Past Features

February 9, 2009 (Vol. 9, No. 2)

Lecture: 'Maturation of the Modern Schoolgirl in Colonial Zanzibar'

Map of Zanzibar Island
Map of Zanzibar Island (the southern main island of Zanzibar)
Professor Corrie Decker (African American and African American Studies) will open the Women's Studies Program Spring Lecture series with a presentation of her paper, titled "Maturation of the Modern Schoolgirl in Colonial Zanzibar, 1900-1970." The talk, which is free and open to the campus, will take place on Wednesday, February 18, at 12:30 p.m. in Room 221 of Carman Hall.

The talk will focus on the cultural and political ramifications of the evolution of young women's sexuality in Zanzibar during the twentieth century. As Professor Decker explains, in the years leading up to Zanzibar's independence, debates on girls' sexual conduct paralleled prevailing concerns about racial tensions and anxieties over the structure of the foreseeable postcolonial state. Government attempts to control girls' adolescent bodies, in both the British colonial administration and the postcolonial regime that followed a violent revolution, became a metaphor for struggles over the control of the state during the "time of politics" in Zanzibar.

A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, Professor Decker earned her graduate and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her current book project, "We Were the Pioneers: Girls' Education on the Swahili Coast, 1927-1963," explores the stakes that parents, colonial educators, and schoolgirls had in the spread of Western education for girls on the Swahili coast during the British colonial period. Forthcoming publications include an article in the Journal of Women's History and an edited volume, entitled Girls in the World: A Global History (Rutgers University Press, January 2010).

She is currently researching girls' initiation and female adolescent culture among twentieth-century East African coastal communities. Her work has been supported by fellowships from the Fulbright Institute of International Education, the Spencer Foundation, UC Berkeley, and CUNY.