Undesirable Practices: Women, Children, and the Politics of the Body in Northern Ghana, 1930-1972

Undesirable Practices: Women, Children, and the Politics of the Body in Northern Ghana, 1930-1972

Undesirable Practices: Women, Children, and the Politics of the Body in Northern Ghana, 1930-1972

Undesirable Practices: Women, Children, and the Politics of the Body in Northern Ghana, 1930-1972

Synopsis

Undesirable Practices examines both the intended and the unintended consequences of "imperial feminism" and British colonial interventions in "undesirable" cultural practices in northern Ghana. Jessica Cammaert addresses the state management of social practices such asfemale circumcision, nudity, prostitution, and "illicit" adoption, as wellas the hesitation to impose severe punishments for the slave dealingof females, particularly female children. She examines the genderedpower relations and colonial attitudes that targeted women and childrenspanning pre- and postcolonial periods, the early postindependenceyears, and post-Nkrumah policies. In particular, Cammaert examinesthe limits of the male colonial gaze and argues that the power lay notin the gaze itself but in the act of "looking away," a calculated aversion of attention intended to maintain the tribal community and controlover the movement, sexuality, and labor of women and children.With its examination of broader time periods and topics and itscomplex analytical arguments, Undesirable Practices makes a valuablecontribution to literature in African studies, contemporary advocacydiscourse, women and gender studies, and critical postcolonial studies.

Excerpt

Female genital mutilation, nudity, human trafficking, and prostitution are all practices decried by the international community as detrimental to the advancement of human rights in Africa. While the goal of eradication continues to capture the imagination and initiative of local, regional, and international actors, few historical studies have explored why and how these practices came to be shaped as harmful to Africans and African development. Policy-oriented development studies often focus on demographic, health, and economic statistics and tend to quantify rather than qualify their subjects in static models that do not stand up to the rigors of historical inquiry. But exploring the histories behind so-called undesirable practices reveals more than these policy-oriented studies suggest. Currently there is a need for a humanities-oriented approach to balance the overwhelming corpus of social science, policy-driven scholarship. the tools of history are particularly well suited to exploring undesirable practices through the lenses of race, gender, colonialism, and the nation-state in Africa.

This book addresses four practices: female circumcision; child slavery, including pawning and trafficking; nudity; and prostitution. It brings these practices together through an understanding of their shared construction of “undesirability” in colonial and postcolonial Africa. in northern Ghana this set of issues challenged established colonial and postcolonial development: female circumcision debates challenged . . .

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