Our New Husbands Are Here — 2011

Households, Gender, and Politics in a West African State from the Slave Trade to Colonial Rule

By Emily Lynn Osborn

“Original and stimulating, Our New Husbands Are Here challenges traditional historical accounts of gender and tests new concepts and frameworks that promise insightful openings in African studies.”

Mamadou Diouf — Columbia University

“This refreshingly bold and provocative study of Kankan…draws upon a broad range of sources…. By tracking the constantly shifting means through which households and wealth have been constructed over time, the author sets the reader up extremely well to appreciate the radical shift in the understanding of marriage, households, and gender that was introduced under French colonial rule.”

American Historical Review

“By focusing on the household as a social, political, and economic unit, rather than merely the domain of women, Osborn illuminates the intimate connections between slavery, marriage, and family in West Africa and de-centers the male-dominated state…. Our New Husbands Are Here represents a rethinking of scholarly assumptions about the relationships between gender, power, and the state that provides an important intervention in Africanist scholarship as well as a helpful tool in the classroom.”

International Journal of African Historical Studies

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In Our New Husbands Are Here, Emily Lynn Osborn investigates a central puzzle of power and politics in West African history: Why do women figure frequently in the political narratives of the precolonial period, and then vanish altogether with colonization? Osborn addresses this question by exploring the relationship of the household to the state. By analyzing the history of statecraft in the interior savannas of West Africa (in present-day Guinea-Conakry), Osborn shows that the household, and women within it, played a critical role in the pacifist Islamic state of Kankan-Baté, enabling it to endure the predations of the transatlantic slave trade and become a major trading center in the nineteenth century. But French colonization introduced a radical new method of statecraft to the region, one that separated the household from the state and depoliticized women’s domestic roles. This book will be of interest to scholars of politics, gender, the household, slavery, and Islam in African history.


Emily Lynn Osborn is an assistant professor of history at University of Chicago.

Cover of 'Our New Husbands Are Here'

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