Africa Today

Africa Today 49.1, Spring 2002

Special Issue:
Women, Languages, and Law in Africa



    Stoeltje, Beverly.
    Firmin-Sellers, Kathryn.
    Okello-Ogwang, Ernest.
  • Introduction to Special Issue: Women, Language, and Law in Africa
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      A powerful woman warrior, an exotic female dancer, a wealthy market trader, a farmer with a hoe, or an elusive signifier? All these images of African women have been the subject of scholarly works over the past several decades in an effort to comprehend women’s position and status in the numerous economies and cultures of Africa. Female scholars, both African and Western, have addressed their research to issues as broadly defined as women and class in Africa, and as specifically focused as queens, queen mothers, priestesses, and power. More recently, however, agencies from the U.S. and Europe have begun funding projects concerned with women and law. This topic has captured the attention of scholars who are increasingly turning their attention to women’s use of the law in courts and their abilities to strategize with regard to resources.
    Wanitzek, Ulrike.
  • The Power of Language in the Discourse on Women's Rights: Some Examples from Tanzania
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    Subject Headings:
    • Sociolinguistics -- Tanzania.
    • Power (Social sciences) -- Tanzania.
    • Women -- Tanzania -- Social conditions.
    • Women's rights -- Tanzania -- Cases.
      The primary object of this paper is to contribute to the work of living-law scholars by adding an element of language to their research agenda. It is argued that language as a means of social interaction constitutes a powerful medium for the construction and transmission of culture. As a medium of communication, language expresses hidden notions of power, although at a superficial level the ideas and meanings contained in ordinary words are often assumed to be universally accepted by those who speak the language. The main questions raised in this paper are: in what way has language been used as an expression of power? how does legal language reflect and reinforce male dominance over women and, more generally, gender bias? what can and ought to be done? The paper shows the relevance of language to the work currently being done by living-law scholars and suggests possible areas of cooperation between lawyers and scholars of language and gender.
    Obeng, Samuel Gyasi.
    Stoeltje, Beverly.
  • Women's Voices in Akan Juridical Discourse
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    Subject Headings:
    • Women -- Ghana -- Language.
    • Akan (African people)
    • Law, Akan -- Ghana -- Language.
    • Customary law courts -- Ghana.
      Close attention to juridical discourses from the queen mothers of Ashanti’s and Akyem-Asuom courts suggests that Akan customary juridical discourse is influenced by the sociopolitical and cultural contexts in which it takes place, as well as language and cultural ideologies, participants’ goals, and intended outcomes. In managing communicatively difficult speech, including disagreements, complaint narratives, requests, and denials, female disputants employ communicative strategies that differ from those of men. Although Akan language ideology assumes that women are not as communicatively competent as men in juridical genres, our study shows that women can sometimes gain advantage over men in the customary courts because female and male disputants use language differently and for different purposes.
    Clark, Gracia.
  • Market Association Leaders' Strategic Use of Language and Narrative in Market Disputes and Negotiations in Kumasi, Ghana
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    Subject Headings:
    • Markets -- Ghana -- Kumasi.
    • Negotiation in business -- Ghana -- Kumasi.
    • Ashanti (African people) -- Ghana -- Kumasi.
    • Language and languages -- Economic aspects -- Ghana -- Kumasi.
      Contemporary market traders in Kumasi, Ghana, rely on the leaders of their market groups, which unite those who trade in a specific commodity, to settle daily disputes within the market and to negotiate with outside authorities during times of crisis. Skill in handling disputes by using the appropriate rhetorical strategies marks rising elders as potential candidates for future leadership positions. Conventional procedures have evolved to incorporate the indigeneous principles of dispute settlement accepted by group members (usually ethnically homogenous, whether Asante or not), along with aspects borrowed from Christian and Islamic practices, national common-law courts, trade unions, and cooperatives. This paper looks at the norms invoked and transgressed in several characteristic disputes involving Asante commodity group leaders in Kumasi Central Market. In one case, the leader of the orange traders settled a quarrel between two wholesale traders who had been steady partners. Repeated narratives of the events in question turned out to be the primary procedure for identifying and negotiating conflicting claims. In the second case, market leaders met to negotiate with soldiers, local government representatives, and farm leaders about price controls. Rhetorical devices that traders considered patronizing and inappropriate became the focus of their resentment. In a third case, traders’ leaders negotiated over freight rates with drivers and porters who carried their goods. The two sides jockeyed over procedural issues until the actual negotiations stalled. In a fourth case, the original issue of unpaid credit was soon overwhelmed by outrage at procedural abuses that undermined the reputation of the market leader. The need to keep trade running smoothly mandates compliance with these institutions despite their lack of explicit legal status.
    Griffiths, Anne M. O.
  • Women's Worlds, Siblings in Dispute over Inheritance: A View from Botswana
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    Subject Headings:
    • Inheritance and succession -- Botswana -- Molepolole -- Cases.
    • Brothers and sisters -- Botswana -- Molepolole.
    • Dispute resolution (Law) -- Botswana -- Molepolole -- Language -- Cases.
    • Customary law courts -- Botswana -- Molepolole.
      The relationship between women, language, and law in the context of two inheritance disputes that took place in the village of Molepolole, in Botswana, southern Africa, features siblings jockeying for control over their deceased parents’ property under customary law. Two cases have been selected because they illustrate (a) how claims are processed within a given framework where the terms of reference are set and both parties proceed on the basis of a common set of understandings, and (b) how claims may be processed where one party challenges the given framework by shifting the terms of reference, thereby creating possibilities for change and new forms of discourse. In both cases, the women find themselves operating within a gendered environment where men generally have better access to resources than women. Irrespective of their position within social networks, women are still faced with negotiating their status and rights to property in terms of deeply embedded conceptions of family and the women’s role therein. It is that which frames the ways in which their claims to property are acknowledged and received.
    Goodman, Jane E.
  • "Stealing Our Heritage?": Women's Folksongs, Copyright Law, and the Public Domain in Algeria
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    Subject Headings:
    • Women, Berber -- Algeria -- Songs and music.
    • Folk songs, Kabyle -- Algeria.
    • Public domain (Copyright law) -- Algeria.
      World music inspired by folklore poses complex issues of authorship, remuneration, and belonging. In Algeria, discussions about the world music genre called new Kabyle song frequently question whether new singers have adequately represented a song’s folk origins to the copyright agency. Starting from these debates, the paper examines locally specific ways in which copyright law, understood as a particular mode of circulating texts through their attachment to authors, is being used to generate new relationships to women’s repertoires in Algeria and produce new notions of who can be imagined as an author and how authorship itself can be conceived.

Book Reviews

    Ochwada, Hannington.
  • "I Will Not Eat Stone": A Women's History of Colonial Asante (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Allman, Jean Marie. I will not eat stone: a women's history of colonial Asante.
    • Tashjian, Victoria B.
    • Women, Ashanti -- History.
    Snyder, Margaret C., 1929-
  • Is Uganda an Emerging Economy? (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Bigsten, Arne. Is Uganda an emerging economy?
    • Kayizzi-Mugerwa, Steve.
    • Uganda -- Economic conditions -- 1979-
    Sugnet, Charles.
  • Subject to Colonialism: African Self-Fashioning and the Colonial Library (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Desai, Gaurav Gajanan. Subject to colonialism: African self-fashioning and the colonial library.
    • Anthropology -- Africa -- Bibliography.
    Vivian, Brian C.
  • Asante Identities: History and Modernity in an African Village 1850-1950 (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • McCaskie, T. C. Asante identities: history and modernity in an African village 1850-1950.
    • Ashanti (African people) -- History.
    Ejobowah, John Boye, 1962-
  • The Changing Forms of Identity Politics in Nigeria Under Economic Adjustment: The Case of the Oil Minorities Movement of the Niger Delta (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Obi, C. I. Changing forms of identity politics in Nigeria under economic adjustment: the case of the oil minorities movement of the Niger Delta.
    • Minorities -- Nigeria -- Niger River Delta.
    Osirim, Mary Johnson.
  • African Women and Children: Crisis and Response (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Rwomire, Apollo, 1945-, ed. African women and children: crisis and response.
    • Women -- Africa -- Social conditions.
    Peck, Richard, 1944-
  • The Novel and the Politics of Nation Building in East Africa (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Simatei, Tirop Peter. Novel and the politics of nation building in East Africa.
    • Politics in literature.
    Okereafoezeke, Nonso, 1963-
  • Yoruba Hometowns: Community, Identity, and Development in Nigeria (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Trager, Lillian, 1947- Yoruba hometowns: community, identity, and development in Nigeria.
    • Yoruba (African people) -- Kinship.
    Skinner, David E.
  • France, the United States, and the Algerian War (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Wall, Irwin M. France, the United States, and the Algerian War.
    • Algeria -- History -- Revolution, 1954-1962 -- Diplomatic history.
    Colvin, Christopher J.
  • The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Legitimizing the Post-Apartheid State (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Wilson, Richard, 1964- Politics of truth and reconciliation in South Africa: legitimizing the post-apartheid state.
    • South Africa. Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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