Donas da terra: her-story on gendered power relations, reflections on variation and change in female land ownership and inheritance in the Zambezi Valley, Mozambique
(University of Bergen)
Paper short abstract:
The Zambezi Valley, in Mozambique is a sociological construct; a produce of 16 century colonial exchanges of the Indian Ocean. Attempts to attract Portuguese settlers helped create a class of powerful landladies. I attempt to explore how women of the area currently reproduce the memory of this past.
Paper long abstract:
The Zambezi Valley, in Mozambique is a sociological construct. Portuguese colonial rule over this area, enacted initially from Goa instituted the prazo system; by leasing to settlers for a period of time. To attract more settlers, some prazos were given as dowry to girls who married Portuguese vassals; to be inherited through the female line, for at least three generations. Indigenous women in the region were also reportedly powerful landowners. Among the Marave, the wife of the karonga had jurisdiction over part of the territory. Female chiefs were also reported to have existed. Among the Shona, the wives of the mutapa had their own territory and could serve as ambassadors. Despite their notoriety, historical texts mention these women marginally or as surrogates to male dominance. This is not an accidental narrative. It stems from a male perception of female roles. By constructing a text which undermines processes through which women can access power, historians have neglected important factors which may have contributed to the rise of such women to power. Using Foulcautian and feminist anthropology approaches to power I propose to understand how women of this sociological space have been constructing the perception of their female ancestry's power. This approach assumes that women act through agency and are producers of their own position. Yet they are also constrained by social structures, within which they enact their agency. Finally, the significance of their actions is linked to a system of understanding shared by her and other subjects of the same structure.
Africa in the Indian Ocean