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Edited by Benjamin Soares

This timely collection offers new perspectives on Muslim-Christian encounters in Africa. Working against political and scholarly traditions that keep Muslims and Christians apart, the essays in this multidisciplinary volume locate African Muslims and Christians within a common analytical frame. In a series of historical and ethnographic case studies from across the African continent, the authors consider the multiple ways Muslims and Christians have encountered each other, borrowed or appropriated from one another, and sometimes also clashed. Contributors recast assumptions about the making and transgressing of religious boundaries, Christian-Muslim relations, and conversion. This engaging collection is a long overdue attempt to grapple with the multi-faceted and changing encounters of Muslims and Christians in Africa.
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Benjamin Soares and Rüdiger Seesemann

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Benjamin F. Soares

Abstract

In this paper, I am concerned with understanding the recent efforts to reform the laws governing marriage and inheritance, the code de la famille or the Family Code in Mali. Since the advent of multiparty elections in the 1990s, prominent members of the Malian government and civil servants, Malian women's rights activists, secular NGOs, and international and bilateral donors have made efforts to promote various social reforms, including the advancement of women's rights and the promotion of gender equality, particularly through changes in the Family Code. While some observers have attributed the lack of reform to the increased influence of “Islamists” and/or to religiously conservative Muslims, I draw on historical research and ethnography to propose an alternative reading of the lack of institutional law reform. As I argue, the gap between Malian civil law relating to the family and the lived experiences and social practices of many Malians, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, has become even more apparent in this era of political liberalization and promotion of global human rights discourses. This has helped to make such proposed social reforms as the promotion of women's rights and family law reform more contentious and the ultimate outcome even more uncertain.

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Toyin Falola, Roy Willis, Richard Werbner, Jacob K. Olupona, John Lamphear, Elizabeth Tonkin, R.C. Bridges, Benjamin F. Soares, Una Maclean, Malcolm Ruel, Ismail H. Abdalla, Misty L. Bastian, Helen Callaway, Andrew Apter, Elizabeth Sirriyeh and Toyin Falola