Sisters debating the Jesuits: The role of African women in defeating Portuguese proto-colonialism in seventeenth-century Abyssinia

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Abstract

Many assume that African women did not play an intellectual or political role before the modern period. Taking advantage of rare sources in Portuguese, Latin, and Ge?ez, this article analyzes European and African texts written in the 1600s about Ethiopian royal women who led their people in resisting Portuguese proto-colonialism. The texts display quite different perspectives on the women, but they agree that women participated in defeating this European incursion. Comparing the two traditions reveals that the negative Portuguese representations of these Ethiopian royal women were not just the result of misogyny, but were a vanquished foe's bitter depiction of a victorious enemy. Indeed, these early modern African women must be acknowledged as some of the earliest pioneers against European incursions in Africa. This article focuses on the extraordinary, larger-than-life stories of six such women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-166
Number of pages46
JournalNortheast African Studies
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

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