Dr Sacha Hepburn, Past & Present Fellow

Girlhood in British Colonial Africa: Gender and Childhood in Zambia and Kenya

Sacha Hepburn’s main research interests are the histories of gender, childhood and labour relations in East and Southern Africa. She recently completed a DPhil in History at the University of Oxford. Her doctoral thesis examined the history of domestic service in Zambia from the 1960s to the present day. Grounded in oral history, this research demonstrates the centrality of domestic service relationships to the making of gender and generational relations and processes of class formation in post-colonial Africa.

Sacha’s postdoctoral project, ‘Girlhood in British Colonial Africa: Gender, Work and Childhood in Zambia and Kenya’, builds on her previous research on female children and labour relations. Using Kenya and Zambia as case studies, this project will explore how British colonial officials, settlers and missionaries used labour policy as part of broader projects to construct ideals of feminine childhood for colonised children; how such policies were adopted, co-opted, and challenged by African societies; and how female children responded to these policies. Despite a growing literature on the history of childhood in Africa, few studies have examined the history of African female children as workers or placed African children’s experiences into a broader global perspective. The project will provide new insights into the history of girlhood in Africa, the relationship between female children and the colonial state, and processes of social and economic change in British colonial contexts.