Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean Islam, Marriage, and Sexuality on the Swahili Coast

Edited by Erin E. Stiles and Katrina Daly Thompson
Afterword by Susan F. Hirsch

Publisher: Ohio University Press
Publication Year: 2015

Muslim communities throughout the Indian Ocean have long questioned what it means to be a “good Muslim.” Much recent scholarship on Islam in the Indian Ocean considers debates among Muslims about authenticity, authority, and propriety. Despite the centrality of this topic within studies of Indian Ocean, African, and other Muslim communities, little of the existing scholarship has addressed such debates in relation to women, gender, or sexuality. Yet women are deeply involved with ideas about what it means to be a “good Muslim.”

In Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean, anthropologists, historians, linguists, and gender studies scholars examine Islam, sexuality, gender, and marriage on the Swahili coast and elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. The book examines diverse sites of empowerment, contradiction, and resistance affecting cultural norms, Islam and ideas of Islamic authenticity, gender expectations, ideologies of modernity, and British education. The book’s attention to both masculinity and femininity, broad examination of the transnational space of the Swahili coast, and inclusion of research on non-Swahili groups on the East African coast makes it a unique and indispensable resource.

Contributors: Nadine Beckmann, Pat Caplan, Corrie Decker, Rebecca Gearhart, Linda Giles, Meghan Halley, Susan Hirsch, Susi Keefe, Kjersti Larsen, Elisabeth McMahon, Erin Stiles, and Katrina Daly Thompson


Table of Contents

  • Glossary
  • Introduction
    Katrina Daly Thompson and Erin Stiles
  • Part One: Historical Transformations of Gender, Sexuality and Marriage
  • 1: Schoolgirls and Women Teachers: Colonial Education and the Shifting Boundaries between Girls and Women in Zanzibar
    Corrie Decker
  • 2: The Value of a Marriage: Missionaries, Ex-slaves, and the Legal Debates over Marriage in Colonial Pemba Island
    Elisabeth McMahon
  • 3: Two Weddings in northern Mafia: Changes in Women’s Lives in the 1960s
    Pat Caplan
  • Part Two: Contemporary Expressions of Coastal Femininity and Womanhood
  • 4: Pleasure and Danger: Muslim Views on Sex and Gender in Zanzibar
    Nadine Beckmann
  • 5: Sex and School on the Southern Swahili Coast: Adolescent Sexuality in the Context of Expanding Education in Rural Mtwara, Tanzania
    Meghan Halley
  • 6: Learning to use Swahili Profanity and Sacred Speech: The Embodied Socialization of a Muslim Bride in Zanzibar Town
    Katrina Daly Thompson
  • 7: Pleasure and Prohibitions: Reflections on Gender, Knowledge and Sexuality in Zanzibar Town
    Kjersti Larsen
  • Part Three: Defining Masculinity in Ritual and Marriage
  • 8: Unsuitable Husbands: Allegations of Impotence in Zanzibari Divorce Suits
    Erin Stiles
  • 9: Forming and Performing Swahili Manhood: Wedding Rituals of a Lamu Town Groom
    Rebecca Gearhart
  • 10: Spirit Possession and Masculinity in Swahili Society
    Linda Giles
  • 11: Being “A Good Muslim Man”: Modern Aspirations and Polygynous Intentions in a Swahili Muslim Village
    Susi Keefe
  • Afterword
    Susan Hirsch
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index