Review of Lahoucine Ouzgane and Robert Morrell (Eds.), African Masculinities: Men in Africa from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present

By Aderinto, Saheed | Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality, June 2008 | Go to article overview

Review of Lahoucine Ouzgane and Robert Morrell (Eds.), African Masculinities: Men in Africa from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present


Aderinto, Saheed, Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality


Review of Lahoucine Ouzgane and Robert Morrell (Eds.), African Masculinities: Men in Africa from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present (New York/Scottsville: Palgrave Macmillan/University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2005), xv + 308 pp.

Academic research on African men is still in its infancy. The limited scholarship on this aspect of African studies constitutes a serious concern, not only because it seems to suggest that discourse on men and masculinities is not worth studying but also because of the enormous body of ideas and data left unexplored. The problem is also geographically relative. In other words, the largest chunk of existing work conspicuously comes from southern Africa, especially South Africa, while other African countries, like Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth, probably has less than five scholars seriously working on masculinities.

Lahoucine Ouzgane's and Robert Morrell's anthology African Masculinities is aimed at bridging this gap in Africanist scholarship. Aside complementing Lisa A. Lindsay's and Stephen F. Miescher's edited volume, Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa, the volume under review moves the state of knowledge forward by involving scholars from diverse disciplines, such as sociology, anthropology, history, English, French, Spanish, education and health. By involving scholars from an assortment of intellectual disciplines, African Masculinities expands on the mainly historical themes of Men and Masculinities in Modern Africa. Historians, especially of the colonial period, will surely find Men and Masculinities indispensable while African Masculinities will appeal to the intellectual sentiments of the non-historian. While most anthologies on Africa (notably those on gender) often treat the northern most part of the continent as if it were not part of Africa (politically, geographically, culturally and otherwise), this volume has chapters on the North African country of Egypt. Readers are likely to appreciate the variations and commonalities inherent in African masculinities by comparing the North with other regions of the continent.

As diverse as the contributors' fields are, African Masculinities generally aims at correcting the treatment of men as a unified category by emphasizing that concepts of masculinities change across time and space in response to internal and external forces. The ever-changing character of masculinities is also a reflection of the racial and ethnic diversity of the African continent and its history of colonialism, apartheid and neocolonial capitalist expropriation. In spite of Africans' racial and cultural variations--Africa is home not only for blacks but also for Caucasians and Indians, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and adherents of traditional faiths--all African men, according to the editors, need to cope with the legacy of colonialism as they also have access to the dividends of patriarchy. In addition, all men, irrespective of class, age and other categories or paraphernalia of identities, have to contend with the effects of the "new" globalization that produced new "global citizenship" and widened the gap between the haves and have-nots.

The volume consists of seventeen chapters divided in the following four sections: (1) interpreting masculinities; (2) representing masculinities; (3) constructing masculinities; and (4) contesting masculinities.

Arthur F. Saint-Aubin opens the first section with a critical essay on the evolution of scientific and, what he calls, "pre-scientific" thought about African male sexuality. He dwells entirely on how the idea of African racial inferiority influenced the ways European and American naturalists, scientists, anthropologists and other commentators depicted African male sexuality and anatomy in their writings and experiments.

How South Africa emerged as a major tourist center for gay males is the central theme of Glen S. Elder's chapter. Elder locates the trajectories of post-apartheid urban desegregation and globalization within the framework of new racial ordering. …

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