Accessibility navigation

Gendered struggles over land: shifting inheritance practices among the Serer in rural Senegal

Evans, R. ORCID: (2016) Gendered struggles over land: shifting inheritance practices among the Serer in rural Senegal. Gender, Place and Culture, 23 (9). pp. 1360-1375. ISSN 1360-0524

Text - Accepted Version
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2016.1160872


Although women's land rights are often affirmed unequivocally in constitutions and international human rights conventions in many African countries, customary practices usually prevail on the ground and often deny women's land inheritance. Yet land inheritance often goes unnoticed in wider policy and development initiatives to promote women's equal access to land. This paper draws on feminist ethnographic research among the Serer ethnic group in two contrasting rural communities in Senegal. Through analysis of land governance, power relations and 'technologies of the self', this article shows how land inheritance rights are contingent on the specific effects of intersectionality in particular places. The contradictions of legal pluralism, greater adherence to Islam and decentralisation led to greater application of patrilineal inheritance practices. Gender, religion and ethnicity intersected with individuals' marital position, status, generation and socio-ecological change to constrain land inheritance rights for women, particularly daughters, and widows who had been in polygamous unions and who remarried. Although some women were aware that they were legally entitled to inherit a share of the land, they tended not to 'demand their rights'. In participatory workshops, micro-scale shifts in women's and men's positionings reveal a recognition of the gender discriminatory nature of customary and Islamic law and a desire to 'change with the times'. While the effects of 'reverse' discourses are ambiguous and potentially reinforce prevailing patriarchal power regimes, 'counter' discourses, which emerged in participatory spaces, may challenge customary practices and move closer to a rights-based approach to gender equality and women's land inheritance.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Walker Institute
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Human Environments
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:49149
Uncontrolled Keywords:Inheritance Land governance Gender equality Legal pluralism Feminist ethnographic research West Africa
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation