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date: 24 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries were a period of turbulence and change in Africa; men and women navigated that turbulence in part by redefining gender. Power in African societies has historically been linked to seniority determined by age, sexuality, reproductive capacity, spiritual aptitude, physical strength, and wealth. Individuals have acted to reshape their horizons of possibility by jockeying for seniority through shifting means over time. Flows of ideas, peoples, cultures, and goods introduced new constructions of gender that have been adapted and transformed in the African context, generating new avenues of manœuvre through courts, schooling, and markets. No single credible narrative of either ascension or decline can be told about women’s experiences in the history of modern Africa because what it has meant to be a woman has been constantly renegotiated. Male bodies and masculinity have shifted in meaning and potential as well.

Keywords: women, men, gender, sexuality, reproduction, masculinity.

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