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An analysis of the portrayal of women in junior secondary school history textbooks in Malawi.

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This study examines the portrayal of women in junior secondary school history textbooks in Malawi. It seeks to explore how women are portrayed and establishes reasons for the portrayal of women in particular ways in these textbooks. The visual and verbal text of three history textbooks used at junior secondary level in Malawi was analysed. The study is guided by the critical paradigm and the qualitative feminist approach to research using documentary or secondary data studies design. It uses feminist theory to analyse and understand the portrayal of women in the textbooks studied. Specifically the study uses a bricolage of six feminist theories namely liberal, radical, Marxist, socialist, black and African feminisms. Three methods of textual analysis were used to analyse the textbooks and these are content analysis, visual semiotic analysis, and open coding. It was concluded in this study that women are oppressed in their portrayal in junior secondary school history textbooks in Malawi and that their oppression manifested through marginalisation, stereotyping, silencing and limited representation as exceptional historical characters. Furthermore, it was found that Malawian women were under-represented despite the fact that the textbooks were produced in their own country. Malawian women comprised a negligible population of the women contained in the textbooks studied which portrays them as being non-existent in history. This finding is not supported by literature and therefore I would argue that it adds a new dimension to the existing literature on the portrayal of women in history textbooks. Among other factors such as race, Capitalism and the African culture, it was concluded that patriarchal beliefs were the major reason for the oppression of women in these textbooks. Therefore, unless patriarchy is uprooted in the minds of people, the oppression of women in society in all its manifestations, which permeates history textbooks, will largely remain the same as evidenced by the corroboration of findings between this study and previous studies conducted in history textbooks. This study makes a significant contribution to history textbook research and feminist research in textbooks. It carries on the tradition of researching women in textbooks which was started by Catherine de Pisan in the first century AD. Unlike previous studies which only revealed under-representation of women, this study documents the frequency in which the few women mentioned in the text were referred. My study therefore enhances the debate on the under-representation of women both in history textbooks and textbooks of other subjects by highlighting less frequent mentioning of women as a form of marginalisation.


Ph. D. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2014.


Textbook bias -- Malawi., Women -- Education -- Malawi., Sex discrimination in education -- Malawi., Theses -- Education.