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Undesirable Practices

Women, Children, and the Politics of the Body in Northern Ghana, 1930–1972

Jessica Cammaert

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 07/2016
Pages: 320
Subject: History
eBook ISBN: 9780803286948


Undesirable Practices examines both the intended and the unintended consequences of "imperial feminism" and British colonial interventions in "undesirable" cultural practices in northern Ghana. Jessica Cammaert addresses the state management of social practices such as female circumcision, nudity, prostitution, and "illicit" adoption as well as the hesitation to impose severe punishments for the slave dealing of females, particularly female children. She examines the gendered power relations and colonial attitudes that targeted women and children spanning pre- and postcolonial periods, the early postindependence years, and post-Nkrumah policies. In particular, Cammaert examines the limits of the male colonial gaze and argues that the power lay not in the gaze itself but in the act of "looking away," a calculated aversion of attention intended to maintain the tribal community and retain control over the movement, sexuality, and labor of women and children. With its examination of broader time periods and topics and its complex analytical arguments, Undesirable Practices makes a valuable contribution to literature in African studies, contemporary advocacy discourse, women and gender studies, and critical postcolonial studies.  


Jessica Cammaert is an instructor in African history at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.


"What a powerful project! . . . This volume reframes and complicates the arguments and practices in new and significant ways. . . . [This is] a unique and welcome contribution to the literature."—Beth Blue Swadener, coeditor of Children's Rights and Education: International Perspectives 

"As a cultural anthropologist, I find [Cammaert's] work especially useful for providing a deeper (in time) understanding of how African culture and gender socialization has been reshaped over the decades."—Angela R. Bratton, associate professor of anthropology at Georgia Regents University and the author of An Anthropological Study of Factors Affecting the Construction of Sexuality in Ghana