Challenging the received orthodoxies of social anthropology, Ifi Amadiume argues that in precolonial society, sex and gender did not necessarily coincide. Examining the structures that enabled women to achieve power, she shows that roles were neither rigidly masculinized nor feminized. Economic changes in colonial times undermined women's status and reduced their political role and Dr Amadiume maintains, patriarchal tendencies introduced by colonialism persist today, to the detriment of women. Critical of the chauvinist stereotypes established by colonial anthropology, the author stresses the importance of recognizing women's economic activities as as essential basis of their power. She is also critical of those western feminists who, when relating to African women, tend to accept the same outmoded projections.
Ifi Amadiume is a award-winning poet and a political activist as well as an academic. She has lived in Nigeria and the UK and is currently associate professor at Dartmouth College, Hanover. There, she teaches in both the Department of Religion and the African-American Studies Programme. Professor Amadiume is author of the influential "Male Daughters, Female Husbands" (Zed Books, 1988) which won the "Choice" Outstanding Academic Book of the Year award in 1989.