Contours of Change cover
Contours of Change
Muslim Courts, Women, and Islamic Society in Colonial Bathurst, the Gambia, 1905-1965
Based on a previously unexamined body of qadi court records as well as two hundred oral interviews in Wolof and Mandinka, Contours of Change: Muslim Courts, Women, and Islamic Society in Colonial Bathurst, the Gambia, 1905–1965, offers a new perspective on the impact of British rule in West Africa. It focuses on the formation of present-day Banjul and the role of law, religion, and gender relations. Specifically, this volume explores how colonization affected the evolution of women’s understanding of the importance of law in securing their rights, and how urban women used the new qadi court system to fight for greater rights in the domestic sphere. The fascinating cases discussed in the text show that male Muslim judges often were sympathetic to women’s claims, and that, as a result, the qadi court created opportunities for women to acquire property rights and negotiate patriarchal relationships. Contours of Change sheds light on African subjectivities and the broader social, economic, and political changes taking place in colonial Gambian society during the first half of the twentieth century. This text breaks new ground in Senegambian history and makes a significant contribution to British colonial studies, African legal studies, Islam in Africa studies, and women’s history studies.
Subjects: Social Science | Law | History
Publication Date: February 1st, 2018
216 pages| 6 in x 9 in
BALA SAHO is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma. He previously worked in the Gambia as director General of the National Centre for Arts and Culture and director of the Oral History Archive. 

Early Praise

“Bala Saho’s important new book offers an entirely new perspective on the formation of societies, subjectivities, and communities in colonial Gambia. Drawing on the records of the qadi court, which had never previously been used by historians, and on his unrivaled experience as a retriever of oral histories, Saho shows the complexities of social formation in the era of colonization, urbanization, and the slow end to slavery. Using an easily accessible and fascinating microhistorical method, Saho recovers female agency, multiple vectors of power, and the complexity behind the emergence of urban societies in Islamic West Africa.”
Toby Green, Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture, King’s College London
“This book deals with a multidimensional subject on which, to date, very little has been published. Its main preoccupations revolve around the qadi court system in the Gambia, Muslim women, the colonial governance order juxtaposed against the Muslim legal order and its underlying philosophy and values, and the space created by a variety of actors—notably the Muslim legal system—for participation in the management of public affairs both locally and nationally. Whilst each of these dimensions stands on its own the book also brings out the cross-cutting interrelationships between them. In so doing, it sheds much light on the subject and thereby adds immense value to the study. Further, the book squarely confronts theoretical issues thus demonstrating familiarity with the varying views of those who have undertaken research on these and related subjects.”
Jeggan C. Senghor, Senior Research Fellow, School of Advanced Study, University of London

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