What about Widows? Law, Custom, and Resilience in African Widowhood, Past and Present
This webinar is an African Studies Review workshop held in conjunction with the African Studies Association 2020 remote annual meeting, hosted by the UNC African Studies Center. It will be convened by Dr. Emily Burrill (Director of UNC ASC) and Dr. Benjamin Lawrance, University of Arizona (Editor-in-Chief of ASR). Time TBA, based on ASA schedule.
In scholarly surveys on widows and widowhood in Africa a range of case studies have demonstrated the widespread collapse in communal, family, and social support for bereaved women. A sudden and new autonomy, independence, and self-reliance, however, is often an opportunity, unleashing a complex set of survival strategies, resistance, and resilience. Most African societies, national laws, and constitutions today continue to discriminate against women with respect to family, inheritance, land ownership, credit, education, health and other social and political dimensions. But as the colonial origins of many of these norms are increasingly recognized and exposed, feminist activists and domestic and international human rights groups, successfully challenge received wisdoms. While news media and humanitarian organizations may decry the “plight” of millions of African widows, exoticizing allegations of witchcraft for example, data from across the continent reveal that widows have and engage various options, sometimes remaining in a late husband’s community, and other times striking out on their own.
The organizers of this workshop seek scholars advancing new theoretical and empirical research on widowhood practices in Africa, past and present, as we revisit, rethink, and reconceptualize the experience of widowhood in African contexts.