TOPIC: “When Women Wear Slacks”: Gender and Embodied Nationalism in Africa
DATE: Thursday, February 25, 2021
PLACE: Zoom, register here
African Cultural Studies Professor Jacqueline-Bethel Mougouè will present at Eye on Africa, an MSU African Studies Center Speaker Series.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué is an interdisciplinary feminist historian of Africa who is particularly interested in how constructions of gender inform the comportment and performances of the body, religious beliefs, and political ideologies. She is an Assistant Professor of African Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Mougoué’s book, Gender, Separatist Politics and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon (University of Michigan Press, 2019) received the Frances Richardson Keller-Sierra Prize, given annually by the Western Association of Women Historians to recognize the best monograph in the field of history. Her work has appeared in diverse academic journals, including Gender & History, Feminist Africa, Journal of West African History, and Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism. Mougoué currently sits on the editorial advisory board for Feminist Africa and the Journal of Women’s History.
ABOUT THE TALK
This talk illuminates how issues of ideal womanhood shaped the Anglophone Cameroonian nationalist movement in 1960s Cameroon, a west-central African country that was at the time newly independent. Drawing upon history, political science, gender studies, and feminist epistemologies, Mougoué discusses how the employment of the concept of “embodied nationalism” illustrates the political importance of women’s everyday behavior—the clothes they wore, such as slacks, the foods they cooked, whether they gossiped, and their deference to husbands who engaged in extramarital affairs—even as they increasingly entered the formal workforce. Mougoué explains how politically elite and formally educated women connected women’s behavior to the cultural values and the selfdetermination of the Anglophone Cameroonian state within a Francophone Cameroonian dominated republic. In highlighting the strategies Anglophone Cameroonians used to navigate a turbulent political setting, the research findings of the talk provide a useful background to the long-standing Anglophone Cameroonian separatist/secessionist movement specifically and useful entrée to understanding women’s roles in separatist and secessionist projects across the world, such as in Canada (Quebec), the United States (Puerto Rico), and China (Hong Kong).