Negotiating masculinities and authority through intersecting discourses of tradition and modernity in South Africa

SOURCE: NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
PUBLICATION YEAR: 2017
TITLE AUTHOR(S): B.Moolman
KEYWORDS: CIRCUMCISION, DEMOCRACY, IDENTITY, MASCULINITY, MEN
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 9652
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/10797

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Abstract

Social identities and masculinities, in particular, are produced and practised through discourses of legitimacy. Men's use and adoption of practices of tradition and modernity suggests that masculinities in South Africa are fluid, contradictory and flexible. This paper interrogates the discourses of masculinity derived from appeals to both tradition and modernity. It does so through examining some of the themes that emerged in a research study that considered a group of incarcerated men's understandings of manhood, gender, culture, religion and sexual relations. This study draws on qualitative data obtained through ethnographic nonparticipant observation, 27 focus groups with 72 men, 15 individual interviews, in 3 South African prisons, in 3 different provinces. The findings suggest that masculine identities such as husband and father are legitimised through social discourse of tradition and modernity but that these discourses are themselves reconstituted through practices such as medical circumcision and through the regulation by the state. The findings illustrate that modern discourse of rights and gender equity in South Africa is gaining currency among men. Both these legitimating discourses not only create an 'in-between' space that comes with privileges of fluidity and flexibility but also reveal the ambiguity of South African masculinities.