University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series > Female Sexuality as Capacity and Power? Re-Conceptualizing Sexualities in Africa

Female Sexuality as Capacity and Power? Re-Conceptualizing Sexualities in Africa

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This Talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Lent term Seminar Series: Gender in Africa

The presentation will highlight different lines of thinking/conceptualizing female sexuality. One line of thinking female sexuality goes back to the Bible, with its expulsion of female desire (Eve from the Garden of Eden) and separation of sexuality from motherhood (Virgin Mary). Biblical conceptions of female sexuality have informed missionary and colonial approaches to sexuality in Africa. Rooted in Western feminist notions, Gender-and-Development lines of thinking usually emphasise hierarchies of gender (disregarding hierarchies of age) while sexuality is seen in terms of male domination/female vulnerability, with sex as a zone of risk and danger for women. For coming to grips with female rituals of initiation in matrilineal northern Mozambique, however, different approaches are needed. With inspiration from post-colonial feminist thinking (Ifi Amadiume, Oyèrónké Oyewùmí, Nkiru Nzegwu, Sylvia Tamale and Bibi Bakere-Yusuf among others) it becomes possible to see rituals of initiation as strongholds of female power, and as sexual capacity building of young women, preparing for marriage and motherhood. Based on fieldwork in northern Mozambique the presentation will discuss different lines of understanding female sexualities in Africa, also discussing implications of such different understandings.

This talk is part of the Centre of African Studies Lent Seminar Series series.

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