‘The backbone of the village’: gender, development, and traditional authority in rural Zanzibar

‘The backbone of the village’: gender, development, and traditional authority in rural Zanzibar

Author: 
Dean, Erin
Publisher: 
Taylor & Francis
Date published: 
2013
Record type: 
Journal Title: 
Journal of Contemporary African Studies
Source: 
Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1, January 2013, pp. 18-36
Abstract: 

Recent processes of political decentralisation and the parallel movements asserting indigenous identity and autochthony have led to a resurgence of academic interest in ‘traditional’ and local forms of leadership and authority. Based on ethnographic research on the hirimu age-set system and related forms of traditional authority in the Zanzibari village of Jongowe, this article explores how these systems rooted in local history and identity are mitigated by contemporary national and international political circumstances. By examining how ‘traditional’ systems both create and circumscribe space for gendered expressions of power and how they work with the emerging forms of non-governmental organisation characteristic of contemporary development, the article considers how these dynamic local systems of governance maintain their legitimacy through both association with the past and engagement with contemporary politics. It argues for an understanding of ‘traditional authority’ that expands beyond hereditary leadership positions, and suggests that such forms of power, though embedded in historical collective identity, are expressions of contemporary forms of governance.

Language: 

CITATION: Dean, Erin. ‘The backbone of the village’: gender, development, and traditional authority in rural Zanzibar . : Taylor & Francis , 2013. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1, January 2013, pp. 18-36 - Available at: http://library.au.int/‘-backbone-village’-gender-development-and-traditional-authority-rural-zanzibar-3