Manhood and Morality: Sex, Violence, and Ritual in Gisu Society

Manhood and Morality: Sex, Violence, and Ritual in Gisu Society

Manhood and Morality: Sex, Violence, and Ritual in Gisu Society

Manhood and Morality: Sex, Violence, and Ritual in Gisu Society

Synopsis

'An impressive and meticulously crafted African ethnography, which has theoretical and practical relevance for understanding masculinity and violence in general'- David Parkin, Professor of Anthropology, Cambridge University Manhood and Morality explores issues of male identity among the Gisu of Uganda and the moral dilemma faced by men who define themselves by their capacity for violence. Drawing extensively on twenty years of fieldwork and on psychological theory the book covers: circumcisionOedipal feelingswitchcraftdeviancejokingsexualityand ethnicity.This ethnographic study challenges our preconceptions of manhood, especially African virility, inviting a wider re-evaluation of masculinity.

Excerpt

This book results from a long-standing dialogue with the Gisu of Uganda, a dialogue which began in the field and proceeded through an interrogation of my fieldnotes as I have attempted to bring different forms of understanding to their life as it was lived in the late 1960s. It consists of a series of essays on the interpretation of ritual, violence, sexuality and ethnicity.

The title of the collection, Manhood and Morality, does not imply a consistent pairing or equation of the terms, but two interwoven perspectives found in these essays. It seems necessary to state this partly because, teaching at the moment in Botswana, my male colleagues on hearing the title of the volume collapsed into laughter and I was teased for weeks. This reaction took me aback. Why did my colleagues not see men as ‘moral’? Was there something distinctive about Tswana cultural constructions of gender that prompted such mirth? True, women here, if only by their church membership and attendance, seem to have preempted the moral high ground and the ‘youth’ are seen as increasingly unaffected by the strictures of the old sexual morality and averse to taking the advice of their elders. Or was it a more general reaction? Something, perhaps, to do with the ambiguous relationship of young men in many cultures with regard to morality? If any one is going to have licence, it might be thought that it is they. But, a further factor was that these Tswana men were also academics. Was it then something in the current intellectual climate that created such an incongruous note?

With these questions on my mind, I turned again to the burgeoning new literature on masculinity. There, too, I found little in the way of an explicit moral dimension. Rather it tends to focus on the difficulties of ‘being male’, of living up (or more appropriately, down) to the cultural models of masculinity which are deemed to have hegemonic power (Brod, 1987; Carrigan et al. 1987; Cornwall and Lindisfarne,

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