NEH banner [Return to Query]

Products for grant FA-57237-13

Maasai Struggles for Gender Justice in Tanzania
Dorothy Hodgson, Rutgers University

Grant details:

Gender, Justice, and the Problem of Culture: From Customary Law to Human Rights in Tanzania (Book)
Title: Gender, Justice, and the Problem of Culture: From Customary Law to Human Rights in Tanzania
Author: Dorothy L. Hodgson
Abstract: How and why has “culture” come to be viewed as not just a “problem,” but as inherently oppressive to women in human rights debates? When, where, why and by whom is law used to forced desired social changes in the name of “justice”? Are certain modes of gender justice better able to address the structural contexts and causes of gender-based injustice? Who decides which rights are priorities for protection and advocacy? To address these questions, Dorothy Hodgson examines the history of rights-based legal institutions and ideas in Tanzania -- from the codification of “customary” law in the colonial period to the dominance of “women’s human rights” in the contemporary era -- as specific forms of justice that reflect particular ideas of gender, class, “race,” culture, power and social change. Drawing on her over 30 years of deep, detailed ethnographic and historical research with Maasai in Tanzania, Hodgson traces how the legacies of certain colonial ideas and practices have shaped national and international legal initiatives and obscured indigenous forms of justice like female collective protest. She shows that all of these legal regimes, despite claims to being “natural,” “impartial,” or “universal,” were historical, cultural and political products that often served elite interests at the expense of Maasai and other marginal communities. Through nuanced analyses of efforts to create laws, codify marriage, criminalize FGM, and contest “land grabs” by corrupt state officials, the book demonstrates that “the problem of culture” is often a “problem of power,” of the longstanding beliefs of elites – whether British colonizers, Euro-American feminists, or, now African feminists – that they could speak for rather than listen to “grassroots” women like Maasai.
Year: 2017
Primary URL:
Secondary URL:
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780253025203
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes