Accepted paper:

Gendered moral citizenship in urban Zanzibar


Marloes Hamelink (Utrecht University)

Paper short abstract:

Morality in Zanzibar is intertwined with religious values and particularly women perform and negotiate moral values. The everyday practice of moral citizenship is performed through social relationships and appearance, through which Muslim women claim their superiority compared to regional others.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I focus on how gendered moral citizenship in urban Zanzibar is negotiated. Economic and political tensions between Zanzibari and mainland Tanzanians are shaped through feelings of inequality. Zanzibari claim they are disadvantaged and the political union made Zanzibar one of the poorest regions of Tanzania. Further, through the confrontation with tourists and people from Western parts of the world through mass media, Zanzibari realize inequality takes place in their disadvantage on a global level. They deal with this through emphasis on moral superiority. Muslim women extend this to a form of moral citizenship in which they perceive Zanzibar as a place where religion is practiced in better ways than the neighboring areas with more religious diversity. Based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Zanzibar, I argue women practice moral citizenship in everyday life through embodied and disembodied performance. The female body is part of moral negotiations on individual level, within her family and beyond. Through embodiment women emphasis their moral practices and reflect on that of others. Different styles of dress and specific ways of communication are part of embodied moral practices. In urban Zanzibar women negotiate moral citizenship through everyday practice and behavior, which urges for a gendered interpretation of morality.

panel Rel07
Religion, citizenship and everyday practices in Africa