Wives of the Leopard: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey

University of Virginia Press
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Wives of the Leopard explores power and culture in a pre-colonial West African state whose army of women and practice of human sacrifice earned it notoriety in the racist imagination of late nineteenth-century Europe and America. Tracing two hundred years of the history of Dahomey up to the French colonial conquest in 1894, the book follows change in two central institutions. One was the monarchy, the coalitions of men and women who seized and wielded power in the name of the king. The second was the palace, a household of several thousand wives of the king who supported and managed state functions.

Looking at Dahomey against the backdrop of the Atlantic slave trade and the growth of European imperialism, Edan G. Bay reaches for a distinctly Dahomean perspective as she weaves together evidence drawn from travelers' memoirs and local oral accounts, from the religious practices of vodun, and from ethnographic studies of the twentieth century. Wives of the Leopard thoroughly integrates gender into the political analysis of state systems, effectively creating a social history of power. More broadly, it argues that women as a whole and men of the lower classes were gradually squeezed out of access to power as economic resources contracted with the decline of the slave trade in the nineteenth century. In these and other ways, the book provides an accessible portrait of Dahomey's complex and fascinating culture without exoticizing it.

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About the author

Edna G. Bay is Associate Professor at the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University and is the editor of several books in African studies.

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Virginia Press
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Published on
Jun 29, 2012
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Pages
392
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ISBN
9780813923864
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Africa / South / Republic of South Africa
Political Science / General
Political Science / Women in Politics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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