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An ethnographic study of family, livelihoods and women's everyday lives in Dakar, Senegal

Hann, Agnes C. E. (2013) An ethnographic study of family, livelihoods and women's everyday lives in Dakar, Senegal. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores competing meanings of being a woman in Dakar, Senegal. Above all, it is concerned with the relationship between livelihoods – how ordinary Dakarois make ends meet – and women’s gendered identities. It explores the full spectrum of Dakar women’s economic activities, all the while keeping the definition of what, precisely, qualifies as ‘economic’ or as ‘work’ as open as possible. Distancing itself from approaches that privilege the sexual aspects of gender, this thesis asks what kinds of gendered economic identities emerge in the context of the various roles and relationships that constitute women’s everyday lives. What do women do that enables people in this society to get by and to secure their day-­‐to-­‐day needs? How are these activities experienced, and what kind of values are they imbued with? Based on three years’ fieldwork in low-­‐income neighbourhoods across the Dakar region, the thesis advances an ethnographic analysis of women’s roles as wives and girlfriends, sisters and sisters-­‐in-­‐law, daughters, mothers and grandmothers, and members of extended family and community networks. It explores women’s activities as dependents, consumers, providers and informal-­‐sector workers. Together, the chapters shed light on the complexities and contradictions involved in being a woman in this particular part of the world. Building on the ethnographic findings, this thesis argues that it is possible to identify two distinct, even competing conceptions of being a woman in Dakar. One of these can be framed in terms of ‘materialism’, the other around the emic concept of ‘mothering work’. Dakar women, this thesis suggests, draw on both in order to create, defend and challenge the meaning and the value of their everyday experiences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Agnes C. E. Hann
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Engelke, Matthew and Astuti, Rita

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