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The Invention of Women

The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses

Oyèrónké Oyěwùmí
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt0vh
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  • Book Info
    The Invention of Women
    Book Description:

    The “woman question,” this book asserts, is a Western one, and not a proper lens for viewing African society. Rethinking gender as a Western construction, Oyewumi offers a new way of understanding both Yoruban and Western cultures. Winner of the American Sociological Association Sex & Gender Section's 1998 "Distinguished Book Award."

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8590-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  5. A Note on Orthography
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  6. Chapter 1 Visualizing the Body: WESTERN THEORIES AND AFRICAN SUBJECTS
    (pp. 1-30)

    The idea that biology is destiny — or, better still, destiny is biology — has been a staple of Western thought for centuries.¹ Whether the issue is who is who in Aristotle’s polis² or who is poor in the late twentieth-century United States, the notion that difference and hierarchy in society are biologically determined continues to enjoy credence even among social scientists who purport to explain human society in other than genetic terms. In the West, biological explanations appear to be especially privileged over other ways of explaining differences of gender, race, or class. Difference is expressed as degeneration. In...

  7. Chapter 2 (Re)constituting the Cosmology and Sociocultural Institutions of Òyó-Yorùbá ARTICULATING THE YORÙBÁ WORLD-SENSE
    (pp. 31-79)

    Indisputably, gender has been a fundamental organizing principle in Western societies.¹ Intrinsic to the conceptualization of gender is a dichotomy in which male and female, man and woman, are constantly and binarily ranked, both in relationship to and against each other. It has been well documented that the categories of male and female in Western social practice are not free of hierarchical associations and binary oppositions in which the male implies privilege and the female subordination. It is a duality based on a perception of human sexual dimorphism inherent in the definition of gender. Yorùbá society, like many other societies...

  8. Chapter 3 Making History, Creating Gender: THE INVENTION OF MEN AND KINGS IN THE WRITING OF ÒYÓ ORAL TRADITIONS
    (pp. 80-120)

    Of all the things that were produced in Africa during the colonial period — cash crops, states, and tribes, to name a few — history and tradition are the least acknowledged. This does not mean that Africans did not have history before the white man came. Rather, I am making distinctions among the following: first, history as lived experience; second, history as a record of lived experience that is coded in the oral traditions;¹ and, third, written history. The last category is very much tied up with European engagements with Africa and the introduction of “history-writing” as a discipline and...

  9. Chapter 4 Colonizing Bodies and Minds: GENDER AND COLONIALISM
    (pp. 121-156)

    Theorists of colonization like Frantz Fanon and Albert Memmi tell us that the colonial situation, being a Manichaean world,¹ produces two kinds of people: the colonizer and the colonized (also known as the settler and the native), and what differentiates them is not only skin color but also state of mind.² One similarity that is often overlooked is that both colonizers and colonized are presumed male. Colonial rule itself is described as “a manly or husbandly or lordly prerogative.”³ As a process, it is often described as the taking away of the manhood of the colonized. While the argument that...

  10. Chapter 5 The Translation of Cultures: ENGENDERING YORÙBÁ LANGUAGE, ORATURE, AND WORLD-SENSE
    (pp. 157-180)

    The preceding chapters have repeatedly demonstrated that at many levels, questions of language and translation are central to this study.¹ Western feminist theorists have underscored the importance of language in the construction of gender. In the English-speaking West, feminists have shown the connections between the male-centeredness of the language and women’s secondary status in their societies.² Language is a social institution and at the level of the individual affects social behavior. A people’s language reflects their patterns of social interactions, lines of status, interests, and obsessions. That much is apparent in the above epigraph by Austin; if English makes much...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 181-208)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-222)
  13. Index
    (pp. 223-230)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-231)