Urban Intimacy in Eastern and Central Africa in the 20th Century

Stephanie Lämmert

My current research project investigates the history of romance and intimacy in eastern and central Africa in the twentieth century. Through the lens of love, I look at broader narratives of nation-building, social and economic change, and "modernity", with a particular focus on inclusion and exclusion along the lines of purity versus pollution.

Women are at the center of my project. How have "modern women" been depicted by male and female contemporaries since the 1920s? In what ways was the image of the "modern woman" intertwined with the discourse of romantic love, companionate marriage, and Christian respectability? What kinds of emotions are revealed through the (often male) gaze on urban women? And what were women supposed to feel, particularly those who resisted meeting the expectations set by respectability? I am attempting close readings of love stories and common urban tropes such as the "sugar daddy" to get a fresh perspective on urbanity and modernity in Central African history.

My research focuses on Zambia, Tanzania, and the DR Congo in the period between the 1920s and 1990s. My sources consist of mission, government, and mining company publications and archives, with a particular focus on the Central African Copperbelt and urban Tanzania.

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