Printer-friendly version Send by email PDF version


Picturing Islamic Authority: Gender Metaphors and Sufi Leadership in Senegal


Hill, Joseph. 2014. “Picturing Islamic Authority: Gender Metaphors and Sufi Leadership in Senegal.” Islamic Africa 5 (2): 275-315. 

Author: Joseph Hill


Gendered metaphors of begetting, birth, milk nursing, maternal nurturing, virility, filial piety, patrilineage, and marital relationships have been central to Sufi imaginations of religious knowledge and authority for over a millennium. Contemporary adherents of the Fayḍa Tijāniyya Sufi movement in Senegal continue to use these metaphors, picturing changing relations of religious authority in terms of familiar social realities. Although the most widely used metaphors are perhaps those of fatherhood for male leaders and motherhood for female leaders, a range of masculine and feminine metaphors can describe either men or women. The Fayḍa Tijāniyya's founder, Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse, is best known to disciples as “Baay” (“Father”). The paternal metaphor is largely reserved for Shaykh Ibrahim's unique place in the movement. Yet women leaders overwhelmingly describe themselves in terms of maternal metaphors, presenting religious leadership as growing naturally out of their maternal qualities. At the same time, these women deconstruct gender distinctions using mystical discourses, sometimes presenting all Sufis as “men” and sometimes insisting that gender has no reality. Although some scholars have argued that Sufi gender metaphors value men and masculinity while devaluing women and femininity, this article shows that the effects of a metaphor must be sought in the performative context in which it is invoked. Ancient gender metaphors now serve to imagine new configurations of religious authority, including the growing number and influence of women Sufi leaders.

Topics: Clan, Gender, Women, Men, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Femininity/ies, Gendered Power Relations, Governance, Religion Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Senegal

Year: 2014

'Goodbye Serbian Kennedy': Zoran Dindic and the New Democratic Masculinity in Serbia


Greenberg, Jessica. 2006. “’Goodbye Serbian Kennedy’: Zoran Dindic and the New Democratic Masculinity in Serbia.” East European Politics and Societies 20 (1): 126-51. 

Author: Jessica Greenberg


In this article, the author demonstrates how representations of the assassination and funeral of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Dindic enacted politics, reshaping the relationship between citizen and state during a time of political crisis. The expression of citizen-state relations through public mourning grounded in intimate, familial loss produced a break between a violent, nationalist past and a possible democratic future. This process relied on the deployment of normative assumptions about gender and kinship. The figure of Zoran Dindic represented a heteronormative, democratic masculinity that evoked a new relationship between family, citizen, state, and nation in the Serbian context. In contrast, those held responsible for his assassination were presented as antifamily and part of a clan structure based on non-reproductive, criminal connections that evoked a contrasting and undemocratic form of masculinity. Such representations masked ways that current political institutions and public figures were implicated in past state violence by focusing on a story about Dindic and his killers as certain kinds of men, rather than about structural features of politics and government.

Topics: Citizenship, Clan, Democracy / Democratization, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gendered Discourses, Governance, Post-conflict Governance, Post-Conflict, Security, Violence Regions: Europe, Balkans Countries: Serbia

Year: 2006

Swines, Hazels, and the Dirty Dozen: Masculinity, Territoriality, and the Youth Gangs of Soweto, 1960-1976


Glaser, Clive. 1998. “Swines, Hazels, and the Dirty Dozen: Masculinity, Territoriality, and the Youth Gangs of Soweto, 1960-1976.” Journal of South African Studies 24 (4): 719-736. 

Author: Clive Glaser


During the 1960s and early 1970s, the youth gangs of Soweto, like their predecessors throughout the Witwatersrand in the 1940s and 1950s, developed a sense of masculine identity intimately linked to their territories. There was a great deal of cultural continuity between these exclusively male urban gangs and rural age grades: groups of male adolescents separated off from established households to experiment with their sexuality, hone their fighting skills and assert their independence. The social mobility of most city-bred black youths, however, was blocked and much of their masculine dignity was invested in their ability to dominate their local streets. Gang identity depended on an overlap of personal and spatial familiarity, which took time to develop. Gangs therefore usually emerged in fairly settled neighbourhoods. While there was relative continuity in gang formation in the older parts of Soweto, especially Orlando, gangs took longer to cohere in the newly resettled parts of Soweto like Meadowlands and Diepkloof.

Topics: Clan, Gender, Men, Boys, Masculinity/ies, Tribe, Violence Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 1998

Marriage and Land Property: Bilateral Non-Lineal Kinship and Communal Authority of the Lahu on the Southwest Yunnan Frontier, China


Ma, Jianxiong. 2011. “Marriage and Land Property: Bilateral Non-Lineal Kinship and Communal Authority of the Lahu on the Southwest Yunnan Frontier, China.” South East Asia Research 19 (3): 495–536. doi: 10.5367/sear.2011.0059.

Author: Jianxiong Ma


This paper discusses how a social system based on bilateral and non-hierarchical kinship is able to establish and maintain systems of authority. The Muga Lahu in Yunnan practise a bilateral and non-lineal kinship system based on the gender equality principle, and communal life is also based on equal couples' kinship networking, bound to non-lineal ties through marriage. The Lahu here never practise matrilineal, patrilineal or cognatic kinship and descent in daily life, but an individual couple is bound to immediate ancestors through the redistribution of cropland property. In communal life, family separation and farmland reorganization are carried out dynamically through the marriages of the younger generation. The flexible kinship group establishes labour-sharing, ritual-participating and intermarriage groups in everyday life. Therefore, the kinship system is closely bound to farmland redistribution and the continuation of families. This bilateral, non-lineal kinship system constitutes a dynamic social institution, but all couples are equal to each other. Due to the lack of authority over the equality of social units such as equal couples, the Lahu communal authority historically comes from superior external powers, such as the religious power linked with religious movements involved in the Yunnan-Burma frontier formation since the 1720s. The established Lahu political system was destroyed by the coming of the Qing and the Republic states, because of its anti-Han or anti-state stance in frontier history. It is clear that the superior religious power over the kinship network worked as a means of social mobilization through religious movements, and became the authority source for social cohesion in history, but it has been replaced by state-appointed cadres in current communal life in  China. The Lahu case shows that more attention should be paid to the relationships between frontier history, dynamic kinship and social organization among ethnic minorities in Chinese and South East Asian frontier societies.

Keywords: kinship, land property, Lahu, Yunnan-Burma frontier

Topics: Clan, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Households, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Asia, East Asia Countries: China

Year: 2011

Women and Land Ownership Rights in Kilimanjaro: A Tension between Women Land Ownership Rights and Culture: A Case of Moshi Rural District Tanzania


Asantemungu, Raphael Ernest. 2011. “Women and Land Ownership Rights in Kilimanjaro: A Tension between Women Land Ownership Rights and Culture: A Case of Moshi Rural District Tanzania.” Master's thesis, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Author: Raphael Ernest Asantemungu


Despite the efforts and strategies geared towards women in realizing property rights in terms of empowerment, participation and decision making in the global context today many African societies are still characterized by social economic and political inequalities between men and women. This situation is worse in Tanzania rural areas where women land rights are violated as result of culture being regarded as a daily routine that provide the basis and ways in which land is owned and distributed. 

This study focuses on women and land ownership rights. An attempt has been made to examine the contexts in which the state laws and policies give women rights to own land. With a special use of Rights based Approaches and feminist perspectives in particular WDC. The study has articulated some reasons as to why women land rights are not fully realized at a village and clan level in Moshi Rural in Tanzania. 

A qualitative research methodology is the main tool for generating research materials during the research process. Emphasis in this is laid on research interviews, field observation and a study of secondary research sources has also been used in situations where it is preferred. 

The study has examined the ways in which land rights for women are offered and practiced at the local level. In this regard, it is revealed that women‟s land rights are facing many challenges which are grounded in culture in the way power relations, participation and empowerment is shaped. Moreover, it is revealed that Land Laws for women which are defined by the statutory laws are facing contradictions with customary laws something which has created conflict and tension with land rights for women. In this way it has been observed that, the duty holders for rights play a limited role in helping women to realize their rights. 

In addition, the task for promoting land rights in terms of advocacy and legal aid provision for women which is largely done by NGOs is facing some problems in terms of coverage. The study finds that, NGOs are town oriented while many problems for women‟s land rights rife in rural areas. This situation has made many women to have limited knowledge about these NGOs and their activities. 

Moreover, the study reveals that land is the powerful means of livelihood provisions for women hence denial for women land rights has a profound impacts for their lives. For example lack for women land rights could make women to find it difficult to get food, settlement, credit and many other live necessities. This has increased the level of poverty on the part of women. 

With respect to remedy the challenges and difficulties faced by women in land ownership rights, an immediate law and policy reforms pertaining land rights have been suggested, with an effort to sensitize the society about these reforms. These could go hand in hand with effective implementation of reformed laws to be practiced both at national and local level.

Topics: Clan, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Economies, Economic Inequality, Poverty, Gender, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Households, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights, Violence Regions: Africa, East Africa Countries: Tanzania

Year: 2011

Policy Discourses on Women’s Land Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Implications of the Re-turn to the Customary


Whitehead, Ann, and Dzondki Tsikata. 2003. “Policy Discourses on Women’s Land Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Implications of the Re-turn to the Customary.” Journal of Agrarian Change 3 (1-2): 67-112.

Authors: Ann Whitehead, Dzondki Tsikata

Keywords: customary law, land tenure reform, Women's land interests, legal pluralism


  • This article is unique in that it approaches legal pluralism and customary law from the perspective of women’s movements fighting for increased tenure security for women. The focus on women’s movements allows the authors to present divergent views of the utility of customary law and critiques of its ability to advance the interests of women.  
  • Authors argue customary ownership has been eroded since the time of colonialism, “making women's access to land significantly more precarious as the protections traditionally ensured by the clan system have been peeled away." (2) 
  • With increased commercialization of land and problems of land scarcity, local leaders have felt pressure to protect the clan system, and in so doing have placed even greater constraints on women's access to land. The article outlines the strategies women have used to respond to the growing interest in preserving customary laws, including land alliances and coalitions.
  • Discusses the amendments to the Ugandan Land Law in 2000 and how women’s movements were not successful in their push to include a co-ownership clause in the law. This clause was necessary because current legislation provides limited opportunities for women to own land, but was omitted at the last second: “Thus under customary law, which prevails in Uganda, a woman may have jointly acquired land with her husband and may have spent her entire adult life cultivating the land, but she cannot claim ownership of the property. If he dies, the land generally goes to the sons, but may also be left to daughters. Nevertheless, he may still leave the wife with no land and therefore no source of subsistence." (6)
  • Other strategies used: purchase of land, obtaining titles to land, taking claims to courts, and organized collective protest around legislation.


“Rather than seeing customary land practices as a basis on which to improve women’s access to land, they are advocating for rights-based systems that improve women’s ability to buy, own, sell, and obtain titles on land." (2)

“Because women's ties to land are mediated by their relationship to men in patrilineal societies, women's attempts to assert their rights in ways that challenge customary land tenure systems is often perceived as an attempt to disrupt gender relations, and society more generally." (2)

“Women, both rural and urban, have responded to the renewed interest in protecting customary laws and practices through collective strategies, which in Uganda have included a movement to ensure women's access to and ownership of land. Women have also adopted individual strategies of purchasing land and taking their land disputes to court. Purchasing land has, in effect, become a way of circumventing the traditional authorities." (2)

“Heightened protection of customary land tenure arrangements has taken place in a context where the customary and religious laws and practices that have been retained have selectively preserved those elements that subordinate women. These arrangements have included customary divorce and inheritance practices, keeping women as minors (e.g., Swaziland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe), bridewealth, widow inheritance (levirate), dehumanizing rituals pertaining to widows, early childhood marriage, polygamy, and female genital cutting." (3)

Topics: Civil Society, Clan, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Households, Political Economies, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa

Year: 2003

After the Rape: The Mukhtar Mai Story

© 2018 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at

Subscribe to RSS - Clan