Masculinities and multiple-sexual-partners in KwaZulu-Natal: The making and unmaking of isoka


Date: July 9, 2011
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This paper examines one dominant element of masculinities worldwide – the high value placed on men’s “success” with women. In southern Africa, where HIV infection rates are typically one in four, sexual networks characterised by multiple concurrent sexual partners are said to be an important factor driving the AIDS pandemic (HSRC, 2002). Given the tragic levels of AIDS deaths today, masculinities that celebrate multiple sexual partners are facing intense criticism in African communities, those the worse hit by the AIDS pandemic and the subject of this paper. But even some of the most vigorous critics of these powerful masculinities tend to see them in historically static terms – hangovers from a relatively fixed African past when men wielded uninterrupted power. This essay argues that masculinities play a powerful material role in social life and yet possess a fluidity that only historical analysis can capture – there is no essential “African” or “Zulu” masculinity and yet masculinities are important constituents of social relations. It does so by attempting to chart in KwaZulu-Natal the rise and fall of the isoka masculinity. In its contemporary form, this masculinity draws from powerful symbols of “tradition”, notably polygamy, to associate manhood with multiple concurrent sexual partners.


Publisher: University of California at Berkley
Download : 13310_hunter_m_masculanities_multiple_partners_kzn_isoka.pdf

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