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Becoming Men: Performing responsible masculinities in contemporary urban Africa

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - Becoming Men (Becoming Men: Performing responsible masculinities in contemporary urban Africa)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2018-09-01 al 2020-02-29

Our studies examine both the extent and the ways in which masculinity in Africa is targeted as something that needs to be fixed by international development organizations, health care facilities, the state, and activists. Further, our research illustrates the extent to which “good” or “responsible” masculinity is a terrain marked by competing and often contradictory discourses and practices, both within the institutional spaces engaged in trying to fix men, as well as among the men who are the targets of such attempts. The research has the following four objectives:
1. To investigate the ways that responsible masculinity is assembled and circulates over time and across space
2. To investigate and analyse how responsible masculinity is defined, operationalized and deployed within male-involvement initiatives
3. To investigate and analyze how global discourses and practices about responsible masculinities shape gendered subjectivities
4. To investigate and anlysze how understandings of responsible masculinity in Africa are situated in relation to male-involvement initiatives and to broader social and historical shifts related to the gender equality assemblage
The effective starting date of the project was 1 September 2015, with the appointment of three PhDs: Mung’ala, Jarmack and Shio. In January 2016, three additional PhDs were appointed: Bukusi, Egesa, and Disemelo. The seventh PhD, Lorist, secured funding and joined the team in March 2016, and Musariri secured funding and joined the team in August 2016. Mung’ala and Disemelo are jointly co-funded by the organization HIVOS and the University of Witwatersrand respectively, while Lorist and Musariri are funded by the organization Rutgers and the South African National Research Foundation respectively. All team members benefited from core training in theory and methods offered by the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), as well as specific training in theory and methods from Moyer, the senior fellows, post-docs, and invited experts. Two senior fellows (Burchardt and Rush) were appointed in early 2016 so that they could support the PI in her training of the PhDs while also working on their own research. Similarly, with the exception of Igonya, who joined the Becoming Men team in March 2017, all post-docs were appointed in the first half of 2016 so that their residencies in Amsterdam could overlap with the training of the PhDs. All PhDs have now completed their research and are writing their PhDs. All except Disemelo, who will complete the writing of his dissertation in Johannesburg, will be based in Amsterdam until the completion of their PhDs in 2019.

Objective 1 This objective is partly embedded in the long-term research of the PI (Moyer) and one post-doc (Fast). Both have conducted intermittent fieldwork in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania over the last two years, following up independently on two separate cohorts of street involved youth from different generations. Moyer has also conducted research in Zanzibar and Norway. Moyer and Fast’s work has also intersected with the work PhD researcher Bukusi in Kenya. Moyer has also conductied research in Kenya, documenting the ways that men have been variously targeted as objects of HIV intervention over the last decade. Working together with one of the Kenya-based post-doctoral researchers (Igonya), Moyer has published an article on male sex workers as a key population targeted by HIV interventions. Igonya is also working independently on a book manuscript on male sex workers in Nairobi and Mombasa. Like Moyer and Fast, she has been following a cohort over a period of years with the aim of showing how their gendered and sexual identities have shifted over time and in relation to developmental, activist, and (inter)national discourses on homosexuality and gay rights. Her book manuscript should be completed in early 2019. Two PhDs (Lorist and Mung’ala) working in Uganda and Kenya respectively, have been tracking the specific ways that masculinity is tied to ideas about fatherhood and homosexuality in the Netherlands and then linked to interventions funded by Dutch NGOs and carried out mainly in the global South. experts in these domains.
Objective 2 The work for this objective falls primarily under sub-project C, which consists of several multi-sited ethnographic studies to be conducted by PhD researchers. In the original proposal 4 studies were envisioned. Because we were able to secure matching funds from five institutes, we added 4 additional PhD studies, including those of Lorist and Mung’ala described above. While Lorist and Mung’ala’s work are specifically relevant to Objective One and Objective three of the project, their findings also contribute to Objective Two. Two of the PhD studies—those of Lorist and Mung’ala—were described in the above section. A third PhD study, co-funded by the South African National Research Foundation (in partnership with the ERC) is being conducted by Musariri. focuses on masculinity and violence (particularly male on male violence) in in Johannesburg. A fourth PhD study, co-funded by the University of Witwatersrand, is being conducted by Disemelo focusing on drag performance among lower class colored people in Johannesburg. The other four PhD studies are being funded wholly by the ERC Becoming Men research grant and include the Kenya-based research of Bukusi mentioned above; research by Egesa, also in Kenya, on ideas of responsible masculinity among violent street gangs in Nairobi; research by Shio on gay identity among men who have sex with men in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, including how identity and subject position are increasingly being shaped by international health and rights-based interventions; and research by Jarmack on masculine priviledge in the art world in Johannesburg. Currently, all PhD researchers have completed their research, have largely completed data analysis and have begun to draft chapters for their PhD. While it is still too early to report definitive analysis related to this specific objective, our research promises to deliver a wide range of detailed and specific findings related to the ways that responsible masculinity is being defined, operationalized and deployed within male-involvement initiatives in Kenya, the Netherlands, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
Objective 3 Much of the research for Objective Three also falls within the PhD research projects. Specifically, the projects of Lorist, Mung’ala, Musariri, Bukusi, Egesa, and Shio focus on the ways that gender norms embedded in internationally funded development projects shape gendered subjectivities on the ground in specific African contexts. We have identified discourse related to sexuality and sexual rights, as well as discourses related to gender based discrimination and violence as key intersecting discourses and, further, that social media has at least an important role to play in the circulation of gender norms as does development initiatives. Significantly contributing to these findings as well has been the research by post-docs Maluleke and Wasike, both of whom specialize in media analysis through a lens of gender and post-doc Fiereck, whose research focuses on the entwinement of gender and sexuality discourses in global health initiatives targeting men who have sex men in South Africa.
Objective 4 The majority of the work for this objective is ongoing, as it requires to PI to analyze research from across multiple sites and to co-publish together with various team members. Panels co-organized by Maluleke and Moyer in 2017 and which featured the work of several team members served as a step in this direction. Moyer’s collaborative work with Igonya and Fast is also contributing toward this objective as is the individual research of Moyer. Senior Fellow Burchardt has also contributed to this objective with a focus on the role that evangelical churches have played in South Africa in shaping historical understandings of responsible masculinity. The Becoming Men project has also been able to invite an additional post-doc (Kramer) to the team via a grant secured from the National Research Foundation in South Africa. Kramer’s work, which focuses on female sexual offenders in South Africa, tackles larger debates related to gender equality by challenging the status quo.
Much research to date on the topic of masculinity, especially in Africa, has focused on identifying ways to support the interventions attempting to improve upon male subjects. However, very little attention has been paid to the larger question of the gendered, sexual, geopolitical and class-based norms embedded and concealed in these projects. By focusing our research on the specific ways that discourses around problematic masculinities are articulated within various social domains (development projects, religious institutions, medical clinics, art galleries, social media sites, etc.) we are able to tease out the multi-scaled mechanisms that work to perpetuate discourses about problematic masculinities, as well as discourses that attempt to intervene on them. We observe that the dominant social frames used by various parties to describe problematic masculinities intersect with other key discourses including: anxieties related to (homo)sexuality, sexual performance and men’s reproductive capabilities; gendered and sexual violence directed toward intimate partners and homosexual men and women; fatherhood and domestic care activities; economic and political precariousness; mental health, depression and suicide. We have also observed a surprising shift away from a focus on targeting men within HIV interventions (with the exception of men who have sex with men). It is not that men are no longer targeted via HIV interventions, but the intensity has waned since the writing of our research proposal. This shift is most likely due to the emergence of new domains within the field of development that are dedicated solely to working on men and masculinity, making it no longer necessary for such programs to be nested within HIV intervention.