Roundtable Bold Mamas and Audacious Entrepreneurs: Early African Gender Dynamics and the African Diaspora

AHA Session 155
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Missouri Room (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Kirsten Gardner, University of Texas at San Antonio
Well-Behaved Women: Hospitality as an Identity Marker
C. Cymone Fourshey, Susquehanna University
Spoken Like a Market Woman: Learning Language in Malanje
Carolyn Vieira Martinez, Chapman University

Session Abstract

Western ideological assumptions in approaches to women’s/gender history often skew the meaning of women’s strength, power, and status in early African societies, which can lead to an inverting and undermining of their historical relevance in the African Diaspora.  The common effect is that conclusions drawn end up pathologizing women of African origin as man-dominating matriarchal figures or silent and victimized African women.  Both extremes are based on the belief that these roles are a result of the Atlantic slave trade.  The latest research on early African social history acknowledges women’s respected and long-enduring roles in most pre-colonial African societies, and this new research opens an opportunity for new interpretations and appreciation for the persistence of African origin traditions throughout continental and transoceanic African Diasporas. This collection of 10-minute presentations will emphasize that we must aim to link pre-colonial social history with the African Diaspora so that claims about “African” origin can be set within the a solid foundation that considers the intertwined history of gender, economics, religion, kinship, hospitality, politics, and more.  This roundtable discussion session is intended for all scholars interested in exploring and developing best practices and theoretical models for the study of gender anchored in African-centered episteme.

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