Washing dirty laundry in public: Local courts, custom, and gender relations in postcolonial Lusaka

Karen Tranberg Hansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the course of my long-term fieldwork on household dynamics and on the struggle to make a living in Mtendere Township in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, I decided in 1988 to spend some of my research time in the Local Court at Chelston to which Mtendere residents took their civil cases. As the postcolonial successors of the Urban Native Courts, Urban Local Courts continue to adjudicate disputes that fall within “customary law.” I was particularly intrigued by Mtendere women’s insistence that “one shouldn’t wash one’s dirty laundry in public,” when in fact they brought cases concerning conjugal disputes and personal insult/defamation of character to court much more readily than men. In this chapter I explore why women consider the Local Court a strategic place to settle such disputes, and I focus on two issues: how gender relations are negotiated in Local Court and what this tells us about the relationship between “custom” and society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCourtyards, Markets, City Streets
Subtitle of host publicationUrban Women in Africa
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages105-127
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780429969799
ISBN (Print)9780813381330
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Washing dirty laundry in public: Local courts, custom, and gender relations in postcolonial Lusaka'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Hansen, K. T. (2018). Washing dirty laundry in public: Local courts, custom, and gender relations in postcolonial Lusaka. In Courtyards, Markets, City Streets: Urban Women in Africa (pp. 105-127). Taylor and Francis. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429501241