Wife Seclusion and the Spatial Praxis of Gender Ideology in Nigerian Hausaland

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In much of Nigerian Hausaland the prevailing religio-cultural ideology of female seclusion (if not always the practice) impinges on married Muslim Hausa women to a greater, or lesser, degree. This article examines the intimate relationships between space, gender and ideology in contemporary rural Hausa society, showing the social construction (and connectedness) of gender identities and associated spatial identities, thus illustrating how spatial praxis is based on hegemonic patriarchal gender ideology. Observations and interview material gathered from a village case study in Kano State demonstrate how gender divisions correspond with the ideology and contemporary practice of wife seclusion. Intersecting patterns of gender, space and time are revealed by detailed analyses of time- and space-use data, which scrutinise men’s and women’s daily activities and mobility patterns. The cross-cutting of gender with class, age and marital status is shown to be highly significant in determining everyday experiences of spatial praxis, especially for women. A materialist feminist theoretical framework is used to explain this gendered geography of Nigerian Hausaland in which men’s and women’s worlds are spatially segregated, yet complexly interlocked and interdependent beyond simple public–private divisions of ‘female’ household compounds (private space) and ‘male’ public space. For this peasant society, aspects of the rural economy and ideology emerge as powerful factors in determining the nature of seclusion as part of gender praxis. It is argued that due to various cultural and religious factors socio-economic development in Northern Nigeria has not been translated into improved autonomy for Hausa women.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09663690050021760

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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