In more than a metaphorical sense, the womb has proven to be an important site of political struggle in and about Africa. By examining the political significance—and complex ramifications—of reproductive controversies in twentieth-century Kenya, this book explores why and how control of female initiation, abortion, childbirth, and premarital pregnancy have been crucial to the exercise of colonial and postcolonial power. This innovative book enriches the study of gender, reproduction, sexuality, and African history by revealing how reproductive controversies challenged long-standing social hierarchies and contributed to the construction of new ones that continue to influence the fraught politics of abortion, birth control, female genital cutting, and HIV/AIDS in Africa.
List of Abbreviations
1. Imperial Populations and "Women’s Affairs"
2. Colonial Uplift and Girl-Midwives
3. Mau Mau and the Girls who "Circumcised Themselves"
4. Late Colonial Customs and Wayward Schoolgirls
5. Postcolonial Nationalism and "Modern" Single Mothers
Lynn M. Thomas is Assistant Professor of History and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Women Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle.
“A unique and convincing narrative. . . .Thomas’ expressive prose and well-presented documentation bring to life the ways in which white male colonial power and emerging black post-colonial politics felt the need to control women and their bodies.”—Enid Schatz Labour/Le Travail
"In Thomas's skilled hands, and in her unabashed love of story-telling, intimate events in Kenya help us think more clearly and more critically about Africa in the twentieth century. The politics of the womb are at the core of the colonial experience and of colonial politics…. Africans struggled amongst themselves over the regulation of reproduction, and these layers of intimate strife, and the policies and protests emanating from London and mission hospitals and African homesteads, give us something we haven't had before-- a gendered and transnational colonial history."—Luise White, author of Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa