Online seminar: 7 December 2020, 5pm

Gender and legal spaces in modern African history

This is a work-in-progress seminar in which two speakers – Beth Brewer (Durham) and Tom Cunningham (Edinburgh) will present on-going research with a view to opening up a wider discussion on research methods in gender history and modern African history. Beth’s research is on post-conflict Rwanda and Tom’s is on colonial Kenya. Both speakers are undertaking gender histories with ‘official’ records and legal documents, and are interested in the ways that legal spaces offer opportunities to explore how African actors have performed and invoked gendered identities. 

Beth’s presentation, ‘Women and the Rwandan genocide gacaca courts: agency, culpability, and evasion’, will outline her PhD research exploring the agency and experiences of women defendants who were put on trial for their crimes in Rwanda’s localised post-genocide justice system. She is particularly interested in the role that gender played in their testimonies and defences, asking how these women conformed to, used, or subverted Rwandan gendered expectations when on trial. 

Tom’s presentation, ‘Generation and the ailing body: Gikuyu testimonies to the Carter Land Commission 1932’, grows out of his doctoral and postdoctoral research on missionaries, the body and ‘biopower’ in colonial Kenya. His presentation considers striking, sometimes perplexing, bodily imagery and medical metaphors used by Gikuyu witnesses and claimants as they made claims over land ownership to the colonial state. This imagery is informative of deeper histories of gender, generation and re-generation in Gikuyuland and indicative of how these were being re-shaped under colonial rule.

Please contact Beth ( if you would like to attend, and zoom details will be sent to attendees.

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