New Project, New website!

My new research project (“Multiscalar gendered temporalities in southeastern African history: Oral voices, lived and inherited pasts, and the deep testimony of time in language”) studies the relation between individual lived time and the longterm and large-scale time of conceptual history.

The focus of the project is specifically on the deeper gendered histories of power among the Yaawo language communities in the cross-border region of present-day Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania in southeastern Africa.

The project proposes that examining different timescales side by side allows for more complex narratives about gender and power in African pasts and presents.

The project is funded by the Research Council of Finland 2023-2027.

Website of research project:

Happy to announce that our special issue is out!

This special issue arose from the International Workshop on “Rethinking Time and Gender in African History” (see conference poster), which I convened in collaboration with my African Studies colleagues at Ghent University, especially Inge Brinkman. After the workshop, Heike Becker and I joined forces to curate this special issue.

I hope you enjoy reading these fantastic and thought-provoking articles! #OpenAccess on top of everything.

(See below for the synopsis, table of contents, and links to articles.)

‘“The rainha is the boss!”: On Masculinities, Time and Precolonial Women of Authority in Northern Mozambique’, Gender & History (2022)

This article focuses on the oral historical narratives about precolonial women of authority (or rainhas in Portuguese) to explore the deeper history of gendered power in northern Mozambique.

History-telling is a gendered practice, and nowadays male elders are usually the ones most knowledgeable in these narratives. Moreover, telling these tales – which in interview situations involves personal interpretations and comments – the men also story gendered temporal worlds. This article looks more closely at two seemingly clashing (and incompatible) storylines that emerge in the oral history material. One tells of women’s spiritual-political power in the Yaawo chieftaincies in precolonial times, while the other tells a narrative of masculinised power and woman’s subordinate position in relation to male leaders. The article focus’s especially on how the male narrators talk about masculinity and how different models of masculinity in turn shape the historical narratives they tell.

Read full article for free (pre-publication view):

On Gender, Power and Time in Northern Mozambique: A three-part photo essay series

Acknowledgements: These essays are based on research that I conducted in collaboration with Helena Baide and Domingos Aly. I owe them both my sincerest gratitude! Helena accompanied me in all the interviews and Domingos transcribed the interviews, also helping me with the translation from Ciyaawo to Portuguese.

PART 3: Women speaking with authority

‘Women speaking with authority’ is the third in a three-part photo essay series documenting an ongoing oral history project on the historical changes of women’s political and spiritual power among the Yaawo people in Niassa, northern Mozambique.

Much of our knowledge about early Yaawo history builds on the reports and writings of missionaries and travelers as well as the studies of early anthropologists. Most of these writers were men, as were their key informants, and it is not easy to find women in their texts. They largely ignore questions of women’s power; and even when women are mentioned, their authority is not recognized or explored.

We find an interesting example of the latter in the Anglican Bishop Smythies’ notes. Smythies paid a visit to Kalanje’s chieftaincy at Mount Unango in 1887. When he arrived, Chief Kalanje was away, and the bishop was received by a woman. Smythies assumed her to be the chief’s daughter.

As Smythies writes: ‘She could speak very well and appeared a clever and superior woman for this country. She received us on a kind of platform amongst the boulders, surrounded by a company of women, the men being apart, a little distance off. I congratulated her on being able to speak so well.’*

It is clear that Smythies knows not what to make of this speaking woman. While he acknowledges that she speaks with authority, taking a patronizing attitude, he jumps to the conclusion that she speaks with the authority of her father.

Yet it is most likely that the woman he encountered was the biibi of the basket.

PART 2: On men, gender and history-telling

‘On men, gender and history-telling’ is the second in a three-part photo essay series documenting an ongoing oral history project on the historical changes of women’s political and spiritual power among the Yaawo people in Niassa, northern Mozambique.

History-telling is a gendered practice, and nowadays it is often the male elders that are the main narrators of the oral histories of the nineteenth century Yaawo chieftaincies.

This essay explores the different ways that these men remember female figures of authority of the past. Moreover, it looks at how men, when telling these narratives, also story gendered temporal lifeworlds.

Food time

“Women’s memories of food offer insights into Mozambique’s liberation struggle

We don’t just taste food. Aromas, visual images, sounds and touch are equally part of our eating experience. Food also evokes feelings. We can experience it with joy but also with displeasure. This sensorily evocative power of food makes it an important site for remembering the past, which in turn influences our relation to food in the present.

There is much important literature in Africa that deals with food security and the biological necessity of eating. However, my research explores how food…”

Read the full article on The Conversation Africa

For a longer analysis of the polytemporality reflected in food memories see my recently published research article ‘Liberating Taste: Memories of War, Food and Cooking in Northern Mozambique’, Journal of Southern African Studies 46, 5 (2020): 965-984.

Both articles are open access!