This thesis examines strategies for self-construction employed by young, unmarried Dakar women. These strategies to various degrees combine the desire to profit from city life - entertainment and consumer goods - still ensuring a good reputation according to traditional values.
I have identified three types of female strategies and linked them with corresponding prototypical models of women. These models all have management of sexuality as their main defining feature. The 'interior girl' is the chaste and calm girl who stays principally in her family dwellings until she is married. The 'prostitute' is the woman who publicly exchanges sexual intercourse for money. The 'mbaranekat' is the girl who engages in relationships with several men simultaneously. She manages to take advantage of these men's interest in her by drawing from them gifts that enhance her respect in her community. Her strategy is successful on the condition that she can convince others that she does not involve sexually with her suitors. In order to achieve this, she manipulates with traditional norms of courtship exchanges, where a woman delays her sexual reciprocation until the appropriate stage in the marriage process.
Questions that are raised concern how 'traditional' and 'modern' ideas about issues such as sexuality and marriage relate to each other. Another question concerns how the diversity and to some extent the unpredictability of rapidly transforming city life influence young women in their process of constructing selves. My argument is that this setting requires a more active self-construction than one characterised by more stability.
The underlying contention will be that 'modernisation' entails coexistence of different and sometimes contradicting norms and values (Helle-Valle 1999), but that a sense of disorder is prevented by relating these norms and values to different social contexts.