Criminalization of the state in Africa.
    • Ellis, Stephen, 1953-
    • Hibou, Béatrice.
    • Chabal, Patrick, 1951- Africa works: disorder as political instrument.
    • Daloz, Jean-Pascal.
    • Political corruption -- Africa.
    • Africa, Sub-Saharan -- Politics and government -- 1960-
    Coger, Dalvan M.
  • South Africa's Future: From Crisis to Prosperity, and: Fault Lines: Journeys into the New South Africa, and: South Africa in Transition: The Misunderstood Miracle, and: A Concise History of South Africa, and: South Africa: A Narrative History (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Ginsberg, Anthony Sanfield. South Africa's future: from crisis to prosperity.
    • Goodman, David, 1959- Fault lines: journeys into the new South Africa.
    • Guelke, Adrian. South Africa in transition: the misunderstood miracle.
    • Ross, Robert, 1949 July 26- Concise history of South Africa.
    • Welsh, Frank. South Africa: a narrative history.
    • South Africa -- Politics and government -- 1994-
    • South Africa -- History -- 1961-
    Muiu, Mueni Wa.
  • Black Political Thought in the Making of South African Democracy (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Halisi, C. R. D., 1947- Black political thought in the making of South African democracy.
    • South Africa -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
    Bhola, H. S.
  • Democratic Teacher Education Reform in Africa: The Case of Namibia (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Zeichner, Kenneth M., ed. Democratic teacher education reform in Africa: the case of Namibia.
    • Dahlström, Lars, 1942-, ed.
    • Teachers -- Training of -- Namibia.
    Upton, Rebecca L.
  • Tricksters and Trancers: Bushman Religion and Society (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Guenther, Mathias Georg. Tricksters and trancers: bushman religion and society.
    • San (African people) -- Africa, Southern -- Religion.
    Ness, Robert.
  • Your Madness, Not Mine: Stories of Cameroon (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Makuchi, 1958- Your madness, not mine: stories of Cameroon.
    • Cameroon -- Social life and customs -- Fiction.
    Kriger, Colleen E.
  • Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800 (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Thornton, John Kelly, 1949- Africa and Africans in the making of the Atlantic world, 1400-1800.
    • Africa -- Relations -- Europe.
    Daniels, Lisa.
  • African Development Report 1998: Human Capital Development (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • African Development Bank. African development report 1998: human capital development.
    • Privatization -- Africa.
    Elkins, Catherine.
  • Crisis, Adjustment and Growth in Uganda: A Study of Adaptation in an African Economy (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bigsten, Arne. Crisis, adjustment and growth in Uganda: a study of adaptation in an African economy.
    • Kayizzi-Mugerwa, Steve.
    • Uganda -- Economic conditions.

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