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Learning to be a woman: negotiating gender and identity in Zanzibar

Kingsford, K; (2016) Learning to be a woman: negotiating gender and identity in Zanzibar. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis explores the multiple meanings of being a woman in contemporary Zanzibar Town, Tanzania. The current social and economic changes in urban Zanzibar are creating an opportunity for a reconfiguration of gender roles, and I argue that women have significantly expanded the concept of heshima (honour) to create new interpretations of what it means to be a good Muslim woman. Drawing on a female language of siri (secrecy) and double meaning, women subvert patriarchal authority through acts of ‘everyday resistance’ rather than openly challenging it. Through an exploration of women’s experiences in the context of dress, courtship, weddings, work, and divorce, this thesis seeks to understand how women negotiate their identities in a rapidly changing society. Situated at the intersection of discussions about gender, religion, and social change, this thesis contributes to research on ‘Islam in the present world’ which does not privilege Islam over other aspects of the social context but embraces the complexity and ambiguity of everyday life. It offers an ethnographic analysis of women’s roles as wives and daughters; as professional workers and small-scale entrepreneurs; as consumers and providers; and as single, married, and divorced women. Based on fifteen months’ fieldwork in Zanzibar, I draw on informal interviews and observation of women’s everyday lives to illustrate the growing dissonance between the way people talk about gender dynamics and the way they behave.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Learning to be a woman: negotiating gender and identity in Zanzibar
Event: University College London
Language: English
Keywords: gender, identity
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1493095
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