Rethinking Psychological Vulnerabilities among Men in Kenyan Towns
David E. Bukusi
My PhD research seeks to investigate understandings of vulnerabilities among men in urban Kenya as they relate to recent changes in mental health care practices and policies. While men are often presumed to be the ‘stronger sex’ in Kenyan society, in the context of providing psychological care to men with HIV and men who have deliberately harmed themselves, they are increasingly being seen as vulnerable among health workers. Whereas many health programs that have a psychological component tend to focus on women, it is only in recent years that men have also begun to be conceived of and addressed as having mental health challenges specific to their gender. My research will try to unweave the ways that masculinities are understood and generated, performed , maintained and transformed in public health care settings in towns in Kenya. My research will primarily focus on perspectives of health care workers and patients.
Beyond Thug Life: Masculinity, violence and power politics in Kenya
My PhD research will examine the constructions, operationalization, and challenges of involving men in gender-based violence (GBV) prevention efforts in the informal settlement of Korogocho, Nairobi. I will examine the constructions of masculinity that inform GBV prevention work in these communities as well as the ideas and notions of men and manliness that are produced and reproduced in these efforts. The study will contribute to debates about the ways that gender discourses and normativities are promoted and challenged in donor-funded gender based violence prevention programs particularly in urban spaces.
"Obama, Don't Bring Homosexuality to Kenya!": Masculinity, morality and homophobia in Nairobi
Emmy Kageha Igonya
The existence of homosexuality in numerous African countries has been increasingly denied and legally repressed over the last decade or so. The coming of US President Obama to Nairobi in 2015 marked the pinnacle of public homophobic discourse. In Kenya, the (re)criminalization of homosexuality under section 154 of the penal code has been accompanied by moral discourses by political and religious leaders, ostensibly contributing to a rise in violent, homophobic acts directed toward men who have sex with men. Paradoxically, human rights discourses advocating for homosexual rights and public health discourse that link HIV and homosexual sex seem to have increased public expression of homophobia, as well as violence toward men presumed to be homosexual in Kenya. A 2010 constitutional referendum has increased political and social mobilization against homosexuality. My research in the Becoming Men project will build on material collected during my PhD. I will explore the personal life experiences and social vulnerabilities of men who have sex with men in Nairobi and Mombasa as they actively rework their masculine subjectivities within the prevailing political and moral context, paying particular attention to human rights, public health, moral, legal and homophobic discourses.
Political and Practical Configuration of Sexual Minorities in the 21st Century in Kenya
Lucy Wanjiku Mung'ala
Building on Ian Hacking’s (2010) Making Up People and David Valetine’s (2007) Imagining Transgender, my research will examine the emergence of sexual minorities as a popular political and institutional category within the global development apparatus. Following Tom Boellstorff (2011), I will trace the ‘proleptic genealogy’ and trans-localization of the term sexual minorities in Kenya. Influenced by my experiences as a development worker, activist and a former health care provider, I will analyse the underlying assumptions and limitations of such labelling in its overloaded form. By examining initiatives, strategies and means deployed to advance the empowerment of this category, I question 1) whose agenda it serves and 2) in what ways do sexual minorities in Kenya challenge, influence and shape social and political processes and 3)how the new configurations interplay in everyday lives.
Youth Identities, Queering and the City in Contemporary Kenya
My research will investigate how local and global cultural and popular media trends circulated in the mass media--television, internet, magazines, newspapers and advertising--have shaped contemporary views of masculinity in Kenyan cities. I will also explore how issues of sexuality among youth have been propagated in the fight against HIV/AIDS using popular media and culture tools while simultaneously promoting new imaginations being and becoming a man. Through an analysis of popular music, TV comedy, magazines, cartoons, adverts and youth fashion and sartorial trends, this research will contribute to the larger debates on African masculinities by teasing out issues of gay and risky masculinities among urban youth, responsible fatherhood among older men, and circumcision and HIV/AIDS.
Becoming a Good Christian: Responsible masculinity and pentecostalism in South Africa
In this project I explore how notions of responsible masculinity are deployed in the discourses and practices of Pentecostal initiatives responding the HIV/AIDS in Cape Town. While the understanding of “becoming men” that underwrites mainstream public health initiatives sees transformation as a result of “training”, education, critical discussion and so on, Pentecostal Christianity has its own concepts and practices of “becoming”. Chief among them are practices of conversion and the ideologies of “being born again” that accompany them. However, while anthropologists have explored conversion processes in great detail they have rarely asked how conversion shapes understandings of “becoming men”. I focus on such critical ritual practices, explore how they become moments of infusing notions of masculinity with particular meaning (related to marriage, respectability, household, family and so on). I treat both “responsible” and “masculinity” as contingent upon the working of other relational categories and aspects of gender in the Christian field, for instance the ways in which female pastorship inflects ideas of respectability.
The Fierce and the Fabulous: Drag pageantry in Club Simply Blue, Johannesburg
My research project focuses on drag pageantry in Johannesburg as a simultaneous site of gender transgression and play. It looks at Club Simply Blue (where three major drag pageants are hosted annually) as a specific site of cultural production wherein various interrelated modalities of queer consumption, representation, homosociality and kinship play out in complex and contradictory ways. This ethnographic research project aims to explore the ways in which three annual drag pageants function as highly glamorized, stylized and mediated moments at which the discourses of race, class, sexuality, gender and nationality in post-apartheid South Africa intersect for the purposes of queer subcultural visibility and freedom. Research will examine the subjective meanings made by various stakeholders involved in each of these pageants in order to interrogate the civil rights and freedoms extended to a specific cohort of queer subjectivities within South Africa's larger body politic.
Ethno-Intimacies: Cultural authenticity and sexual ideology in South Africa
Kirk J. Fiereck
I am currently working on two ethnographic projects. The first explores the entwinement of ethnicity and sexuality when LGBTQ and gender nonconforming South Africans draw upon customary, constitutional, as well as biomedical sex/gender ideologies to enact hybrid forms of queer personhood. They do so by juxtaposing multiple sexual and gender identities across diverse cultural contexts. The second project, Derivative Subjects: Sexual finance and bio-speculation in late capitalism, explores how these experiences are largely effaced by biomedical interventions based on new sexual finance technologies, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), hormone therapies, and plan-B. These biotechnologies enable practices that mirror the trading of financial derivatives whereby subjects are compelled to speculatively treat (or hedge) risk instead of disease. I examine how subjects inflect and are constituted by local gender and race relations while giving rise to new, global forms of sociality, what I call derivative subjectivity, by indexing biofinancialized calculations of abstract risk, vis-à-vis cosmopolitan categories such as “MSM” and “transgender.”
Men and Violence: A study into the practices of masculinity and gendered violence in selected neighborhoods in Johannesburg.
As a part of the Becoming Men research project, my current research focuses on masculinity and gender based violence in South Africa. I am specifically looking at how development intervention projects, such as Sonke Gender Justice Network’s One Man Can campaign, and other factors contribute to the (re)construction and (re)shaping of (positive) masculinities among migrant men in Johannesburg. I explore this from the point of view of men themselves. The study also looks at how gender based violence amidst other forms of violence such as male to male and xenophobic violence has come to take prominence within the NGO sector and how statistics play a role in this.
Creating Masculinity: Art and diverse imaginations of masculinity in South Africa
Sarita Fae Jarmack
My research explores how the concept of art and the practice of creating interlink with the reconfiguration of imagined masculinities in South Africa. This approach presumes that creating art is a performed expression which engages states of vulnerability that can be linked to what are often stereotyped as ‘feminized practices’. By bringing forth the space of artistic creation as having the potential to challenge societal gendering of human behaviour, I want to engage in discussions about the contextualization of gender imagery, while also examining the intersectional context in which it occurs. This research aims to contribute to wider feminist and anthropological debates about the ways that gender discourses and norms are imagined, produced, and challenged though the making of particular cultural forms.
Cultural Conditions for Identity Disruptions in Violence: Possible Perpetrators and Worthy Victims?
Violence is constructed by discourses that constrain men to perpetrators and women and children to victims. Race and class categories further limit these constructions in South Africa. This study reconstitutes categories such as gender, sexuality, age and race in outlining the parameters of ‘truth’ for transgression and victimhood by turning to female and child perpetrators of violence and to male victims as targets for data collection. These configurations of the child-transgressor, woman-transgressor, and male victim offer an opportunity to decipher the material conditions that contribute to the surfacing of these ‘new’ transgressions in the psychological, legal and criminal disciplines and, in turn, the public consciousness. By calling into question the universality of ‘truths’ about gender, sexuality, age and race and identifying the cultural conditions of possibility for victimhood and perpetration, this research demonstrates how social, contextual and political categories define, limit and demarcate possibilities for identity in violent encounters.
Becoming ‘Good’ Men through Gender Based Violence Counselling in Cape Town
My research will be linked to work being carried out by Rutgers, an NGO based in the Netherlands. I will investigate specific projects that attempt to engage men in Gender Based Violence prevention through counselling. For the last three decades most research, discourses and interventions within the global gender assemblage have focused on women and their empowerment. Recently the hegemonic discourse has shifted towards the engagement of men and boys in gender equality. Based on the conceptual frameworks of the ‘gender equality assemblage’, as well as the conceptual framework of materialist 'philosophical nomadism' this project will examine, how the idea of Gender Based Violence (GBV) counselling for men has travelled within the global gender equality assemblage. I am furthermore interested in the tension between responsibilisation, conflicting masculinities and the ways men have 'nomadically' negotiated and/or transformed the GBV intervention through their own becomings.
'Responsible' Fatherhood and Doing Fathering in Urban South Africa
My project explores discourses surrounding fatherhood in urban South Africa which are currently dominated by the image of men, in particular poor black men, as either not fulfilling their expected roles as fathers, and/or performing those roles badly. Such perspectives are utilized to justify the need to create 'responsible fathers'. Such discourses are problematic in that they not only enforce certain stereotypes about specific segments of a population, they also legitimate specific constructions of fatherhood while negating others. In my research I am interested in critically engaging with such constructions of fatherhood within the context of South Africa's history of gendered violence, racial oppression and domination, particularly against African families, including both women and men. My aim is to understand the dynamics and complexities that underpin the legitimation of such forms of oppression. And further, to examine the ways of constructions of (responsible) fatherhood are being articulated, discontinued or re-imagined within the context of these discourses.
Paradoxes of (In)Vulnerability: Affect and health at the margins in Cape Town
I am interested in the price human beings pay for becoming men with a ‘gender,’ ‘race,’ and ‘heterosexuality.’ My research does not take these social science categories for granted. It explores how they are made up through economic disparities and social exclusion at the margins of urban South Africa. For almost a decade, I have been crossing the boundaries of Cape Town’s divided cityscape to find out how ‘white,’ ‘coloured,’ and ‘black’ men are enacted. My ethnographic research addresses the communalities and differences in such enactments and points out the consequences for ‘affective health’ or what I consider to be a body’s adaptive capacity to affect and be affected. It explores how endeavors to become an ideally invulnerable modern man can lead to a downward spiral of interpersonal violence, substance misuse, and death. The study also takes into account how openness to being vulnerable is created through religious rituals that may result in preferred transformations in affective health.
Postsocialist Urban Masculinities in East Africa
I focus on men’s struggles to form more equitable relationships with women in contemporary urban East Africa. Comparing groups promoting gender equality in urban Tanzania (Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, and Dodoma) and urban Kenya (Nairobi, Kisumu, and Mombasa), I investigate whether contemporary gender relations in urban Tanzania are informed and shaped by the ideas, practices, policies, values, aesthetics, and discourses relevant during the socialist period from 1967 to 1985. In general, my study examines whether the socialist period in Tanzania has left legacies that help (or inhibit) urban men to form more equitable relations with women. The case studies in the Kenyan cities of Nairobi, Kisumu, and Mombasa have comparative purpose as postcolonial Kenyan politicians and society-at-large were never committed to socialist ideas and ideals.
Geographic Mobility and Men's Health in Dar es Salaam
I am a medical anthropologist who explores the embodied and situated complexity of addiction, blood borne infections (HIV, Hepatitis C), and violence among young people who inhabit the social, spatial and economic margins of the city. Simultaneously, my work attends to the larger processes of power and political economy (class, gender, race) that produce particular landscapes, affects and imaginaries. My future research in Canada and Tanzania will shift from focusing on a single urban site to the relations between particular sites. I will examine across sites, and across time, how various geographical relocations and dislocations intersect with emerging forms of life and particular health outcomes (addiction, mental health crises, blood-borne infections) among young people. I will continue to explore experimental methods for mapping entanglements of place, subjectivity and the practices of everyday life – particularly the use of photography, sound, video and performance.
Shifting (Homo) Sexual Identities on the Tanzanian Coast in the Age of Mass HIV Treatment
Jasmine M. Shio
The last decade has witnessed changing discourses and practices related to sexual identity among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Tanzania. Although homosexuality has long been practiced and tolerated along the coast, as increasingly more attention has been paid to MSM as an HIV risk group, so has awareness about the links between sexual discrimination and the illegality of homosexuality on one hand, and HIV risk and the difficulties of accessing HIV treatment on the other. Within the context of growing sexuality rights-based discourses in Tanzania, men who have long been content to lead semi-closeted sexual lives are beginning to voice the desire to be open about their sexuality. Previous research has shown they remain secretive to avoid discrimination and because they fear economic consequences. My research will explore how of the combination of new forms of openness and persistent forms of stigma and discrimination inhibit MSM, affecting their political subjectivities, as well as matters of livelihood, participation in family life, and access to medical services, in particular MSM-friendly HIV-related testing, counselling and treatment.
Gender Ambivalence in Mami Wata Vodun
My project investigates how the cultural aesthetics, sensibilities, and performativities of Mami Wata Vodun allow gender non-conforming men and women to validate and nurture their queer identities and gender complexities. Mami Wata Vodun, a pantheon of spirits within the traditional Vodun religion of coastal Togo, represents wealth, beauty, desire, fidelity, femininity, and modernity. Known to be non-judgmental, inclusive, and progressive, Mami Wata provides a safe haven for men and women with non-conforming biological, emotional, or psychological conditions and proclivities. Gender ambivalence is welcome because many Mami Wata spirits themselves are gender-fluid or dual-gendered. Mami Wata’s spiritual tenets of acceptance include people of all sexual orientations and gender expressions, which is played out in performance, costume, temple decoration, and veneration. This is significant vis-à-vis newly increased support for HIV/AIDS education and prevention for homosexuals who often experience homophobia, discrimination, and anti-gay violence.
This project stems from research I conducted on Vodun over the course of twenty years. Current field research (2016, 2017) focuses on how gender complexities and same-sex intimacies are integral to this richly nuanced, inherently progressive belief system.