Exploring constructions of masculinity among young men in the context of poverty : a case study of Kenneth Gardens, Durban.
Dlamini, Melusi Andile Charles.
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This study explored how young masculinities are constructed and enacted in the context of poverty, unemployment and violence. It sought to understand how poverty shaped young men’s identities, and how they navigated the salient challenges in their lives. The study draws from ethnographic data collected in Kenneth Gardens in Durban, which focused on a group of unemployed men aged between 19 and 30. The study concerns itself with how young masculinities are shaped by social and economic dynamics that unfold in the lives of the young men. This study used the concept of structural violence and adopted a constructionist approach in order to interpret the data collected in the field. The participants’ narratives suggested a dissonance between the young men’s personal circumstances and their aspirations, which demonstrated limited agency. The social and economic marginality of the participants facilitated the emergence of ‘impoverished masculinities’ among the young men, which was marked by the recurrent use of substances and violence. ‘Violent masculinities’ also emerged among the participants as a reaction to instances of victimisation within and around their community. Moreover, the study explored how unemployment and poverty influenced the young men’s enactments of masculinity in relation women as intimate partners. In the study, women were often (hyper)sexualised and objectified, with sexual relationships used as sites of negotiation and resistance in the context of disempowering material conditions. In a context that is increasingly challenging for young people, poverty and unemployment deepened the marginalisation the young men and resulted in the enactment of potentially destructive masculinities. Overall, the data suggests that the context of social and economic marginality lead to limitations in life choices that severely limited the agency of the young men and profoundly affected the construction of young masculinities in Kenneth Gardens.
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