Hadija's Story

Hadija's Story

Diaspora, Gender, and Belonging in the Cameroon Grassfields
Harmony O'Rourke
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/13/2017
Format: Hardback 14 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-02375-9
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In 1952, a woman named Hadija was brought to trial in an Islamic courtroom in the Cameroon Grassfields on a charge of bigamy. Quickly, however, the court proceedings turned to the question of whether she had been the wife or the slave-concubine of her deceased husband. In tandem with other court cases of the day, Harmony O'Rourke illuminates a set of contestations in which marriage, slavery, morality, memory, inheritance, status, and identity were at stake for Muslim Hausa migrants, especially women. As she tells Hadija's story, O'Rourke disrupts dominant patriarchal and colonial narratives that have emphasized male activities and projects to assert cultural distinctiveness, and she brings forward a new set of women’s issues involving concerns for personal prosperity, the continuation of generations, and Islamic religious expectations in communities separated by long distances.

Author Bio

Harmony O’Rourke is Assistant Professor of History at Pitzer College.


“Steers the conversation on Hausa diaspora experiences and Hausa politics of belonging and identity toward recognition of the importance of gender and its expressions in contestations over marriage, morality, and belonging.”
 — Moses E. Ochonu, author of Colonialism by Proxy

“An excellent example of how legal cases may be employed to provide evidence of the complicated contradictions of dominant social ideologies, in this case about gender relations in Hausa Grassfields society. An original and important contribution.”
 — Elisha P. Renne, author of Population and Progress in a Yoruba Town

“This timely contribution opens up a new conversation about  Hausa diaspora and this is especially so with regard to the women’s roles in identity and diaspora formation. In essence, the book is a good source for both academics and non-academics who have an  interest in this area. ”
 — Research Africa Reviews

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Table of Contents

Part I
1. "Worthy Subjects"
2. "People of the North"
Part II
3. Slave or Daughter?
4. First Reversal: Marriage and Enslavement
5. Second Reversal: Death and Survival
6. Third Reversal: Conflict and Judgment