African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa

African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa

African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa

African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa


"This book is the best thing I've seen on the question--not only of 'feminism' in its African articulation but also, more generally, on the question of how feminism emerges and what it means to those who espouse it."--Joan Scott, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton


Gwendolyn Mikell

The Crises of Gender and State

Contemporary African women sometimes think of themselves as walking a political/gender tightrope. On one hand, they are concerned about the sea of economic and political troubles facing their communities and their national “ships of state.” On the other hand, they are grappling with how to affirm their own identities while transforming societal notions of gender and familial roles.

Over the past two decades, states in sub-Saharan Africa have gone through many crises: the failure of male-dominated, multi-party politics or state socialism in the aftermath of independence; the onset of coups and establishment of military regimes; the economic instability that culminated in the collapse of national economies; the imposition of controversial, Western-mediated structural-adjustment programs; and, finally, the pressures to democratize governance processes so as to involve the “people.” the colonially derived boundaries of African countries have been questioned, as have been the people’s loyalty to the administrative and political structures that we call “the state.” Perhaps most importantly, sub-Saharan African states feel pressured to restructure themselves under the guidance of more technologically advanced Western states and “global” powers rather than under their own independent means. They operate in a global environment that poses questions about what functions the African “state” performs for its citizens, what viability third-world states have in today’s world, and whether there is a need for so many political units in contemporary Africa.

African women know that they have borne the brunt of the crises of their states over the past two decades. the evidence is apparent in the lower educational levels for women across the continent, the continuing presence of women in agricultural and other rural activities (rather than in the professions and other income-producing activities), and in the higher levels of female malnutrition and maternal and infant mortality so well documented . . .

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