P 03

Changing Masculinities in Africa and Beyond

Panel abstract
Representations of African men tend to be simplistic. The so-called ‘crisis of masculinity’-discourse, prominent especially in South Africa, is depicting men as being criminal, violent, dominant, and irresponsible (for example regarding fatherhood and money management). This panel, in contrast, aims at critically engaging with the concept of hegemonic masculinity and argues that multiple images of masculinities exist in Africa and beyond. By masculinities, we understand what men say and do to be men. To comprehend discourses and practices around masculinities we must also consider the question of how masculinities emerge. Imaginations of masculinities are negotiated on different levels and among diverse actors. Discourses and practices relating to masculinities and manhood are situationally and relationally adopted, contested, transformed, and reconfigured.
We invite papers which contest stereotypical representations of masculinities and analyse their implications. This panel encourages especially contributions which enlarge the dominant focus on young men in South Africa and engage in research on masculinities throughout the continent and beyond. We aim at examining how ideas and practices of masculinities influence individual and collective agency on the social, economic, political, and cultural level. Paying attention to the historical, geographical, and cultural diversities of masculinities, we wish to discuss papers which investigate how images of masculinities evolve and manifest in everyday life and analyse how these imaginations circulate within transnational and translocal spaces. This panel is open for empirical and theoretical papers which interdisciplinary explore the making and remaking of masculinities, for example from a life course perspective.

Time: Thursday, 28/06/2018, 2 - 4 pm, 4.30 - 6.30 pm (double session)
New venue: Hörsaalgebäude, HS 8

Convenors
Carole Ammann (University of Basel, Switzerland)
Sandra Staudacher (University of Basel, Switzerland)

Panellists
Session 1
Carol Berger (Independent scholar, Canada)
Leo Hopkinson (University of Edinburgh, UK)
Matthias Schneider (University of Frankfurt)
Susanne U. Schultz (University of Bielefeld)

Session 2
Kristen E. McLean (Yale University, New Haven, USA)
Simon Mutebi (Free University of Berlin)
Sandra Staudacher (University of Basel, Switzerland)
Florian Stoll (University of Bayreuth)
 

Paper abstracts

Carol Berger
Making of Men, Making of Women: Social Process and Gender Norms Among the Dinka Agar of South Sudan

The pastoralist Dinka Agar of central South Sudan are a heavily militarized section of the country’s larger Dinka ethnic group. The current civil war, now five years old, has seen the recruitment of under-aged soldiers and the creation of civilian militias. External actors, particularly international humanitarian organizations, have focused on the role of men as perpetrators of violence and represented women as both victims and potential peacemakers. International norms call for punitive action against these perpetrators. My paper examines the complex expression of gender norms among the Dinka Agar, showing that women, as ‘makers of men’ have significant agency. While severely impacted by violent acts within and between communities, the women also play an important role in the perpetuation of male-led violence. The current conflict, with the Dinka-led government responsible for the massive displacement of civilians and deaths of tens of thousands, is driven by ethnic nationalism. The title — ‘Making of Men, Making of Women’ — refers to the social processes that support gender norms of both ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ among the Dinka Agar community. Within the context of the ongoing conflict, these norms are being instrumentalized to endorse and encourage the waging of war.

Leo Hopkinson
Becoming T.B.E: Masculinity and Compromise for Boxers in Accra, Ghana

This paper traces emerging masculinities among Accra’s boxing community. I narrate the career trajectories of three men and consider their different articulations of masculinity in relation to both locally specific and globally prevalent gendered understandings of the sport. Their gendered aspirations - toward an iconic masculinity embodied by Floyd Mayweather (aka T.B.E – The Best Ever), and toward locally specific gender roles, are problematized as their careers progress. The first is an amateur boxer unlikely ever to travel internationally through boxing. However, he leverages his job as a market trader (a profession dominated by women) to create a masculine aesthetic which references global mobility and financial success. The second is paid well to fight abroad but loses regularly. The third repeatedly refuses lucrative bouts abroad in order to maintain his aspirations toward world-title fights. By doing so he struggles financially and questions his capacity to fulfil the role of financial provider for his family. As boxers become globally mobile, they encounter power dynamics which draw on stereotypes of ‘African men’. Ambitions for financial success and a winning record are undermined by offers of lucrative bouts abroad, which boxers understand they will likely lose. I consider how boxers negotiate these moments of compromise. Conversely, those who do not become globally mobile can articulate a coherent aspirational masculinity, without the necessary compromises which global mobility brings. Aspiration as a state of being becomes central to understanding masculine experience in this context. These narratives highlight the fluidity and multiplicity of masculinity.

Matthias Schneider
Refugeed Eritrean Men Telling Their Story: the Construction of Masculinity and Identity in Life Histories

Catalysed through a sharp increase in the numbers of refugees coming to Germany in 2015/16, a hegemonic discourse about the ‘dangerous’ masculinities of refugeed men intensified in German media and politics. In this discourse, refugeed men are often portrayed as a homogenous group, which is criminal, deviant, and led by foreign cultural values. In the presentation, I am going to offer a theoretical and methodological framework which enables to look behind these narratives and show preliminary results gained from an ongoing research project about the life histories of Eritrean men. The framework is based on an understanding of masculinity in relation to Stuart Hall’s concept of identity combined with an intersectional and postcolonial approach. Through this, it is possible to see how masculinity intersects with other categories of identity like nationality, ethnicity, and class and see its embedment in social structures and discourses. The empirical results rest upon biographical-narrative interviews conducted with Eritrean men who refugeed to Germany since 2002. With the results, it will be possible to contextualize stereotypical representations of refugee men, contrast them with the self-told life histories, and gain a complex understanding of how masculinity and identity are formed in life histories.

Susanne U. Schultz
Disrupted and Immobilized Migratory Adventures: Navigating Masculinities Post Deportation in the Malian South

Going ‘on adventure’ has become epitome for the circular mobility of Sahelian youth. The increased mobility to the North, most often results of a migratory process to social economic responsibility or global connectedness, not least for becoming a man, since two decades coincides with the progressive externalization of European migratory policies into Sub-Sahara Africa. After ‘the refugee crisis’ more than ever before the advancing securitization of (inner) African borders is producing multifold forms of violence over those on the move, thousands of detentions, deaths, and deportations – not only at the European shores, yet far away. My contribution builds on eight months recent fieldwork in Mali with mostly ‘inner-African’ deportees and their socially close in Bamako and villages of origin or (final) return. In light of often enormous financial losses and distressed of not standing one’s ground as a man, many prefer to re-migrate, (re-)trying their luck or
the families explicitly (re-)sending. By taking the perspective of these mostly young men, this research depicts how they navigate their endangered masculinities post-deportation. It describes how the unexpected failure can shape the deportees’ everyday life and potentially their community even years after the return. Urged to re-migrate and anew contest the European border regime, many face (often collective) immobilizations. The contribution illustrates that new (social and imaginative) spaces seem to develop allowing recovering one’s dignity by coping with continuations of hardships, reinterpretations of sufferings, and courageously ‘getting along’ in the city’s market place or the family’s agriculture.

Kristen E. McLean
Post-Crisis Masculinities and Fatherhood in Sierra Leone

In contrast to hegemonic depictions of men, new research demonstrates emergent masculinities that reflect a significant rethinking of patriarchal ideals. Despite these shifts, masculinity and fatherhood are still strongly tied to breadwinner status in Africa. In post-conflict, low-resource contexts, however, many men are unable to fulfil normative roles due to structural constraints and thus experience shame or desperation as a result. This paper assesses relationships between masculinity and fatherhood among young men who survived the civil war (1992-2002) in Sierra Leone and who continue to struggle with post-conflict adversities. It examines changing ideologies of masculinity and fatherhood in a context of poverty and recent public health crisis. Data are based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork with 106 fathers and 39 mothers in Kono, a diamond-mining region heavily impacted by violence during the war. Findings contrast with hegemonic versions of masculinity in the literature that depict African men as irresponsible or violent. According to men and women in my study, many young men are trying their best to be supportive parents. Despite substantial challenges, men are reformulating notions of masculinity and maintaining hope and dignity—key drivers of wellbeing in this context. I argue that masculinities in Sierra Leone—rather than being ‘in crisis’ (as argued elsewhere to explain neoliberal threats to male privilege) - reflect ‘post-crisis’ social realities. These include an environment of human rights discourse that conflicts with more traditional gender norms tied to patriarchal ideals, an environment that itself is being constantly reformulated within lived gender relations.

Simon Mutebi
The Role of Multiple Forms of Masculinities in Navigating Sexual Performance: the Case of Young Urban Men in Tanzania

Since the late 1980s, social science research focusing on men has increasingly challenged the representations of the ‘ubiquitous male’ as rigid, unchanging, and universal. Although scholars today understand masculinities as relational, dynamic, and changing in relation to shifting circumstances, little is still known on how men enact multiple forms of masculinities in navigating sexual performances in everyday urban life. This paper will examine the role of embodied multiple forms of masculinities in navigating for better sexual performances among young urban men in Tanzania. Drawing on findings from my ongoing ethnographic research in Mwanza city and with the particular focus on young men’s engagement with the available healing therapies/remedies to remain sexually (hyper) active, I will demonstrate how young urban men are enacting multiple forms of masculinities as a strategy to accumulate and/or enhance symbolic and social capital in their daily urban life. Building on ethnographies of men and scholars employing social navigation as an analytical framework, I argue that young urban men tactically and strategically enact multiple forms of masculinities in navigating uncertainties occasioned by changes in their sexual performance. In a nutshell, the findings of this paper depict young urban men as active social actors who creatively enact different forms of masculinities in plotting or imagining out tactics and strategies to stay sexually potent.

Sandra Staudacher
Male Ageing and Jeopardized Masculinities in Cosmopolitan Zanzibar

Older men are typically not the first social group that comes to our mind if we think of gender and masculinity. The widespread oblivion of elderly men in gender research and policy, especially in Africa, is surprising since they constitute a growing section of the population. This paper argues that masculinity is a fruitful, unusual lens to study aging and care, especially when interested in how gender in an urban and cosmopolitan African context is experienced, lived, and worked on. It draws on ethnographic research in urban Zanzibar (Tanzania), an island in the Indian Ocean. Against the prevalent perception that older women, especially widows, are deprived compared to elderly men, this research shows that men even though often in powerful social positions during their younger and healthier years, can find themselves at social margins once their health condition declines. If elderly men experience frailty, serious health problems, or even disablement, and if they cannot work anymore or make a living, their masculinity is jeopardized. This paper illustrates how some older men creatively try to use their cosmopolitan capital to escape this fate, while others see their situation as the end of their male lives.

Florian Stoll
Social Milieu as a Conceptual Framework to Study Masculinities – Illustrated by Examples from Research in Nairobi´s Middle-Income Stratum

This paper combines the study of masculinities with the framework of social milieus (= lifestyle groups with distinctive orientations and actions) to conceptualize research on types of manhood. As empirical examples, the presentation presents results from research on middle-income milieus in Nairobi and discusses the understandings of masculinity in a nuanced way. By studying masculinities in relation to specific lifeworlds and sociocultural diversity, this paper offers an alternative to very general, simplistic ideas of masculinity on the one hand and multiple isolated impressions of diverse forms of manhood that lack a theoretical background on the other hand. Social milieus are multidimensional reconstructions of groups with particular ways of life that consider the most significant influences and also grasp recent social changes. Research in Nairobi has revealed that there are at least six milieus in the middle-income stratum of a considerable size with distinct basic orientations and aims in life. The talk will show by three examples how milieu affiliation affects understandings of masculinity. By contrasting dominant ideas of manhood and lived realities in a Christian milieu with strong church affiliation, an ethnically-based milieu of neo-traditionals with intense ties to the extended family and the rural community, and in the milieu of social climbers with a preference for individual advancement, the paper offers a new approach for differentiating masculinities systematically.