Masculinist Anxieties & Crises: Disruptive Narratives of Fatherhood in Africa
(Lagos State University)
Paper short abstract:
this paper interrogates on the one hand, the construction of masculinity as dominant cultural ethos and as aesthetic symbols and, on the other the seeming crises, even failure of male characters within the context of their most virile performative function of fatherhood.
Paper long abstract:
Mainstream African literary and intellectual discourses are, significantly, defined by an overt masculinist episteme. This traditional hegemony, ordinarily, presupposes a privileging and ascendancy of maleness. Yet, there appears a rupturing of this dominant supposition in which masculinities in Africa appear fraught with contradictions. Several literary representations of male characters from the perspectives of many male and female African writers seem to serially embody the failures of otherwise virile and potently powerful men. Thus, within the political contexts of 'national' fathers or within the more mundane, domestic sphere of marriage, it appears that men fail to conform to dominant gender norms and expectations. Theoretically grounded within Masculinity studies and its related discourses of fatherhood, identities, sexuality etc. in African literary debates, this paper interrogates on the one hand, the construction of masculinity as dominant cultural ethos and as aesthetic symbols and, on the other the seeming crises, even failure of male characters within the context of their most virile performative function of fatherhood. Therefore, making a selection from diverse literary and cultural backdrops ranging from Achebe's Okonkwo in contrast with his father, Uloko, in Things Fall Apart, the paper also examines Tsitsi Dangarembga's Nervous Conditions in which Babamukuru and his brother, Jeremiah contrast. Finally, I rivet attention on Baba Segi, the head of a rambling polygamous home in Lola Shoneyin's The Secret lives of Baba Segi's Wives. Through these analyses, I proffer some critical tools for the interrogation of the performance of masculinities and fatherhood in Africa.
Continuities and disruptions in 'doing fatherhood' in Africa