Female Circles and Male Lines: Gender Dynamics along the Swahili Coast

  title={Female Circles and Male Lines: Gender Dynamics along the Swahili Coast},
  author={Kelly Michelle Askew},
  journal={Africa Today},
  pages={102 - 67}
  • K. Askew
  • Published 1 July 1999
  • Sociology
  • Africa Today
This article explores transformations in gender relations along the Swahili Coast of East Africa through an historical examination of four domains of social life: politics, kinship, economics, and musical performance. By examining data about the relative social positions of women and men across a span of five centuries, I seek to counteract widespread tendencies to project assumptions of male dominance onto the past and to uncritically attribute current practices of gender segregation to the… 

Slavery and Emancipation in Islamic East Africa: From Honor to Respectability

Examining the process of abolition on the island of Pemba off the East African coast in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this book demonstrates the links between emancipation and

Love and Sex in Islamic Africa: Introduction

Groundbreaking studies on the intersections and divergences between African understandings of gender and European understandings of gender in Africa emerged in the 1980s and 1990s and have expanded

Biographies of Practice and the Negotiation of Swahili at Nineteenth-Century Vumba

Histories of Vumba, on the southern coast of Kenya, were recorded during the early British colonial period in this region, and inevitably reflect a series of contemporary concerns. Nevertheless, due

How to Be a Good Muslim Wife: Women’s Performance of Islamic Authority during Swahili Weddings

Abstract The existing literature on women of the Swahili Coast has focused largely on their involvement in activities labeled as non-Islamic by both male peers and scholars. However, Islam plays an

Ngoma Memories: How Ritual Music and Dance Shaped the Northern Kenya Coast

Abstract: This essay integrates ethnographic data collected between Mombasa and the Lamu archipelago in Kenya into the growing body of scholarship on Swahili music and dance (ngoma) traditions. The

“I am a man of both sides”: female power and Islam in the life and work of a male spirit healer in northern Mozambique

ABSTRACT How can male experiences of spirit possession contribute to feminist-influenced anthropology, which has focused mostly on the subordination of women and/or their resistance to male power? I

As Plato Duly Warned: Music, Politics, and Social Change in Coastal East Africa

This essay explores the significance of art in political and social change by way of evidence from the Swahili coast of East Africa. Analysis of two musical genres, ngoma and dansi (typically glossed

Zanzibari women’s discursive and sexual agency: Violating gendered speech prohibitions through talk about supernatural sex

This article analyzes a conversation with two Zanzibari women about sex between humans and spirits. This research demonstrates how they navigate gender-based restrictions on discourse to discuss sex

Mobilizing Women During the Time of Politics

By the 1950s, the wind had changed, thanks to “radical families,” and most Zanzibaris were on board with the idea of educating women. Women’s education and work had also become part of the broader

Female Rule in the Indian Ocean World (1300–1900)

An outstanding feature of the early modern Indian Ocean World is the large number of women who exercised formal sovereign political power. Based on a systematic survey of 277 queens regnant in the



Women, Slaves, and Foreigners: African cultural influences and group processes in the formation of northern Swahili coastal society

shaped Swahili culture remain to be made explicit. Here I will suggest that certain processes worked together, especially in the area north of Mombasa up to and including the Lamu archipelago, to

Waungwana na Wanawake: Muslim ethnicity and sexual segregation In Coastal Kenya

Abstract The purpose of this paper is to highlight a growing body of research showing that a different configuration of cultural attributes has evolved for males and females in Swahili‐speaking

Oral Historiography and the Shirazi of the East African Coast

“Settlements of foreign, predominantly Semitic, peoples” Strandes' gambit concerning ‘Muslim Civilization’ of the east coast of Africa is a familiar one to many Africanists. Persians and Arabs, so

Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture

Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture. SHERRY B. ORTNER. Boston MA: Beacon Press,19%. 255 pp. Sherry Ortner's essays, written over a span of twenty-five years, rekindled memories of

Religious Courts, Community, and Ethnicity Among the Swahili of Mombasa: An Historical Study of Social Boundaries

The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of Koranic courts in asserting and maintaining the boundaries of a social group, the Swahili, in Mombasa, Kenya. It is a basic thesis here that these

The Shirazi in Swahili Traditions, Culture, and History

“Strange foreign jewels on a mournful silent shore” Historians have frequently viewed the Swahili-speaking peoples of the East African coast as members of an Arab diaspora that spread around the

Women's Wedding Celebrations in Mombasa, Kenya

Through their wedding celebrations, women from all strata of Mombasa society have participated in the evolution of a variegated Swahili culture. An historical analysis of wedding ceremonies

Pronouncing and Persevering: Gender and the Discourses of Disputing in an African Islamic Court

Susan F. Hirsch, Pronouncing and Persevering: Gender and the Discourses of Disputing in an African Islamic Court. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. xix + 360 pages. $48.00 cloth; $19.00

Swahili Mijikenda: facing both ways in Kenya

Opening Paragraph I describe a people who, in aspiring to Swahili Islamic values and life style, marginalise themselves economically and politically. The title of the article both indicates the


The Union has not forgotten women behind in its task of arousing national consciousness in the people. It now has 5,000 women members, the majority of whom enrolled during the past four months. Under