B6
Shaping the African family: colonial law and social change in urban centres

Convenors:
Marie Rodet (SOAS)
Elke Stockreiter (University of Iowa)
Discussant:
Barbara Cooper, Rutgers
Stream:
Environment, development and human rights
Location:
G50
Start time:
12 September, 2006 at 16:00
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

Law was a central feature of colonial systems in Africa. The setting-up of legal systems was an essential part of the process of power consolidation after the 'conquest'. The approach of colonial regimes differed regarding the roles that existing legal systems should play in the newly established colonial judiciary. Colonial law was aimed at allowing the colonial powers to control their subjects and to shape new behaviours in accordance with European moral standards, especially in the realm of domestic and family issues. Urban centres, where colonial power and main legal facilities were concentrated, became central sites of matrimonial litigation. Africans brought their domestic disputes to the colonial courts to seek colonial, Islamic or customary remedies. This panel aims to present different case studies exploring colonial legal systems in different regions of Africa. The papers will first seek to provide insights into the social change Africans experienced in terms of family life and social status. They will then attempt to reflect on how the interaction between subjects and colonial powers, through the new legal systems, shaped the African and colonial discourse on the African family.

Long abstract:

Law was a central feature of colonial systems in Africa. The setting-up of legal systems was an essential part of the process of power consolidation after the 'conquest'. The approach of colonial regimes differed regarding the roles that existing legal systems should play in the newly established colonial judiciary. Colonial law was aimed at allowing the colonial powers to control their subjects and to shape new behaviours in accordance with European moral standards, especially in the realm of domestic and family issues. Urban centres, where colonial power and main legal facilities were concentrated, became central sites of matrimonial litigation. Africans brought their domestic disputes to the colonial courts to seek colonial, Islamic or customary remedies. This panel aims to present different case studies exploring colonial legal systems in different regions of Africa. The papers will first seek to provide insights into the social change Africans experienced in terms of family life and social status. They will then attempt to reflect on how the interaction between subjects and colonial powers, through the new legal systems, shaped the African and colonial discourse on the African family.