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Gendered implications of matriliny in Africa, past and present 
Jonna Katto (University of Helsinki)
Signe Arnfred (Roskilde University)
Christine Saidi (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania)
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History (x) Gender, Sexuality & Intersectionality (y)
Hauptgebäude, Hörsaal 6
Wednesday 31 May, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

The panel will focus on matriliny as a way of rethinking gender in Africa. It will examine matriliny historically—looking into the ways matriliny has changed over time—but also in terms of its implications for different epistemologies of gender and sexuality.

Long Abstract:

Matriliny is quite widespread across Africa, even today. Matriliny has proved remarkably resilient, despite other social and socio-economic changes, but often it has gone under the radar. Generally, matriliny has been ignored, or considered insignificant or maligned in much anthropological, historical, political science, cultural, development and even feminist literature.

Nevertheless, modern matrilineal families create communities and social safety nets that offer alternative ways for survival in contrast to failed policies proposed by African national governments and development organizations. The panel will examine matriliny historically, looking into the ways matriliny has changed over time. It will explore matriliny’s significant role in modern Africa, and the lessons this form of social organization can contribute to social justice issues currently debated internationally.

The panel will also focus on matriliny as a way of rethinking gender in Africa. Mainstream taken-for-granted conceptualizations of gender build on notions of dichotomous hierarchical relations of male dominance/female subordination, all inscribed in a heterosexual matrix. In this panel, we will explore implications of matriliny in terms of different epistemologies of gender and sexuality. The panel thus aims to contribute to decolonial feminist epistemological debates and to future understandings of gender – in Africa and elsewhere.

We encourage paper submissions based on field work among matrilineal peoples, historical research on matrilineal communities, as well as theoretical/epistemological studies on gender/sexuality in Africa.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Wednesday 31 May, 2023, -
Session 2 Wednesday 31 May, 2023, -