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Grade 2 boys : an ethnographic study of little masculinities, power and violence.

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This dissertation addresses the problem of gender violence in schools. I explore the relationship between masculinities, power and violence among 20 boys aged between seven and eight. My central claim is that hegemonic masculinities and power imbalances in Grade 2 produce violent gender relations. The theoretical framework for this study draws on critical masculinities studies that offer a lens through which to understand the link between masculinities and gender violence. I conducted this ethnographic study at Charville Primary School (pseudonym) north-west of Durban, KwaZulu-Natal in a predominantly Indian township called Phoenix. This ethnographic study enabled me to navigate the daily lives of the 20 boys. Observation, focus group discussions and semi-structured individual interviews resulted in the collection of rich, thick data. The significance of masculinities, power and violence became apparent when boys constructed hegemonic masculinities and jostled for power among themselves and with boys around them. The findings show that gender violence is not only about physical fights, but is produced and reproduced through bullying, friendships, and the use of derogatory language. The findings illustrate the multifaceted nature of gender violence through the struggle for power whereby boys who led the line were portrayed as the ‘best’, ‘the boss’, or ‘leader’, highlighting the gender dynamics that existed among young boys. These dynamics worked actively with power, which led to gender violence. The boys’ playground experiences encouraged power and hegemonic masculinities and subordinated boys who did not conform to hegemonic forms of masculinities. The study also found that the struggle for power became evident when boys showed interest in doing classroom chores which ultimately led to violence. Another interesting finding was the ways boys formed friendships through negotiating power when they used money as a bargaining chip and a signifier of power. The study also found that body image was closely linked to masculinities and power, with boys who had muscles and six packs positioned as the strongest. The subordination of homosexuality developed violent masculinities when boys degraded gay relationships. The study also found that sport was used to deploy and encourage masculinities of power, domination, aggression and competitiveness. The significance of this study lies in the ways in which hegemonic masculinities and the struggle for power among young boys blend and result in gender violence. The findings are used to provide recommendations to decrease or eradicate gender violence in and around schools.


Master of Education in Education Studies. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Edgewood 2015.


Schoolboys--South Africa--Attitudes., Masculinity--Education--South Africa., School violence--South Africa., Educational anthropology--South Africa., Theses -- Education.