Gendered histories

‘“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.

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