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Sexuality and Gender Politics in Mozambique

Sexuality and Gender Politics in Mozambique: Rethinking Gender in Africa

Signe Arnfred
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Sexuality and Gender Politics in Mozambique
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2012 gender research award KRAKA-prisen. This book is about gender politics in Mozambique over three decades from 1975 to 2005. The book is also about different ways of understanding gender and sexuality. Gender policies from Portuguese colonialism, through Frelimo socialism to later neo-liberal economic regimes share certain basic assumptions about men, women and gender relations. But to what extent do such assumptions fit the ways in which rural Mozambican men and women see themselves? A major line of argument in the book is that gender relations should be investigated, not assumed, and that policies not matching people's lives are not likely to succeed. The empirical data, on which the argument is based, are first a unique body of data material collected 1982-1984 by the national women's organization, the OMM [when the author was employed as a sociologist in the organization] and secondly data resulting from more recent fieldwork in northern Mozambique. Importantly inspired by African post-colonial feminist lines of thinking, the book engages in a project of re-mapping and re-interpreting 'culture and tradition'. In this context, the book investigates in particular matriliny [c. 40% of Mozambique's population live under conditions of matriliny] and female initiation. The findings open new avenues for gender politics, and for re-thinking sexuality and gender - in Africa and beyond. Signe Arnfred is Associate Professor, Dept of Society & Globalization, and Centre for Gender, Power & Diversity, Roskilde University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-997-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Signe Arnfred
  5. Glossary
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    The title of this book reflects its double ambition: to make a contribution to feminist theorising by rethinking gender (and sexuality) based on material from Mozambique, and to say something about gender politics, sexuality and matriliny in Mozambique. The two ambitions are closely related. The chapters discuss sexuality and gender politics and policies in Mozambique over three decades, from Independence in 1975 to 2005. In doing so, they also investigate ways of understanding gender and sexuality. Gender policies from Portuguese colonialism through Frelimo socialismto later neo-liberal economic regimes share certain basic assumptions about women, men and gender relations. This however...

  7. 1 Women in Mozambique: Gender Struggle and Gender Politics (1987)
    (pp. 23-38)

    In his opening address to the first conference of the Mozambique Women’s Organisation (OMM) in 1973, Samora Machel, President of Frelimo, affirmed that women’s emancipation was an integral aspect of revolutionary struggle. In 1973 Frelimo was still a liberation front engaged in armed struggle against colonial rule. The northern part of Mozambique was a battle ground and the first OMM conference had to be held in the Frelimo camp at Tunduru in southern Tanzania. A photograph of the participants of this first conference can be seen In the OMM’s national secretariat in Maputo. Peasant women and women guerrillas are pictured...

  8. 2 Notes on Gender & Modernization (1988)
    (pp. 39-61)

    In an essay from 1976 the feminist historian Joan Kelly sums up her work in women’s history as follows:

    Indeed, what emerges [when the study of history is approached from the vantage point of women] is a fairly regular pattern of relative loss of status forwomen precisely in those periods of so-called progressive change. … Our notions of so-called progressive developments such as classical Athenian civilization, the Renaissance, and the French Revolution, undergo a startling re-evaluation. (Joan Kelly 1984, 2)

    On the basis of my work in Mozambique between 1981 and 1984, and afterwards through the analysis of extensive data...

  9. 3 Family Forms & Gender Policy in Mozambique 1975–1985 (1989–1990)
    (pp. 62-103)

    In 1982 a pioneer article was printed in the new bulletin of the Mozambican Ministry of Justice, Justiça Popular (Dagnino, Honwana & Sachs 1982). The article dealt with the diversity of family forms in Mozambique, thus establishing an anthropological overview that to my knowledge had not been there before, and on that basis discussing the difficult task of making a unified legislation function on such a diverse social base. The article pointed out (at least) five different family forms, or rather marriage systems existing in Mozambique: 1) The traditional matrilineal system of marriage, which is the most frequent one in...

  10. 4 Simone de Beauvoir in Africa: Woman – the Second Sex? Issues in African Feminist Thought (2000)
    (pp. 104-119)

    In an interview in 2000, Toril Moi, a distinguished figure in the contemporary relaunching of Simone de Beauvoir, confirms that there are two major ideas in de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. One idea is that ‘one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’. The other is that ‘in all known societies, woman has always been looked upon as ‘the other’’ (Larsen 2000, 82). This paper sets out to question and investigate the second statement. Is it really true that in all known societies woman is and has always been looked upon as ‘the other’, the second sex? Looked upon...

  11. 5 Gender in Colonial & Post-colonial Discourses (2003)
    (pp. 120-136)

    Seen in terms of conventional political science, and also as experienced by Mozambican men and women, the recent history of Mozambique has been very dramatic. There have been several changes of political regimes and almost three decades of war, from the onset of the armed struggle in 1964 to the Rome peace agreement in 1992. There have been two remarkable political shifts during this period. First there was the rapid transition in 1975 from Portuguese colonialism to political independence and Frelimo socialism. Second, in the late 1980s the government moved from Frelimo socialism to neo-liberal economic policies and a Structural...

  12. 6 Feminism & Gendered Bodies: On Female Initiation in Northern Mozambique (2008)
    (pp. 137-151)

    It might have been expected that coming-of-age rituals such as the female initiation ceremonies in northern Mozambique would have disappeared as a consequence of the increasing commodification of agricultural production,¹ expanding electrification of rural towns and villages, general proliferation of mobile phones and other indications of economic changes and modernizing lifestyles. Such is, however, not the case. To a certain extent what has happened is the opposite. Initiation rituals, male and female, are practised today with more vigour and zeal than 20–30 years ago. Frelimo was squarely against ‘traditional customs’ like initiation rituals, which they found deeply backward and...

  13. 7 Moonlight & mato: Women’s initiation rituals in Ribáuè (1999)
    (pp. 152-165)

    During the after-harvest period 1998 to 1999 in Ribáuè there had been several celebrations of female initiation rites. The ‘festive season’ – with sufficient supplies of grain for beer-brewing and food for feasting – starts in September or October and goes on until January. The celebration on which this account is based took place early February and was the last one of the season. The rains were approaching, and with them a new cycle of agricultural work.

    I had just arrived to Ribáuè for the second round of fieldwork, when I was informed that a session of initiation rites—the last of...

  14. 8 Wineliwa – The Creation of Women: Initiation Rituals during Frelimo abaixo Politics (1990/2000)
    (pp. 166-181)

    Wineliwa – Emakhuwa for initiation rites – actually means ‘to be danced to’. When in the early 1980s on behalf of the OMM, Organização da Mulher Moçambicana, I was collecting data in northern Mozambique regarding female initiation rituals and other related issues, I found the women insisting on the importance of their daughters being danced to.

    Nowadays, one woman said – this was in 1982 – Frelimo wants us to dance at district headquarters on national holidays, but they prevent us from dancing to our daughters:

    We have stopped performing the initiation rites, but still more frequently we will be called for to dance...

  15. 9 Female Initiation & the Coloniality of Gender (2000/2010)
    (pp. 182-200)

    The fieldwork on which this chapter is based, started in the early 1980s when I was working as a sociologist in the Mozambican national women’s organization, Organização da Mulher Moçambicana, the OMM. At that point Mozambique had just emerged from a successful war of liberation against Portuguese colonialism. Then, Mozambique was a one-party state. Frelimo, the previous liberation front had transformed itself into a socialist party and was firmly in power. The general atmosphere of the country was one of optimism, enthusiasm and hopefulness. This was in spite of sanctions and boycotts by the donor world (except DDR, Russia, Bulgaria...

  16. 10 Situational Gender & Subversive Sex? African Contributions to Feminist Theorizing (2007)
    (pp. 201-216)

    Since the 1980s, feminist thinking has been challenged by feminists of colour and/or from post-colonial backgrounds. They have felt excluded from mainstream feminist concerns, and conceptualizations with implicit points of departure in Western middle-class norms and lifestyles have been seen as irrelevant or insufficient for understanding gender dynamics in different settings. This critique has highlighted weak points and blind spots in mainstream feminist thinking, paving the way for broader, more inclusive theorizing.

    The particular focus in this chapter is on African contributions to feminist theorizing, with a special interest in the ways in which African feminists have taken African ‘tradition’...

  17. 11 Male Mythologies An Inquiry into Assumptions of Feminism & Anthropology (2005)
    (pp. 217-230)

    The point of this chapter is to identify and make visible some persistent assumptions, active in anthropology as well as in feminism(and elsewhere). I call them ‘male mythologies’, not because they are produced and maintained by men only (this is far from the case) but because they naturalize and legitimize male power. I believe that a critique of these assumptions will help to clear a space for different concepts and lines of thinking, better suited for grasping realities of men’s and women’s lives.

    I am not alone in this endeavour. Feminist anthropologists and African feminists have at various times in...

  18. 12 Ancestral Spirits, Land & Food Gendered Power & Land Tenure in Ribáuè (1999)
    (pp. 231-251)

    Ribáuè town is situated on the main road crossing northern Mozambique, more or less midway between Malawi and the coast, in Nampula Province, some 140 kilometers to the east of the provincial capital. The road is national road number 8, and it goes from Nacala, the major port of the north, eastward to Nampula city and further east into Malawi, passing district towns Ribáuè, Malema and Cuamba. Living in Ribáuè town from 1998 to 1999 it took some time before I realized that the town’s main street was in fact this national road. Few cars were passing; in the dry...

  19. 13 Sex, Food & Female Power On Women’s Lives in Ribáuè (2006)
    (pp. 252-264)

    Sexuality is often perceived as a site for women’s subordination. Through the institution of marriage, a woman’s sexuality is placed under her husband’s control, for his pleasure and for patrilineal procreation. Food and cooking are similarly perceived as part of women’s household chores, adding to the double workload impeding women’s advancement in society.

    From the point of view of such perceptions the title of this chapter may seem controversial: how could one argue for a perspective, in which sex and food may possibly be acknowledged as areas of female power? The chapter will proceed first by briefly discussing these perceptions...

  20. 14 Tufo Dancing Muslim Women’s Culture in Northern Mozambique (1999)
    (pp. 265-290)

    It is afternoon in one of the densely populated bairros in Mozambique Island. A group of women gather on the veranda of a small red house in one of the sandy streets, not far from the sea. It is early April, the air is still warm, but not unbearably hot. There seems to be no fixed time for the meeting; some women pass by, others come and go, some settle down in the shade of the veranda. One woman is braiding another’s hair. After a while, ten or twelve women have assembled. They move inside, and rehearsals can begin. Inside...

  21. Epilogue
    (pp. 291-295)

    The work on this book has been carried along by two major concerns. One is about politics – in particular politics of gender and development – the other is about conceptualizations. The two concerns are closely interlinked. First on politics. As pointed out in several chapters, most explicitly in Chapter 5, political approaches to issues of women and gender have been characterized by continuities rather than radical breaks, all the way from the days of Frelimo socialism in the 1970s and early 1980s to the days of World Bank hegemony from the 1990s onwards. This is one step: to realize that in...

  22. References
    (pp. 296-304)
  23. Index
    (pp. 305-310)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 311-311)