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Pronouncing and Persevering

Gender and the Discourses of Disputing in an African Islamic Court

The title of Susan Hirsch’s study of disputes involving Swahili Muslims in coastal Kenya reflects the image of gender relations most commonly associated with Islamic law. Men need only "pronounce" divorce to resolve marital conflicts, while embattled and embittered wives must persevere by silently enduring marital hardships. But Hirsch’s observations of Islamic courts uncover how Muslim women actively use legal processes to transform their domestic lives, achieving victories on some fronts but reinforcing their image as subordinate to men through the speech they produce in court.

Pronouncing and Persevering focuses closely on the language used in disputes, particularly how men and women narrate their claims and how their speech shapes and is shaped by gender hierarchy in postcolonial Swahili society. Based on field research and court testimony, Hirsch’s book debunks the conventional view that women are powerless under Islamic law and challenges the dichotomies through which Islam and gender relations are currently understood.

374 pages | 3 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Chicago Series in Law and Society

African Studies

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Table of Contents

1: Legal Processes and the Discursive Construction of Gender
2: Representations of Swahili Society
3: Analyzing Talk about Trouble
4: The Discourses of Marital Disputing
5: Marital Disputing in Kadhi’s Courts
6: Indexing Gender: Initial Courtroom Narratives
7: Constructing Audience: Interaction in Cases and Mediations
8: Portraying Gendered Speakers: Reported Conversations
9: Pronouncing and Persevering: Ideology and Metalinguistics in Disputes
App. A: Glossary
App. B: Features of Transcription
App. C: Case Summaries
App. D: Kiswahili Texts

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