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New Books on Africa Examine Economy and Women's Issues



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February 27, 2012

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Two newly released books on contemporary Africa -- one on its economic ties to other nations, the other on women’s roles to family and society -- reveal intricate relationships affecting the continent’s sustained growth and development. The volumes are Gender, Sexuality, and Mothering in Africa (Africa World Press) and Globalization and Sustainable Development in Africa (University of Rochester Press).

The books are edited by Professor Bessie House-Soremekun, director of Africana studies in the School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Toyin Falola, Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor and Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Recent scholarship by experts in diverse fields is demonstrating marked changes in Africa and a great complexity of relationships,” said House-Soremekun, who is also the founding executive director of the Center for Global Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Development at IUPUI.

“This scholarship also continues to break new ground in our understanding of the complexities inherent in changing gender roles and identities, as well as the impacts of globalization processes on the attainment of sustainable development,” House-Soremekun said.

Composed of 14 chapters by distinguished scholars, Gender, Sexuality, and Mothering in Africa begins with a sweeping view of the subject by the editors and subsequently introduces research on three topics -- Motherhood, Womanhood and Widowhood; Marriage, Sexuality, Work and Violence; and Gender, Law, Sexuality and Religion -- and addresses conditions in specific nations. The book may be purchased for $34.95 from Africa World Press by visiting www.africaworldpressbooks.com.

Ameh Akoh, a contributor to Gender, Sexuality, and Mothering in Africa, and a theater theory and criticism scholar at Osun State University in Nigeria, studied power and violence in plays written in the past three decades and found that discourse changed from women as victims, to women as heroines, to men and women as individuals with contradictions.

In South Africa, another contributor to the volume, Celumusa Zungu, found that age-old customs conflict with new laws that give women the constitutional freedom to marry and participate in society as they choose. However, Zungu, presiding officer of Pietermaritzburg Equality Court in Kwa Zulu Natal Province, found in her province alone dozens of women being given tests for virginity, forced into marriages or awarded to a brother of a late husband.

“The legal system and courts can be powerless in these circumstances,” Zungu writes. “Illiteracy and poor socio-economic conditions continue to be the contributing factors towards women’s subservience.”

The contradictory forces in the global economy are evidenced throughout Globalization and Sustainable Development in Africa. When describing the decay of Cote d’Ivoire, Ulf Richter, visiting assistant professor of management at Portland State University, argues that poverty may better be alleviated by fostering local entrepreneurship instead of courting multinational corporations.

A powerful introduction by Falola and House-Soremekun opens Globalization and Sustainable Development, a volume with 484 pages and 18 chapters by scholars, which may be purchased for $80 from the University of Rochester Press at www.urpress.com/.

They write, “Globalization presents Africa and black people as marginal: globalizing economies seek resources from every corner of the world, and globalized economies reap considerable benefits from their economic and political dominance. The ‘wealth of nations,’ to borrow the title of Adam Smith’s famous book, is used not only to develop the resources of other countries. Africa has given to the outside world more than it has received.”

House-Soremekun, the author or editor of six books on Africana topics, is the recipient of the prestigious Oni Award from the International Black Women’s Congress.

Falola has authored more than 100 books on Africa and is a Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and Fellow of the Historical Society of Nigeria.