Accepted paper:

The Construction of Hegemonic Masculinity in Kenya's Maximum Security Prisons


Mary Ochieng (Maseno University)

Paper short abstract:

Crime and imprisonment as effects of rapid and unplanned urbanization. An analysis of how male prisoners in Kenya construct their masculinities in homosocial prison settings.

Paper long abstract:

Kenya is a rapidly urbanizing country and its cities are plagued by rising inequality, widespread urban poverty, and high crime and violence rates. Rural-urban migration is one of the main factors driving rapid urbanization in developing countries as rural populations move to cities in search of employment opportunities. Although the link between crime and poverty is controversial a disproportionate number of prisoners are drawn from the economically underprivileged sections of society and are more likely to be unemployed and to have low levels of education. Over 90% of Kenya's prison population are young men and the prison population trend has increased gradually from 40,100 in 2000 to 57,000 in 2016. In many societies, men are structurally favored over women and often construct their masculinities in relation to women. Masculinity, however, is not limited to power relations between men and women but is also constructed in the context of men's relations with each other. Hegemonic masculinity is the ideal masculinity that men aspire to and it occupies a dominant position wherever it may be located. Prisoners may use crime to assert their masculinity and prisons provide a homosocial setting where men who may have been subordinated before imprisonment may attempt to construct hegemonic masculinity. This paper will examine how male prisoners in four of Kenya's maximum security prisons construct their masculinities in homosocial environments where they are deprived of female company. This is deemed important since most prisoners are eventually released and the implications of their prison experiences could extend back into society.

panel P017 CANCELLED
Gender transition and urban societal wellbeing in Eastern Africa