Accepted paper:

Masculinities and the quest for wellbeing among middle aged men living in Kampala Uganda

Authors:

Rachel Spronk (University of Amsterdam)
Laban Musinguzi (Makerere University)

Paper short abstract:

We show how the dominant discourse on masculinity becomes modified over time by the experiences men go through from childhood to adulthood as they seek to marry and establish families

Paper long abstract:

Using data drawn from observations and interviews with men aged 30-50 years living in Kampala Uganda, we show how the dominant discourse on masculinity becomes modified over time by the experiences men go through from childhood to adulthood. Through their aspirations to establishing a family, being a good spouse and a good father, men end up being trapped in contradictory masculine terrains. One the one hand, childhood experiences including growing up polygynous families, financial struggles, and the effect of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, strengthen men's desire and attempts to disentangle themselves from the notions of masculinity of their fathers' generation. Yet, on the other hand, they constantly find themselves unable to live up to these aspirations— establishing a family, being a good spouse and a good father. As a result, they constantly struggle to live up to their aspirations while the notions of masculinity they grew up with have shaped them more than they anticipated and thus appeared more formative. To explain their struggle and the underlying shifts in masculinity, we use the concept of wellbeing as applied by Jackson (2011) where the vicissitudes of life stand central. We propose to approach men's lives as a journey, so as to understand the transitional struggles experienced by men to become good fathers, spouses and sons. Masculinity is not an explanatory category, however wellbeing provides a powerful tool to analyze shifting masculinities and their meaning for men attempting to disentangle from the dominant discourse on masculinity

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