Gender without Groups: Confession, Resistance and Selfhood in the Colonial Archive

Publication Type:

Book Chapter


Gender History Across Epistemologies, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, p.181–197 (2013)





gendered categories, interracial relationship, national archives of malawi, social history, social transgression


This article offers a text/context analysis drawn from a document found in the {NationalArchives} of Malawi. The document is a confession by an anonymous European settler of the relationship he had with an African woman named Adaima. Decisively limited in certain respects, it nevertheless offers a detailed account of one womans agency. It also raises fundamental questions as to how typical this personal experience was and how individual histories should be positioned vis-a-vis group histories and their claims of categorical representation. This article consequently argues for the value and importance of individual lives against group conformities, concluding that historians should critically engage with the issue of groups and how they shape historical meaning.

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