Wolof Women, Economic Liberalization, and the Crisis of Masculinity in Rural Senegal


Perry, Donna L. 2005. “Wolof Women, Economic Liberalization, and the Crisis of Masculinity in Rural Senegal.” Ethnology 44 (3): 207–26.

Author: Donna L. Perry


Among Wolof farmers in Senegal’s Peanut Basin, patriarchal control of household dependents has diminished in conjunction with economic liberalization, state disengagement, and the formation of rural weekly markets. This article builds on twenty-six months of ethnographic fieldwork to explore a crisis of masculinity expressed by men in their oral testimonies and everyday discourse. In domestic struggles over labor and income, male control over women has decreased in the postcolonial epoch. Male household heads, in wrathful fashion, condemn women for their individualism, selfishness, and open sexuality. Men’s discourse of social decay contrasts with the more neutral narratives produced by women, who stress household solidarity and the pragmatics of household survival in response to economic insecurity. Wolof husbands and wives confront economic change through different discourses and practices, all the while renegotiating domestic authority.

Keywords: Wolof women, economic liberalization, masculinity crisis, Senegal

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Economies, Economic Inequality, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Households, Livelihoods Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Senegal

Year: 2005

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