Masculinity, matrimony and generation: Reconfiguring patriarchy in Drum 1951-1983

10 Sep 2010

In this article I discuss some of the ways in which Drum tended to ascribe ‘modernity’ to particular practices and processes in opposition to other practices and processes portrayed as ‘traditional’. In mid-twentieth-century South Africa, dominant discourses tended to signal (white) male adulthood through independent decision making alongside financial autonomy. In contrast African discourses tended to signal male adulthood through proximity to family members, through respect for age and seniority and through deference to the praxis of ‘tradition’. In the representations of black men in its pages, Drum magazine negotiated a somewhat disorderly path through these competing racialised discourses. I suggest that Drum’s claim that black males were indeed men was made through highlighting and condoning practices that demonstrated similarities and continuities between subordinate black and dominant white versions of manhood. In challenging the racial discourse the magazine paradoxically found itself simultaneously reinforcing western rather than African versions of manhood.