Work, Social Status, and Gender in Post-Slavery Mauritania

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Katherine Ann Wiley
  • Bloomington, IN: 
    Indiana University Press
    , September
     2018.
     248 pages.
     $35.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9780253036223.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Description

Although slavery was legally abolished in 1981 in Mauritania, its legacy lives on in the political, economic, and social discrimination against ex-slaves and their descendants. Katherine Ann Wiley examines the shifting roles of Muslim Ḥarāṭīn (ex-slaves and their descendants) women, who provide financial support for their families. Wiley uses economic activity as a lens to examine what makes suitable work for women, their trade practices, and how they understand and assert their social positions, social worth, and personal value in their everyday lives. She finds that while genealogy and social hierarchy contributed to status in the past, women today believe that attributes such as wealth, respect, and distance from slavery help to establish social capital. Wiley shows how the legacy of slavery continues to constrain some women even while many of them draw on neoliberal values to connect through kinship, friendship, and professional associations. This powerful ethnography challenges stereotypical views of Muslim women and demonstrates how they work together to navigate social inequality and bring about social change.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Katherine Ann Wiley is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Pacific Lutheran University. Her work has appeared in Africa and Africa Today.

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