Photo: Lake Kariba, Zambia
Research Currently In Progress
Working Papers and Papers under Review:
Between Customary and Colonial: Law, Gender, and Political Behavior in Senegal and the Gold Coast
At the advent of independence for African countries, women participated at different rates and in different ways from country to country. What accounts for such variation? Using a structured comparison of legal policies in late colonial Gold Coast and Senegal, I argue that the interaction between colonial juridical systems and pre-existing customary institutions created different opportunities for women to engage in the public sphere, generating differences in both the form and frequency of political participation in nationalist movements. In the Gold Coast, colonial administrators deferred to customary institutions except in cases that the British found “repugnant to morality or justice,” and women were sometimes able to leverage administrators’ paternalistic concern for their well-being to achieve greater independence. In Senegal, interaction between colonial and indigenous legal systems typically reinforced men’s legal and social dominance, providing few opportunities for women to assert independence. Drawing from the archival collections in London, Accra, and Dakar alongside secondary sources, I demonstrate that the different legal contexts in the two colonies created different opportunities for women to participate in the public sphere. Women in the Gold Coast subsequently took on prominent roles in nationalist politics, while women in Senegal are largely absent from the historiography of their nationalist movement.
Explaining Successes in Africa: Things Don't Always Fall Apart
Scholarship on Africa tends to focus on challenge: most political and economic works examine barriers to achieving desired outcomes like political stability, good governance, and economic growth. While these challenges are real and important to consider, it is also essential to understand success. Scholars often treat African countries that perform well as outliers; they are “miracles” or “darlings” rather than countries that have made good choices in the face of adverse circumstances. Treating these countries as outliers diminishes the possibility of extracting lessons or best practices—if a country’s economic performance is a “miracle,” there is no lesson to be had. If its stable government is a function of exceptionalism, then there is no possibility of replication. This project seeks to normalize success in African countries by analyzing those that have performed particularly well in five essential categories: economy, governance, gender equality, public service delivery, and infrastructure development.