A (Re)Turn to the African Girl - (Re)Defining African Girlhood Studies Edited Collection

Marla L. Jaksch's picture
Call for Papers
October 1, 2020 to November 25, 2020
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Humanities, Race / Ethnic Studies, Sexuality Studies, Women's & Gender History / Studies

Call for Papers:

A (Re)Turn to the African Girl - (Re)Defining African Girlhood Studies Edited Collection

Despite a century of efforts to bring about gender justice, women and girls continue to occupy highly disadvantaged positions. It remains a vexing quandary in the twenty-first century that African girls hold less power, wealth, and voice in the public sphere than almost any group globally. Girlhood studies are a critical means to counter the historical tendency for feminist scholarship to center adult women and ignore or marginalize girls. As a result, girlhoods generally remain under-researched and under theorized. 

Likewise, racialized inequalities are a confounding problem that has persisted for five centuries globally. The intersections of gender and race, along with other identities, in the lives of Black girls in Africa and its diaspora have garnered a flurry of recent interest.  However, within girlhood studies the focus is primarily on the Global North and white girls’ lives, and as such, girls who are not white, and those who live in the Global South remain largely understudied. African girls’ voices remain particularly marginal and almost absent in girlhood studies. When African girlhoods are studied at all, often it is their vulnerability (to poverty, violence, disease, etc.) and seldom their agency and resilience that is researched or reported on. There are a few notable exceptions to this, such as the path breaking work of Relebohile Molestane, Claudia Mitchell, Ann Smith, and Linda Chisholm (2008) which focused on South African girlhoods and highlighted the need to attend to the methodologies for research with girls, about girls and for girls. Additionally, the research of girlhoods by Corrie Decker (2010), Abosede George (2014), Sadiyya Haffejee (2019), Jen Katshunga (2019), and Heather Switzer (2018) reflect a range of approaches to and expansion of African girlhoods beyond a hyper focus on their precarity.

Establishing a sustained exchange of ideas and a robust body of scholarship in African Girlhood Studies is critical to bring about meaningful debate and enact change. This CFP aims to bring together a diverse group of scholars in humanities, arts, social sciences, and sciences to contribute chapters to this edited volume that will critically analyze and creatively present the experiences and agency of girls from youth to early adulthood.

This edited collection is focused on adolescent girls in Africa - specifically how girls agency informs our understandings of girlhood and how colonial and post-colonial interventions have shaped and re-defined African girlhood through pseudo-scientific developmental models that were introduced on the continent via missionary education systems and continue today.

Contributors to this edited collection will address the need to theorize girlhoods across the vast geographies of post-independent, neo-colonial Africa in which girlhoods have been constructed and deployed as the justification for development and anti-poverty alleviation programs. While comparative studies are welcome, case studies that highlight historical and locationally specific processes and events are of particular interest.

Importantly, the issue will examine how African girls negotiate cultural, gendered and/or racialized, and/or sexualized identities as it is shaped by underlying questions of African self-determination, genocide, and slavery, racially stratified and migration policies, violence, colonial and neocolonial hegemony. We are particularly interested in interdisciplinary analyses among girlhood studies, Afro-femininims, African feminisms, feminisms of color, Indigenous studies, transnational and intersectional feminisms, analyses of colonialism and decolonization, and gender, queer, and trans studies.

Authors are invited to examine embodied, political, and conceptual decolonizing transgressions put forth for and by girls and youth of all genders living in Africa. The following questions, among others, may be addressed:

  • What voice and influence have African girls had on policy or programs and to what extent have girls been mere targets and objects of such policies and programs?

  • What kinds of adaptive regimes, practices and policies do African states deploy and how do these have an impact on girls and shape girls’ relationships with issues of subject formation, nationhood, violence, justice, and solidarity?

  • How do colonial politics of deservedness and biopolitics function to position African girls as targets for state violence?

  • How can we problematize the very category of girl as a deeply colonial, heteropatriarchal construct?

  • What does disrupting the white, able, heteronormative categories of girlhood mean for analyses of girlhood and for queer, trans, and gender-fluid lives?

  • What creative, grassroots, decolonizing, resurgent strategies are taken up by young people living in African countries?

This edited collection welcomes applied, methodological, and theoretical approaches that work to transgress neoliberal logics and that support justice, resurgence, and decolonization. Authors are invited to engage with discussions about girls and young people’s various engagements with policy, justice, allyship, solidarity, collectivity, resistance, love, land, and decolonial resurgence. 

These can take the form of academic papers as well as creative pieces including multi-media, poetry, stories, artwork, and so on.  We especially welcome contributions authored by young people.

Contact Info: 

Dr. Catherine Cymone Fourshey - Associate Professor, History and International Relations, Bucknell University (ccf014@bucknell.edu)

Dr. Marla Jaksch - Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, The College of New Jersey (jakschm@tcnj.edu)

Dr. Relebohile Moletsane - Professor, John Langalibalele Dube Chair in Rural Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal (moletsaner@ukzn.ac.za)

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