2nd Edition

Women, Literature and Development in Africa

By Anthonia C. Kalu Copyright 2020
    210 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    210 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    This book is a powerful exploration of the role of women in the evolution of African thinking and narratives on development, from the precolonial period right through to the modern day. Whilst the book identifies women’s oppression and marginalization as significant challenges to contemporary Africa’s advancement, it also explores how new written narratives draw on traditional African knowledge systems to bring deep-rooted and sometimes radical approaches to progress.

    The book asserts that Africans must tell their own stories, expressed through the complex meanings and nuances of African languages and often conveyed through oral traditions and storytelling, in which women play an important role. The book’s close examination of language and meaning in the African narrative tradition advances the illumination and elevation of African storytelling as part of a viable and valid knowledge base in its own right, rather than as an extension of European paradigms and methods.

    Anthonia C. Kalu's new edition of this important book, fully revised throughout, will also include fresh analysis of the role of digital media, education, and religion in African narratives. At a time when the prominence and participation of African women in development and sociopolitical debates is growing, this book's exploration of their lived experiences and narrative contribution will be of interest to students of African literature, gender studies, development, history, and sociology.


    1. The African Woman and African Literary Criticism
    2. African Literary Theory and Research
    3. Paradigms of Tradition and Modernity: (Re)Centering Women in African Literature
    4. Nwanyibuife: Women and the Social Construction of Gender in African Development
    5. Language and Development in Africa
    6. Ala: Gendered Space and Development in Africa
    7. Women, Narrative Traditions and African Religious Thought
    8. Cultural Translations and Education in Africa





    Anthonia C. Kalu is a professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages and Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California-Riverside, USA.

    "The main strength of this second edition of Women, Literature and Development in Africa lies in its emphasis on the relevance of African literature and its criticism to the development of contemporary African societies, especially with regard to the importance of indigenous knowledge systems, African languages, and women’s contributions. This book is certainly a valuable guide not only to scholars and students of African literature, but also to African development policy makers." -- Lokangaka Losambe, The University of Vermont, USA

    "In Women, Literature and Development in Africa, Anthonia Kalu assesses the use of traditional African verbal arts in written African literature and identifies a gap: the incomplete representation of gender wholeness. This book makes a significant contribution to scholarship on African literature particularly its theorizing of women and gender engineering of society. [It] offers a nouvelle feminist lens in a book that makes little or no claim to feminist theorizing. Its feminism is woven into logic that would appeal to interdisciplinary scholars and students of anthropology, oral literature, development, literature and literary theory." -- Chinyere G. Okafor, Chair, Women, Gender and Diversity Studies, Wichita State University, Wichita, USA

    "When it was published in 2001, Anthonia Kalu’s Women, Literature and Development in Africa was celebrated as a major contribution to our understanding of the relationship between gender, development, and African thinking. With this new edition, it will be welcomed as an outstanding example of how attention to local systems of knowledge, including oral resources, transforms our understanding of African pasts and futures. This book will now occupy its rightful place in the library of African thought." -- Simon Gikandi, Robert Schirmer Professor of English, Princeton University, USA

    "This is a remarkable and fascinating book that offers readers a new approach to interpreting and understanding African literature. This interdisciplinary work privileges African ways of knowing through analysis of oral and written narratives that constitute the sources of African literary scholarship. An enlightened, excellent and readable work, the book also probes into the intersection of literature and development as it relates to women matters. The themes chosen are large, and well-grounded in African, and particularly, women’s lived experiences. It is a major addition to the African literary library." -- Jacob K. Olupona, Professor of African & African American Studies, Harvard University, and Professor of African Religious Traditions, Harvard Divinity School, USA

    "This book is a multi-vectored intervention that deliberately ups the ante on hardened questions in the discourse on African development and progress—questions about the struggle to reclaim internal communal and cultural unity; about how to harness, as a rallying force for participatory growth, the different registers that adumbrate the continent’s remnant consciousness; and about how to reset the compass of Africa’s traditional literary-scape toward self-reclamation. It proposes Africa-inflected development and progress through mining some moments in the indigenous knowledge base using new tools in the postcolonial dispensation. African women-as-storytellers are not simply guardians of this knowledge base, but viable interpreters and extenders of African thought and practice who keep us in touch with the traditional texts of hearth and homestead. These texts keep us grounded in our rich layering of language and communal lore while also checking Western patriarchal ideologies and colonial dominion." -- Helen Yitah, Associate Professor of English and Acting Dean of the School of Languages, University of Ghana

    "This volume is an admirable effort to tell Africans narrative by the men and women of the continent. The women have recently found their voice in the articulation of their stories. This volume by allowing women to have a say demonstrates very clearly the other side of the coin, which is welcome news and a welcome development. A proverb in Igbo and different African languages states that 'until the lions have a historian, the story of the hunt will always be told by the hunter.' It is in this vein that I welcome this volume which gives the loud voice to the women's achievement. Their input to African literature of the times shows very clearly that women have a role to play in this literature that comes from Africa." -- Helen Chukwuma, Professor of English, Jackson State University, USA