Selfish Gifts

Senegalese Women's Autobiographical Discourses

By Lisa McNee

Subjects: African Studies
Paperback : 9780791445884, 216 pages, June 2000
Hardcover : 9780791445877, 216 pages, June 2000

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Table of contents



The Other's Face Might Be Your Own

Chapter 1: Autobiographical Subjects

Chapter 2: The Gift of Praise

Chapter 3: Panegyrics

Chapter 4: Genre and Gender in the Autobiographical Exchange

Chapter 5: The Politics of Praise

Chapter 6: Aborted Nations

Chapter 7: Terms of Exchange

Post-Face: Selfish Gifts


Sound Recordings

Works Cited


Investigates the politics and poetics of women's gendered identity in West Africa.


Winner of the 2001 Joel Gregory Prize, presented by the Canadian Association of African Studies

Offering Senegalese women's autobiographical discourses as an original contribution to the critical debate about identity and self-representation, Lisa McNee asks how Senegalese women represent themselves, rather than asking who has the right to represent them. Selfish Gifts describes and analyzes the public spaces for verbal self-representation that the Wolof form of panegyric (taasu) and written autobiographies offer to women. In contrasting performances of taasu to autobiographical works written in French, McNee addresses important issues in literary criticism, folklore studies, and anthropology, and develops a theory of an African aesthetic of self-representation.

Lisa McNee is Assistant Professor of French Studies at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.


"A valuable contribution to the discussion of identity and gender representation in postcolonial Africa. " — CHOICE

"McNee makes an exciting and original contribution to scholarship on African women's self-expression. In her chapters on Wolof oral forms, McNee is on truly new ground, and her methodology and insights are remarkable. Her work will be of great interest to scholars and students who are used to reading about African literature—often derived and transcribed from oral sources—but who more rarely see this kind of first-hand account of living orality. " — Christopher L. Miller, author of Nationalists and Nomads: Essays on Francophone African Literature and Culture