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Male Daughters, Female Husbands, a book by Dartmouth faculty member Ifi Amadiume, has been selected among the 100 best books by African authors in the 20th century. Amadiume, a Professor of Religion who specializes in indigenous African religions, joins the company of internationally recognized figures such as Nelson Mandela and Leopold Senghor, whose books are also included on the list.
The Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century list is an initiative of the Zimbabwe International Book Fair. The 15-person jury included people from 13 nations who considered more than 1,500 books in three categories: children's writing, nonfiction/scholarship and creative writing. Professor Amadiume's book was one of only 10 scholarly books included in the final list.
"I am delighted and honored to receive this award," said Amadiume. "I have had congratulatory messages from scholars all over the world, especially younger scholars and African women scholars who feel that at last African women scholars are gaining the recognition they deserve. I feel particularly pleased with this wide expression of happiness and solidarity across borders, cultures and gender."
First published in 1987 by Zed Books, Male Daughters, Female Husbands examines the relationship between sex and gender in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Africa. Amadiume argues that in pre-colonial societies, there was gender flexibility which allowed women and men to share important social roles and status, thus enabling women to achieve power in economic, social and political institutions. Colonialism and European domination imposed a more rigid concept of gender that excluded women from power. However, aspects of traditional African women's organizations have carried over into modern national politics.
Born in Nigeria of Igbo parents, Dr. Amadiume joined the Dartmouth faculty in July 1993. In addition to her appointment in the religion department, she teaches courses in African Studies and Women's Studies and has served as Chair of the African and African-American Studies Program. Her research interests include African goddesses and matriarchy, spirit possession; gender, society and culture; women's organizations; social movements; religion, culture and the state; religion and literature; human rights and social justice; gender ideology/philosophy in indigenous religions of Africa and the African diaspora; and women in African Islam.
Amadiume has written four books with special interest in gender analysis. She previously was editor of the Pan-African Liberation Platform, an educational journal on human rights. An award-winning writer and poet, her other publications include Daughters of the Goddess, Daughters of Imperialism: African Women, Culture, Power and Democracy (2000); The Politics of Memory: Truth, Healing and Social Justice (2000), co-edited with Abdullahi An Na'im; and Reinventing Africa: Matriarchy, Religion and Culture (1998), among others.
Amadiume and the other authors whose books are included on the 100 best books list will be honored during the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in August 2002. Selection criteria for the honor included quality, ability of a book to provide new information or insight; continuing contribution to debate; extent to which a book breaks boundaries; and impact through such matters as popularity, sales and public influence. The final list included books written in twelve different languages, including Afrikaans, Arabic, English, French, Gikuyu, Portuguese, Sesotho, Shona, Swahili, IsiXhosa, Yoruba and IsiZulu.
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