Men in Africa: masculinities, materiality and meaning

11 Sep 2013

At a public lecture in Cape Town earlier this year, Professor Sandra Harding, an internationally renowned feminist author, spoke to the question ‘Can men be subjects of feminist thought?’ (1 March 2010, District Six Museum, Cape Town). In her talk, Harding called on men to elaborate critically on their subjective experiences and practices of being boys and men – from childhood to adulthood, and through fatherhood to old age. She argued that while androcentric thinking has dominated knowledge production globally, men’s self-reflexive voices on their own experiences of being boys and men have been relatively silent, particularly through a profeminist and critical gender lens. Harding thus drew attention to an important challenge confronting contemporary psychology, a challenge that underpins the rationale for this Special Edition of the Journal of Psychology in Africa. However, much of our knowledge within the discipline of psychology has been and remains uncritically based on boys’ and men’s experiences and perspectives. More specifically, as Boonzaier and Shefer (2007) argue, most psychological knowledge is not only predominantly based on research with men, but also in most cases, middle-class, white, American men. Studies that problematise and foreground masculinity itself, that challenge masculinity as normative, and that apply a critical, gendered lens, are still relatively marginal in the social sciences and particularly in psychology. This is however beginning to change.