This article reviews representations and lived experiences of interracial sex and métissage in twentieth-century colonial Gabon to argue that African communities and colonial societies debated over "the métis problem" as question of how to demarcate African women's sexuality, and socioeconomic and political power in the urban locale. These discourses and social realities reflected ambiguous and contradictory colonial discourses and polyvalent struggles among Gabonese populations to recast gender and respectability in the colonial capital city. Mpongwé women's participation in interracial relationships, frequently brokered by male kin, had unintended consequences that threatened colonial order and reordered gender hierarchies within Mpongwé communities. Following World War I through the 1950s, shifting coalitions of elite African men, colonial officials, and private French citizens—anxious of the social mobility black and mixed race women achieved and sought to maintain—frowned upon and sought to restrict interracial liasons. Mpongwé women, both black and métis, involved in interracial relationships struggled to maintain control over their property, their labor, and insist upon their respectability in the precarious urban milieu. Using oral and written sources, this article addresses a gap in the scholarship on gender, sexuality, and colonialism by foregrounding how African women and men engaged in and reflected on miscegenation at the center of analysis. Furthermore, this article emphasizes the colonial encounter as a dialectic in which the actions of African women shaped colonial perceptions and policies.


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pp. 56-82
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