Rhian Keyse

Department: History
Discipline: History
Research Centre/Unit: Centre for Imperial and Global History

Project Summary

My doctoral research examines imperial and international discourses relating to women’s and girls’ rights in British colonial Africa, focusing on forced and early marriages, c.1925-62. These remain important areas of international, national and local concern, particularly for Africa. However, current concerns often understand the issue as one relating to ahistorical notions of 'tradition' or 'culture', and rigidly define child and forced marriages. The inattention to the historical and local specificities of these practices ignores their imperial roots. To shed light on this longer historical trajectory, I explore contentious debates within and between the British Colonial Office, mission societies, British and transnational women's organizations, the 'international community' represented by the League of Nations and the UN, and African communities. I examine questions of polygamy, forced and child marriages, and bridewealth, to elucidate how debates on African marriage were influenced by shifting ideas of colonial governance in this period. I aim to show how the growth of the international community - and associated ideas of anticolonialism, development, and universal rights, particularly women's and child rights - shaped these debates. Existing studies of African marriage focus on local micro-studies: my research is the first to place these questions within the broader imperial and international frame, and examine them across British colonial Africa as a whole. This represents an important original contribution to the scholarship and provides essential context for current debates.

Supervisory Team

Dr. Stacey Hynd, Professor Kate Fisher, Dr. Gareth Curless

Wider Research Interests

Gender histories; Violence against women and girls; The rule of law, crime, deviance, and judicial and extra-judicial punishment (including vigilantism and the use of private security) in colonial and postcolonial Africa; Genocide and mass violence; Transitional justice in post-conflict societies.

Authored Publications/Reports

Corinne T. Field, Marcia Chatelain, Abosede George, Rhian Keyse, Tammy Cherelle Owens and LaKisha Simmons () The History of Black Girlhood: Recent Innovations and Future Directions, Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, Forthcoming

Rhian Keyse () Arusha 1998: The Akayesu judgement and the prosecution of gender-based violence in international criminal law, Online Atlas of Humanitarianism and Human Rights eds. Fabian Klose, Johannes Paulmann, Andrew Thompson and Marc Palen