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She Loved and Ruled That Kitchen: Space and Autonomy in Kenyan Societies

Brillian Besi Muhonja


Scholarly and popular literature alike has over the years portrayed African women as helpless victims of circumstances and their male counterparts, often attributing this perceived state of subjection to structures and practices in pre-colonial African societies. This historical inconsistency persists even with new emerging scholarship on African women. Focusing on the kitchen space, this paper asserts the need to invest in the creation of new theoretical frameworks for examining the identity of spaces in indigenous African societies, which does not imbue the ontology of said spaces and places with western characteristics or use western public and private space paradigms in defining these spaces. It explores the question that the privatization of the role of African women in society and consequently the privatization of these women's operational spaces is a post-missionary work / post-colonialism phenomenon. Referencing the histories and cultures of four Kenyan language communities, this study hopes to expose the multi-faceted nature of the traditional African kitchen, redefining it as a public and empowered space.


Kenya; Kitchen; Public and Private Space; African Women; Kenyan Women; Autonomy; Gender Inequalities

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JENdA: A Journal of Culture and African Women Studies. ISSN: 1530-5686 (online).
Editors: Nkiru Nzegwu; Book Editor: Mary Dillard.

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