Gender, Justice, and the Problem of Culture

Gender, Justice, and the Problem of Culture

From Customary Law to Human Rights in Tanzania
Dorothy L. Hodgson
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/27/2017
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-253-02535-7
Bookmark and Share

Other formats available:

Buy from Amazon


When, where, why, and by whom is law used to force desired social change in the name of justice? Why has culture come to be seen as inherently oppressive to women? In this finely crafted book, Dorothy L. Hodgson examines the history of legal ideas and institutions in Tanzania – from customary law to human rights – as specific forms of justice that often reflect elite ideas about gender, culture, and social change. Drawing on evidence from Maasai communities, she explores how the legacies of colonial law-making continue to influence contemporary efforts to create laws, codify marriage, criminalize FGM, and contest land grabs by state officials. Despite the easy dismissal by elites of the priorities and perspectives of grassroots women, she shows how Maasai women have always had powerful ways to confront and challenge injustice, express their priorities, and reveal the limits of rights-based legal ideals.

Author Bio

Dorothy L. Hodgson is Professor of anthropology and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (Graduate School—New Brunswick) at Rutgers University and past President of the African Studies Association.As a historical anthropologist, she has worked in Tanzania, East Africa, for almost thirty years on such topics as gender, ethnicity, cultural politics, colonialism, nationalism, modernity, the missionary encounter, transnational organizing, and the indigenous rights movement. Her work has been supported by awards from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, American Council for Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, American Philosophical Society, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.


“This is a book that only Dorothy Hodgson could have written, with her decades of work in Tanzania, vast networks in Maasailand, and deep ethnographic knowledge, combined with her deftness in working through more theoretical work on gender and human rights. Closely argued, conceptually sharp, and engagingly written.”
 — Brett Shadle, author of Girl Cases: Marriage and Colonialism in Gusiiland, Kenya, 1890-1970

“Dorothy Hodgson asks a number of important and clearly articulated questions, and provides thoughtful answers to them using a hybrid of historical and anthropological methodologies that combine in-depth case studies with more empirically-informed macro-level reflection. A concise and useful resource in the undergraduate as well as the graduate classroom.”
 — Priya Lal, author of African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania: Between the Village and the World

“[T]this book [is] an excellent addition to scholarship and courses on gender, human rights, legal anthropology, critical development studies, and more.”
 — American Ethnologist

“Hodgson’s book is both rich in detail and broad in its implications for understanding struggles for justice for marginalised groups. It deserves the attention of students and scholars of African studies, anthropology, history, political science and women’s and gender studies.”
 — Journal of Modern African Studies

Gender, Justice, and the Problem of Culture makes a significant contribution to the study of law in East Africa and elsewhere among colonized peoples, and it should be required reading not only for academics interested in such matters but for activists and policymakers.”
 — American Anthropologist

Gender, Justice, and the Problem of Culture speaks to a wide range of disciplines and should find pride of place in our curricula.”
 — African Studies Review

Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

Table of Contents

1. Creating "Law": Colonial Rule, Native Courts, and the Codification of Customary Law
2. Debating Marriage: National Law and the Culture of Postcolonial Rule
3. Criminalizing Culture: Human Rights, NGOs, and the Politics of Anti-FGM Campaigns
4. Demanding Justice: Collective Action, Moral Authority, and Female Forms of Power

Related Titles