Noise Over Camouflaged Polygamy, Colonial Morality Taxation, and a Woman-Naming Crisis in Belgian Africa


Hunt, Nancy Rose. 1991. “Noise Over Camouflaged Polygamy, Colonial Morality Taxation, and a Woman-Naming Crisis in Belgian Africa.” The Journal of African History 32 (3): 471-94.

Author: Nancy Rose Hunt


This essay concerns the peculiarities and contradictions of colonial morality taxation and legislation in Belgian Africa, and especially highlights analytical and historical commonalities between anti-polygamy measures and the unusual Belgian practice of taxing urban unmarried women. More generally, it is about colonialism and moral crisis, historical evidence and camouflage, popular memory and silence, colonial name-giving, and name-calling. I cannot be the first to notice that where women most often appear in the colonial record is where moral panic surfaced, settled and festered. Prostitution, polygamy, adultery, concubinage and infertility are the loci of such angst throughout the historical record of Belgian African colonial regimes, and one sometimes feels hard pressed to find women anywhere else. Yet moral crises did not always emerge due to the (perceived) customs and actions of the colonized. They also erupted from colonial policy and law itself, from the insight (or hindsight) that colonial policy was misconcerived or bred dangerous contradictory consequences. I begin in the midst of one kind of colonial noise: an historically shifting crisis in Belgian Africa over plural wives, and loud colonial debates over moral taxation and how best to preserve 'custom' while eradicating polygamy. This will serve as the context for considering another related, though temporally and geographically more confined crisis: the rebellion in the 1950s of Swahili women against the single women's tax in colonial Bujumbura. This local crisis also became noisy. Yet here the noise erupted as volatile African outrage, and its contrast betrays the embarassed silence and muted debates among colonial authorities over the contradictions and failings of moral taxation and policing measues. 

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Governance, Livelihoods, Sexual Livelihoods, Political Economies, Political Participation, Sexual Violence, Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, Europe, Western Europe Countries: Belgium

Year: 1991

‘Le Bebe En Brousse’: European Women, African Birth Spacing and Colonial Intervention in Breast Feeding in the Belgian Congo


Hunt, Nancy Rose. 1988. “‘Le Bebe En Brousse’: European Women, African Birth Spacing and Colonial Intervention in Breast Feeding in the Belgian Congo.” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 21 (3): 401-32.

Author: Nancy Rose Hunt

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Gender, Women, Health, Reproductive Health Regions: Africa, Central Africa, Europe, Western Europe Countries: Belgium, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Year: 1988

Martial Races and Enforcement Masculinities of the Global South: Weaponising Fijian, Chilean, and Salvadoran Postcoloniality in the Mercenary Sector


Higate, Paul. 2012. "Martial Races and Enforcement Masculinities of the Global South: Weaponising Fijian, Chilean, and Salvadoran Postcoloniality in the Mercenary Sector." Globalizations 9 (1): 35-52.

Author: Paul Higate


Set against the backdrop of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, the private militarised security industry has grown rapidly over the last decade. Its growth into a multi-billion dollar enterprise has attracted the interest of scholars in international relations, legal studies, political science, and security studies who have debated questions of regulation and accountability, alongside the state's control on the monopoly of violence. While these contributions are to be welcomed, the absence of critical sociological approaches to the industry and its predominantly male security contracting workforce has served to occlude the gendered and racialised face of the private security sphere. These dimensions are important since the industry has come increasingly to rely on masculine bodies from the global South in the form of so-called third country and local national men. The involvement of these men is constituted in and through the articulation of historical, neocolonial, neoliberal, and militarising processes. These processes represent the focus of the current article in respect of Fijian and Latin American security contractors. Their trajectories into the industry are considered in respect of both "push" and "pull" factors, the likes of which differ in marked ways for each group. Specifically, states and social groups in Fiji, Chile, and El Salvador are appropriating what is described in the article as an ethnic bargain as one way in which to make a contribution to the global security sector, or "in direct regard to the Latin American context” to banish its more dangerous legacies from the domestic space. In conclusion, it is argued that the use of these contractors by the industry represents a hitherto unacknowledged gendered and racialised instance of the contemporary imperial moment.

Keywords: masculinities, security industry, mercenary, global security sector

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Livelihoods, Militarized Livelihoods, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Private Military & Security, Security Regions: Americas, Central America, South America, Oceania Countries: Chile, El Salvador, Fiji

Year: 2012

Global South to the Rescue: Emerging Humanitarian Superpowers and Globalizing Rescue Industries


Amar, Paul. 2012. "Global South to the Rescue: Emerging Humanitarian Superpowers and Globalizing Rescue Industries." Globalizations 9 (1): 1-13.

Author: Paul Amar


The introductory essay offers a brief overview of current trends in critical globalization studies and international relations scholarship that shed light on three intersections: between imperialism and humanitarianism, between neoliberal globalization and "rescue industry", transnationalism, and between patterns of geopolitical hegemony and trajectories of peacekeeping internationalism. These research agendas have been generative and politically useful, but have tended to neglect the forms of humanitarian and peacekeeping agency emanating from the global south. In order to address this gap, this introduction lays out a new research agenda that combines interdisciplinary methods from global studies, gender and race studies, critical security studies, police and military sociology, Third World diplomatic history, and international relations. This introduction also theoretically situates the other contributions and case studies gathered here, providing a framework of analysis that groups them into three clusters: (I) Globalizing Peacekeeper Identities, (II) Assertive "Regional Internationalisms", and (III) Emergent Alternative Paradigms.

Keywords: globalization, humanitarianism, global south, peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, transnationalism, security

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Economies, Gender, Women, Gender Analysis, Globalization, Humanitarian Assistance, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Peacekeeping, Security

Year: 2012

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


Whitehead, Ann, and Dzodzi 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, Dzodzi 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, Land Tenure, Governance, Households, Political Economies, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa

Year: 2003

Patriarchy, Militarization, and the Gender Gap in Education: The Case of Pakistan


Azhar, Talat. 2009. "Patriarchy, Militarization, and the Gender Gap in Education: The Case of Pakistan." PhD diss., Pennsylvania State University.

Author: Talat Azhar


This study investigated the effects of patriarchy and militarization on women's educational attainment in Pakistan, where the literacy rate is among the lowest in the world, roughly two-thirds of all women cannot read or write, and even modest goals of girls' primary school enrollments seem elusive. Some progress has been made toward universal primary school enrollment, but by and large, secondary and tertiary education has remained beyond the reach of women in many parts of South Asia, including Pakistan. Efforts to improve women's education in Pakistan have focused on issues related to underdevelopment, poverty, and religious fundamentalism. Consequently, most literature addresses school, family, and community factors as the primary barriers to participation in education. My thesis represents the first attempt at exploring the power relations emerging from patriarchy and militarization, and their collective contribution to gender differences in educational attainment in Pakistan. Using data from the Adolescent and Youth Survey of Pakistan, conducted by the Population Council and the government of Pakistan in 2001-2002, I have investigated the reasons for persistence in women's low educational attainment. I used binary logistic regression to analyze three dependent variables: currently attending school, primary school completion, and ever attended school. Results of this study suggest that girls are at a distinct disadvantage relative to boys in educational attainment. Girls are also far less likely to seek an education because of perceived social undesirability of schooling and lack of empowerment to make decisions regarding their lives. A further analysis reveals that the disadvantages increase during the military government. The findings of this study have implications for providing policy direction toward achieving gender parity in education as a first step and subsequently striving for universal primary education in postcolonial conflict zones. More specifically, the findings point to a need to look beyond establishing girls' primary schools for a solution to the education crisis.

Topics: Age, Youth, Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Education, Gender, Women, Girls, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Post-Conflict Governance, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Asia, South Asia Countries: Pakistan

Year: 2009

Texts in Context: Afro-Colombian Women's Activism in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia


Asher, Kiran. 2004. "Texts in Context: Afro-Colombian Women's Activism in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia." Feminist Review 78: 38-55.

Author: Kiran Asher


This paper speaks across the divide between feminist theorists and praxis-oriented gender experts to argue for a more enabling reading of postcolonial feminist critiques of gender and development. Drawing on the activism of Afro-Colombian women in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia - most especially Matambay Guasá, a network of black women's organizations from the state of Cauca - it brings attention to the independent ability of women in these locations to reflect and act on their own realities and claims. 

Keywords: gender, development, environment, postcolonial feminism, Afro-Colombian

Topics: Coloniality/Post-Coloniality, Development, Feminisms, Gender, Women Regions: Americas, South America Countries: Colombia

Year: 2004


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