"We are talking about an endangered species." Christian activism on masculinity in contemporary South Africa
Franziska Duarte dos Santos
(University of Konstanz)
Paper short abstract:
The paper analyses 'reform' as a modality of activism that aims at the construction of a 'new' self-understanding for men and the establishment of a 'new' form of solidarity among them. The paper discusses the socially integrative and disruptive effects of this process.
Paper long abstract:
In South Africa, the calls of Pentecostal actors for men to return "to the original plan of God" and to "rise up" against the various challenges that the post-apartheid society is facing are growing ever louder. Through the provision of biblical knowledge and spiritual stability men's ministries seek to reform men's behaviour and refashion notions of masculinity deploying ideas of a "continued renewing" and "moral regeneration". Their expectations concerning male gender roles put emphasis on values such as responsibility, male headship, self-discipline, and respectfulness towards women and other men. Drawing on ethnographic research in metropolitan areas of Gauteng province, the paper analyses 'reform' as a modality of activism that aims at the construction of a 'new' self-understanding for men and the establishment of a 'new' form of solidarity among them. In a context of socio-economic insecurity, Christian men's groups claim to provide conditions for social and emotional stability. As 'reform' promises the prospect to become part of a religious community that is characterised, among other things, by stable family relations, economic security, non-violent relationships, and reliability, there seems to be a link between 'reform' and 'social integration'. As I will show, however, the 'reform' endeavour produces asymmetries between the members of these men's groups on the one hand and the 'ordinary', i.e. 'not-yet-reformed', men on the other. While some men are excluded completely and considered as 'unreformable', others are marginalised within the 'movement'. The paper discusses the socially integrative and disruptive effects of this process.
Religious activism and disrupted social relations: exploring religion and alienation in Africa