Emily S. Burrill

Emily S. Burrill is an associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and coeditor of Domestic Violence and the Law in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa.

Listed in: History · African Studies · Gender Studies · Social History · Slavery and Slave Trade · Law · Women’s Studies · Legal History · African History




Marriage by Force? · Contestation over Consent and Coercion in Africa
Edited by Annie Bunting, Benjamin N. Lawrance, and Richard L. Roberts · Foreword by Doris Buss · Afterword by Emily S. Burrill

Despite international human rights decrees condemning it, marriage by force persists to this day. In this volume, the editors bring together legal scholars, anthropologists, historians, and development workers to explore the range of forced marriage practices in sub-Saharan Africa. The result is a masterful presentation of new perspectives on the practice.

“This fascinating collection addresses the important problem of determining what forced marriage is through the perspective of historical studies of marriage from precolonial through postcolonial eras in Africa. The essays destabilize any idea that there is a simple dichotomy between forced and consensual marriage, and show that calling forms of coerced marriage customary or traditional ignores the extent to which tradition is constantly subject to change.”

Sally Engle Merry, Silver Professor of Anthropology, New York University, and author of Gender Violence: A Cultural Perspective




Winner of the 2016 Alf Andrew Heggoy Book Prize, given by the French Colonial History Society

States of Marriage · Gender, Justice, and Rights in Colonial Mali
By Emily S. Burrill

States of Marriage shows how throughout the colonial period in French Sudan (present-day Mali) the institution of marriage played a central role in how the empire defined its colonial subjects as gendered persons with certain attendant rights and privileges. The book is a modern history of the ideological debates surrounding the meaning of marriage, as well as the associated legal and sociopolitical practices in colonial and postcolonial Mali.

“Burrill sets out an ambitious agenda for ‘doing’ the history of marriage in her introductory chapter, one that will serve as an inspiration and guide for those who embark on similar studies. She does not provide—nor could anyone—a history of the institution of marriage, but rather a steady gaze into the actors and their struggles around marriage, divorce, and gender relationships over six decades. … Burrill has written a work of considerable and pioneering importance.”

International Journal of African Historical Studies




Domestic Violence and the Law in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa reveals the ways in which domestic space and domestic relationships take on different meanings in African contexts that extend the boundaries of family obligation, kinship, and dependency. The term domestic violence encompasses kin-based violence, marriage-based violence, gender-based violence, as well as violence between patrons and clients who shared the same domestic space.

“This is a fascinating and extensively researched exploration of a range of forms of gender-based violence that combines historical, anthropological, and legal perspectives. One of its strengths is the way it juxtaposes studies of the legal regulation of violence in the colonial era with that of the postcolonial human rights era.”

Sally Engle Merry, author of Human Rights and Gender Violence: Translating International Law into Local Justice