Emotional labour, black men and caregiving: cases from South Africa (1850-2010)

Date: August 26, 2013
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Reid and Walker (2005) suggest that black South African men are ‘behaving differently’. Added to this Budlender (2008) has found that South African men are more likely to engage in unpaid community care work than conventional wisdom suggests. Part of this community work involves black men acting as AIDS caregivers. It is imperative to gain knowledge about masculine caregivers as the informal health care sector bears the brunt of the HIV pandemic. The fragmented and over-burdened public health system simply cannot absorb the 15-20% of HIV infected South Africans. Coovadia et.al. (2009) point to a lacuna in the scholarship regarding community health workers (CHW) in South Africa. My study of black masculine caregivers, located in the world of informal AIDS care, hopes to fill this gap. Yet, I do something more for I tackle the conventional wisdom that suggests South African men are different and exceptional if they conduct feminised care work. The emotions involved in care processes are the basis upon which society may feminise care work. My argument is also premised upon forging links between the past and the present. As such, I focus upon determining the extent to which emotional labour that may be exhibited by historical and contemporary black men. I make use of W.E.B. Du Bois’ (1903) notion of double-consciousness to show how the normalising society, surrounding masculine care, impacts this category of black men. In so doing, I not only forge links between past and present by means of doubleconsciousness, but I perform an intersectional analysis of emotional labour, and the context, in which it occurs. In so doing, I show how double-consciousness is an intersectionally-forged mechanism for Foucault’s (1978) biopower, and one that has become reinvented in present day South Africa. In this way I augment the works of Du Bois (1903) and Foucault (1978) for both did not give primacy to gender as a construct. It is essentially this view of black men, involved in AIDS care that contributes to the originality of this work. This historical-sociological investigation relied upon the linking of cases. I conducted historical research upon two cases: ‘houseboys’ in colonial Natal (1850 – 1928) and mine hospital ‘ward boys’ (1931 – 1959). Contemporary cases were constructed to reflect the world of AIDS and cancer care. The 13 original cases were compressed into seven case categories and based on triangulated survey and interview data (29 AIDS and 18 cancer caregivers were interviewed; while 195 community workers involved in AIDS care were surveyed in 2005/6; follow-up interviews were conducted with 11 caregivers across all case categories in 2010).

Publisher: University of Johannesburg
Year of Publication: 2012

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