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Why do so many Africans believe they cannot break the “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” cycle? Six decades after colonial flags were lowered and African countries gained formal independence, the continent struggles to free itself from the deep legacies of colonialism, imperialism and patriarchy. Many intellectuals, politicians, feminists and other activists, eager to contribute to Africa’s liberation, have frustratingly, felt like they took the wrong path. Analyzed through the eyes of Afro-feminism, this book revisits some of the fundamental preconditions needed for radical transformation.
The main focus of Decolonization and Afro-feminism is unlearning imperial power relations by relearning to “shake off” the colonial filters through which we view the world, including the instruments of law, education, religion, family and sexuality. It re-envisions Pan-Africanism as a more inclusive decolonizing/decolonial movement that embraces Afro-feminist politics. It also challenges the traditional human rights paradigm and its concomitant idea of “gender equality,” flagging instead, the African philosophy of Ubuntu as a serious alternative for reinvigorating African notions of social justice. If you are a student of Africa or in a space where you wish to recalibrate your compass and reboot your consciousness in the struggle for Africa’s liberation, this book is for you.
Decolonization and Afro-feminism makes a major epistemic contribution to charting Africa’s way forward, and alerts us to new forms of domination such as digital colonialism… This book will leave you thinking!
—Oyeronke Oyewumi, author of The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses
Sylvia Tamale brings an encyclopedic rigour to the study of decolonization and what it offers as an African liberatory praxis. Her scholarship is rooted in real-time solidarity with African feminists and queer activists… Essential reading.
—Jessica Horn, Feminist activist, writer and co-founder, African Feminist Forum Working Group
Tamale brilliantly dissects and demolishes the dangerous tropes of coloniality that distort our understanding of African societies, cultures, bodies, institutions, experiences, social relations, and realities… The book is a clarion call for the continent’s feminist epistemic liberation.
—Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, Professor of the Humanities and Social Sciences and Vice Chancellor, United States International University-Africa, Nairobi, Kenya
This book is Intellectually orgasmic! It provides students with an Afro-feminist intellectual rebirth… The next generation of Afro-feminists have our struggle cut out for us.
—Anna Adeke, Feminist and student, Makerere University, Uganda
About the Author: Sylvia Tamale is a Feminist, Sociologist and Professor of Law at Makerere University in Uganda.
Table of Contents
Some Key Definitions xiii
1. Introduction 1
Of Counter-Narratives 1
The Meaning of Africa(ns) 10
Goals and Organization of the Book 13
2. The Basics of Decolonization and Decolonial Futures 17
Africa’s Decolonization and Decolonial Reconstruction 18
Decolonization & Decoloniality: Science Fiction or Present Fact? 22
A Two-Pronged Approach: The Political and the Psychological 27
3. Feminists and the Struggle for Africa’s Decolonial Reconstruction 27
Gender Studies in African Academies 44
Beyond Racism: Multiple Inequalities and Intersectionality 62
Integrating Afro-Ecofeminism into Decolonization 80
4. Challenging the Coloniality of Sex, Gender and Sexuality 92
Michael Phelps and Caster Semenya: A Juxtaposition 95
Decolonial African Sex/Gender Systems 100
A Decolonial Analysis of the Phelps/Semenya Conundrum 105
Medico-Legal Taxonomies: Semenya’s Battle with Science and the Law 119
5. Legal Pluralism and Decolonial Feminism 132
State “Customary Law” versus Living Customary Law 133
Decolonized Customary Law 140
Gender and Religious Relativism 173
6. Repositioning the Dominant Discourses on Rights and Social Justice 187
Human? Rights? 194
Unpacking the Universalizing Essentialism of “Gender Equality” 205
Reconceptualizing Justice through Ubuntu 221
7. Rethinking the African Academy 235
History and Evolution of African Academies 237
Internalized Colonialism: How it is Achieved 245
A Framework for Transforming the African Academy 257
8. Decolonizing Family Law: The Case of Uganda 285
Conceptualizing the Heteropatriarchal Family 288
The Ugandan Family and the Law 300
Family Relations: Then and Now 306
Challenging the Status Quo 321
The Limits of Officialist Approaches to Family Gender Justice 331
9. Towards Feminist Pan-Africanism and Pan-African Feminism 340
Feminism in the Pan-African Movement? 343
Pan-Africanism in African Feminism 369
Developing a New Pan-Africanism in the Era of Globalization 378
Epilogue: Decolonizing Africa in the Age of Big Data 385