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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Reflections on Slavery, Seclusion and Female Labor in the Maradi Region of Niger in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Author:Cooper, Barbara M.ISNI
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:Niger
women's work
Women's Issues
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Labor and Employment
Cultural Roles
Marital Relations and Nuptiality
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/182721
Abstract:This essay argues that female participation in agriculture and limited seclusion in Maradi (Niger) today do not stem from the absence of agricultural slavery in the precolonial period but rather result from the resistance of the Katsinawa elite to the Islamic reforms of the Sokoto Caliphate and from the absence of 'rimji' (plantation) slavery in the region. The abolition of slavery did not mark a watershed in the rise of seclusion, as M.G. Smith argues was the case in Nigeria, but rather triggered a series of reformulations of marriage and female hierarchy. Semi-legitimate and legitimate polygynous marriages permitted men and women of the wealthier classes to retain the labour of former female slaves as 'concubines' and later enabled them to use junior wives to perform the duties once carried out by slaves. Women countered the ambiguities of such marriages by asserting their worth through wedding ritual and later by adopting the veiling of elite women. As economic and cultural ties with northern Nigeria grew during the colonial and postcolonial periods, and as goods and services reduced some of the labour demands upon urban women, seclusion gained in popularity. Thus the recent adoption of seclusion in Maradi has not arisen out of a unilateral decision on the part of newly freed women to adopt seclusion as a sign of status, but as the result of a series of redefinitions, contestations and negotiations of marriage in which both men and women have been active. Notes, ref., sum.