Utu Feminism: interrogating Njeri Kinyanjui's concept on African Women's Agency in the Kenyan city
Njoki E. Wamai (United States International University-Africa)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores Njeri Kinyanjui's concept-Utu Feminism( Kinyanjui 2019). The concept addresses the lack of an African feminist epistemology in Kenya that speaks to the lived reality of many. My paper will interrogate her proposed concept as an analytical framework for African feminist research.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores Njeri Kinyanjui's concept of Utu Feminism( Kinyanjui 2019). Njeri Kinyanjui is a Kenyan feminist geographer at the University of Nairobi who has been researching and writing on everyday African women's agency. She argues that lack of a literary body of theory that addresses issues of origin, nature, and structure of African feminist epistemology in Kenya has ensured that feminist scholarship in Kenya and indeed Africa is largely informed by western theoretical concepts as analytical frameworks. Kinyanjui argues that African indigenous women's movement are as old as humanity yet African feminist theory is rarely informed by these movements. She argues that African women in the city are constantly resisting exploitation by the market system, coloniality, sexism, sexual exploitation from city authorities and oppression at an everyday level yet these resistances have not been researched as African feminist realities. In resisting these forms of exploitation small scale women traders in the city build solidarity networks known as chamas in Kenya which provide safety nets and healing in the harsh masculine city. This self-determination and desire for economic sovereignty through resilience and solidarity with other women in the harsh city is what Kinyanjui argues is Utu Feminism based on human-ness. In this paper, I analyse her proposed concept as an analytical framework for African feminist research and as a contribution to African feminist theory.
African feminisms today: connections and disruptions