Guest editorial: an introduction.
|Publication:||Name: The Journal of Men's Studies Publisher: Men's Studies Press Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2002 Men's Studies Press ISSN: 1060-8265|
|Issue:||Date: Spring, 2002 Source Volume: 10 Source Issue: 3|
While the field of masculinity studies is experiencing a tremendous
boom, especially in the West, the study of African masculinities is
still in its early stages. In North America, Europe, and Australia, a
good deal of attention has been focused on theorizing masculinity as a
complex and historically determined construction. Working against the
assumption that masculinity is a monolithic and self-evident construct,
major scholars--Eve Sedgwick, Robert Connell, Michael Kimmel, Susan
Jeffords, David Savran, Daniel Boyarin, Paul Smith, Kaja Silverman, and
many others--have demonstrated that masculinity is a fragmented,
unstable, and internally contradictory thing. But, except for the two
books reviewed in this issue--Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies in
African Homosexualities (1998), edited by Stephen O. Murray and Will
Roscoe, and Changing Men in Southern Africa, edited by Robert Morrell
(2001)--and a forthcoming collection, Men and Masculinities in Modern
Africa, edited by Stephan F. Miescher and Lisa A. Lindsay, the
scholarship on gender in Africa continues to operate as though gender
applied only to women, as though African men had no gender.
The essays gathered in this special issue of The Journal of Men's Studies are intended to contribute to the emerging sub-field of masculinity studies and to enrich the larger field of gender studies in Africa by deepening our understanding of how African masculinity, the African male body, subjectivity, and experience are constituted in specific historical, cultural, and social contexts. The essays are united by an overriding concern with what it means for an African man to be masculine and with how such an identity is shaped, not by biological drives, but by culture in the broadest sense of the term (including language, customs, history, colonialism, material conditions, and environment). Like men in other settings and from other continents, African men make themselves, actively constructing their masculinities within social and historical contexts. The eight articles, which combine empirical social science and cultural studies-based research, are also motivated by two fundamental principles: (1) that definitions of African masculinity are not uniform and monolithic, not generalizable to all men in Africa; and (2) that masculine behaviors in Africa are not natural or unchanging--suggesting the possible emergence of new (and less violent and less oppressive) ways of being masculine. This pro-feminist collection is also characterized especially by its multi-disciplinarity, bringing together scholars working in such diverse fields as sociology, health and anthropology, history, education, English, French and Spanish.
The first three essays in the issue are organized around the category of race. Arthur F. Saint-Aubin's "A Grammar of Black Masculinity: A Body of Science" examines the ways in which eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Western masculinist science and medicine helped to construct and posit as natural a particular black male body--endowed with an inordinately huge penis and an insatiable sexual appetite. This process of Othering, the discursive creation of the white man's Other, described and pathologized the African male in order to define the European as inherently different and superior. But, as the article demonstrates, at the core of this body politics lurked an intense white masculine insecurity and anxiety. Similar fears and anxieties also emerge in Zine Magubane's study of the gender dynamics that structured the relationships between white and black males forced to live in close proximity in Kimberley, South Africa, in the late nineteenth century. "Mines, Minstrels, and Masculinity: Race, Class, Gender, and the Formation of the South African Working Class, 1870-1900" argues that the rapid economic changes brought about by the discovery of diamonds helped to create urban centers like Kimberley where race was used as an alibi for fundamental class questions, with the figure of the "dandy" functioning as a cultural symbol for expressing and containing race and, especially, class insecurities of white male workers.
In the next essay, Meredith Goldsmith examines the construction of black South African masculinity in Bloke Modisane's Blame Me on History. Contextualizing her analysis with reference to the Drum generation, Goldsmith looks at the dilemma of the black male South African intellectuals of the 1950s, caught between the expectations of the white artistic world and the demands of the black resistance struggle. Theoretically informed by Fanon's discussion of the objectifying and distancing effects of the racist gaze, which has the power to make the black man see and experience himself as the white man's inferior "Other," and by Bhabha's concept of mimicry, with its ability to locate and exploit cracks in the certainty and authority of colonial dominance--the essay suggests how, in Blame Me on History, as in much writing coming out of slavery in the U.S., the concepts of man, manhood, and masculinity are deeply intertwined with the concepts of citizenship and the definition of what it means to be a full human being.
The next two essays in this issue focus on the impact of political and economic changes on the gender dynamics in South Africa and in Mozambique. Robert Morrell examines the major implications for gender policy and gender relations that the end of apartheid and the setting up of a democratically elected black majority government have brought about in South Africa; his essay identifies a number of men's movements and their different responses to the goal of gender equity promoted by the government. Morrell's essay is thus the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive view of men's movements in an African country.
Victor Agadjanian analyzes the ways in which rising unemployment and the increasing "informalization of the economy" have undermined men's economic advantage in the recent history of Maputo, Mozambique, by forcing them into low-income and low-prestige "women's" occupations like street vending. Interestingly, the essay finds that men's entry into such niches results in both a "de-gendering and re-gendering of the workplace," a phenomenon that may in fact lead to greater gender equality among the segment of the urban population least integrated into the modern urban economy.
Finally, the last three essays in this volume tackle the topic of sexuality. "Sexuality, Masculinity, and Infertility in Egypt: Potent Troubles in the Marital and Medical Encounters" sheds light on a subject largely ignored and definitely under-theorized, especially in Africa and the Middle East. Marcia C. Inhorn finds that while the factors of male infertility are many, the topic's invisibility in Egypt, one of the "most married" societies in the world, can be traced to the gendered dimensions and consequences of male sexual dysfunction: in a culture that rewards and locates masculinity in a man's ability to father children, especially sons, the shame of sexual dysfunction is too stigmatizing for men to bear, especially in public, a sphere where women are inevitably blamed for the reproductive failings of the couple.
In his essay "Sexism and Rape Culture in Moroccan Social Discourse," Don Conway-Long examines the significance of the "salacious discussions" in the print media following the arrest and trial in 1993 of Morocco's mega-rapist, Hajj Mohamed Mustapha Tabit. Extending Fatna Sabbah's conclusions in Woman in the Muslim Unconscious (1984), the essay draws attention to the different ways in which sexist subjectivity of hegemonic masculinity operates: in a medium where men control and define the gender discourse, the victims of rapes are blamed for Tabit's actions, the women being constituted as wily creatures (guile being an essential female characteristic that can be traced all the way back to the story of Yusuf and Zulayhka in the Qu'ran), who, from a "gender revanchist perspective," are made to deserve and, thus justify, male sexual violence. Thus, female sexuality becomes a threatening force that men have to discipline or to be wary of. In their determined efforts to maintain and reproduce the heterosexual male order as the social norm, the Moroccan journalists quoted in the essay suggest the notion that rape and prostitution constitute the very foundation of many patriarchal cultures, especially in North Africa. They also make clear how the victims of Tabit's rapes are marginalized, violated yet again, by the very discourses that purport to be "about" them.
Finally, "Male-Male Sexuality in Lesotho: Two Conversations" explores the importance of sexuality studies to a better understanding of gendered social relations. Contradicting the heterosexist assumptions and the homophobia of much Scholarship by Western and Western-trained scholars on the reputed heterosexual virility and "macho" reputation of Basotho men, M and P, in their responses to Marc Epprecht's questions, debunk the myth that homosexuality is un-African and reveal instead the effects of the migrant labor system in Southern Africa on Basotho male sexuality.
This journal issue is necessarily selective; it does not claim to cover comprehensively every single aspect of African masculinities. My hope is that the following essays will stimulate further discussion and research because so much of African history and so much of the literature on gender in Africa over the last twenty years have been written with African men as an unmarked category.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lahoucine Ouzgane, Department of English, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2E5. Electronic mail may be sent to Lahoucine.Ouzgane@ualberta.ca.
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