"What do Widows Really Want?" with Prof. Joanna Davidson


Friday February 17th 2017 at 1:15 pm

African Studies Seminar Room (232 Bay State Rd. Room 505)


Professor Joanna Davidson, Assistant Professor, author of Sacred Rice: An Ethnography of Identity, Environment, and Development in Rural West Africa.

Anthropological attention to widows has often provided a corrective to male biases in kinship studies by focusing on the widows “themselves and the quality of their lives” (Potash, ed. 1986. Widows in African Societies). But what if these widows do not consider themselves to be members of this category? This presentation explores “the problem of widows” in a place – rural Guinea-Bissau – where they are many (up to 35% of the households) but they are neither named nor recognized as a social category. I consider how an engagement with widows as women who refuse to be problematized as a category might challenge conventional anthropological approaches to gender and to the ethnographic enterprise more broadly.