ISBN: 1592217885

Power and Paradox is an ethnographic study of contemporary gender relations among the Fon people, the dominant ethnic group in the South of the Republic of Benin, West Africa. The Fon hold a prominent place in African studies for their traditional Vodun (Voodoo) religion and their precolonial slave-trading kingdom of Dahomey, which included powerful female ministers and soldiers. Through an account of contemporary Fon gendered power strategies, highlighted by male perspectives on female power, the present study offers an important ethnographic update to this body of knowledge, as well as to the dialogue between Western and African feminisms, and to cross-gender research methodology. Paradoxically, in spite of inequalities in the division of labor and in the access to leadership, Fon women rarely contest the social structure. Instead, they use their sexuality, kin networks, marital ambiguity, and supernatural threats to subvert their lovers and husbands attempts to control their lives. This book outlines these informal avenues of power, rejecting normative views that label the Fon and other African societies patriarchal. This work contributes to African feminist literature by recognizing women s unofficial strategies for competing with men, while drawing on postmodern sensibilities in constructing a model of power that allows for a fluid, negotiable, and unfinished quality to contests between the genders. The methodology of a male researcher using male insecurity to understand women s power should stimulate debate about gender as a relational identity and about the role of male researchers in understanding women. This book offers a truly rich and subtle anthropological interpretation of gender relations in southern Benin....The complexities of both women s and men s moral practices and strategies as they navigate local gender values and norms...are exposed in abundant detail and with great clarity, and feed more theoretical discussions of power and agency. JoëlNoret Associate Professor of Anthropology, UniversitéLibre de Bruxelles

Product details

  • Publisher : Africa World Press; First American edition (March 2, 2011)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 236 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1592217885
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1592217885
  • Item Weight : 11.5 ounces
  • Dimensions : 5.51 x 0.55 x 8.31 inches
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