Decolonization and Afro-Feminism

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.

Afro-Feminism is a fresh lens through which to consider decolonisation and decoloniality because it gives voice to and perspective from African women. It brings together the activism and scholarship of women who have fought for and alongside men in the political struggles for independence from colonial rule and continue to fight the injustices of colonial effects. They challenge the normative academic models for knowledge-making, offering different kinds of methodologies that recognise ways of knowing and being that resist and contest the scientific, positivist bias of Eurocentric gatekeeping. For precisely this reason, Sylvia Tamale’s layered and meticulous attention to epistemic alternatives opens up new conversa- tions about what it is to decolonise our thinking, being and acting in this world. …There are many reasons to read this book, one of which is that I can barely do it justice in a review. Tamale covers the range of colonial effects on African experiences and relations with compelling confidence and articulation, conveying a profound understanding of the essential work of decoloniality from an Afro-Feminist perspective. There are ‘aha’ moments on every page, detailed and multiple references which encourage the reader to keep searching for and finding the conscientisation and truth that will liberate. —Corinne Knowles, Extended Studies Unit, Rhodes University, Makhanda. (2021): Decolonization and Afro-Feminism, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, DOI: 10.1080/02589001.2021.1938976

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

Acknowledgments xi
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

Index 397


Conversation between Sylvia Tamale and Charmaine Pereira


In Decolonization and Afro-Feminism, Ugandan feminist scholar and human rights activist Sylvia Tamale tackles the complicated task of articulating and identify- ing some of the work that decolonisation/ decoloniality requires of African scholars, thinkers, artists and activists at this moment in history. The book spans more than four hundred pages, covers an impressive range of themes, and functions in many different registers. Decolonisation/ decoloniality is taken up as an epistemic, political, artistic, psychological, legal, and cultural project. At the heart of the book is the claim that the decolonisation of African societies is Afro-feminist work, in so far as the persisting racial and economic hierarchies of colonialism and coloniality are inextricably intertwined with systems of heteropatriarchy. … Perhaps the most important tension that this book manages to hold, is the one between understanding the magnitude of colonial devastation and erasure on the one hand, and maintaining hope and movement, on the other. Tamale manages to present to her reader the vast and extremely complex nature of the project of decolonisation/decoloniality, while, at the same time, cultivating in the text not only a feeling of urgency, but an unwavering and deep sense of possibility. She creates and identifies openings through which the work can be started, and although the solutions she offers often have a utopian tone to them, they are firmly anchored in existing African realities and histories. This is an energising book to read, it is not simply an academic treatise, but also a compelling and enlivening call to action.
Azille Coetzee (2021): Decolonization and Afro-Feminism by Sylvia Tamale, Agenda, DOI: 10.1080/10130950.2021.1917301

ISBN Print: 978-1-988832-49-4
ISBN eBook: 978-1-988832-50-0
Publication Date: February 2020
Page Count: 420
Binding Type: soft cover
Trim Size: 6in x 9in
Language: English
Colour: B&W

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Professor Sylvia Tamale is a leading African feminist, multidisciplinary scholar and Coordinator of the Law, Gender and Sexuality Research Centre based at the School of Law, Makerere University in Uganda. Prof Tamale was the first female Dean of Law in…