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Love in Africa

In recent years, scholarly interest in love has flourished. Historians have addressed the rise of romantic love and marriage in Europe and the United States, while anthropologists have explored the ways globalization has reshaped local ideas about those same topics. Yet, love in Africa has been peculiarly ignored, resulting in a serious lack of understanding about this vital element of social life—a glaring omission given the intense focus on sexuality in Africa in the wake of HIV/AIDS.

            Love in Africa seeks both to understand this failure to consider love and to begin to correct it. In a substantive introduction and eight essays that examine a variety of countries and range in time from the 1930s to the present, the contributors collectively argue for the importance of paying attention to the many different cultural and historical strands that constitute love in Africa. Covering such diverse topics as the reception of Bollywood movies in 1950s Zanzibar, the effects of a Mexican telenovela on young people’s ideas about courtship in Niger, the models of romance promoted by South African and Kenyan magazines, and the complex relationship between love and money in Madagascar and South Africa, Love in Africa is a vivid and compelling look at love’s role in African society.

280 pages | 17 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2009

African Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Sociology: Sociology--Marriage and Family


“It has taken long in coming—evidence of scholars in love with love in Africa. This well researched and compelling book is a welcome signpost and snippet view of how scholarship on Africa can be enriched through greater attention to the theme of love.”

Francis B. Nyamnjoh, author of Married But Available

“This is a breakthrough volume on a remarkably neglected topic. The contributors include many of the top scholars in the field, and the chapters offer wonderfully insightful and revealing analyses of a broad range of ethnographic and historical cases. The masterful introduction by Cole and Thomas offers an overview of the topic that will help set a new research agenda for studies of intimacy, romance, and affect on the continent.”

James Ferguson, Stanford University

Love in Africa sets two scholarly milestones. First, it demands that students of Africa confront the full spectrum of human emotion in the continent. Second, and speaking more universally, it shows how love, while experienced in the most deeply personal of ways, invariably arises from economic and social circumstance. Drawing on everything from the improvisation of new forms of love from newspaper advice columns, Bollywood, and the European colonial legacy to the monetary exchanges that so powerfully shape emotion, this unflinching book will win an immediate place on the shelves of Africanists as well as social scientists in general.”

Caroline Bledsoe, Northwestern University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



Thinking through Love in Africa

            Lynn M. Thomas and Jennifer Cole

Chapter 1:

Love, Sex, and the Modern Girl in 1930s Southern Africa

            Lynn M. Thomas

Chapter 2:

 Making Love in the Indian Ocean: Hindi Films, Zanzibari Audiences, and the

Construction of Romance in the 1950s and 1960s

      Laura Fair

Chapter 3:

 “Dear Dolly’s” Advice: Representations of Youth, Courtship, and Sexualities in Africa, 1960–1980

            Kenda Mutongi

Chapter 4:

 Love, Money, and Economies of Intimacy in Tamatave, Madagascar

            Jennifer Cole

Chapter 5:

 Providing Love: Sex and Exchange in Twentieth-Century South Africa

            Mark Hunter

Chapter 6:

 Managing Men, Marriage, and Modern Love: Women’s Perspectives on Intimacy and Male Infidelity in Southeastern Nigeria

            Daniel Jordan Smith

Chapter 7:

 Media and the Therapeutic Ethos of Romantic Love in Middle-Class Nairobi

            Rachel Spronk

Chapter 8:

 Lessons from Rubí: Love, Poverty, and the Educational Value of Televised Dramas in Niger

            Adeline Masquelier


List of Contributors


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