Youth Organisations and the Construction of Masculine Identities in the Ciskei and Transkei, 1945-1960


Mager, Anne. 1998. “Youth Organisations and the Construction of Masculine Identities in the Ciskei and Transkei, 1945-1960.” Journal of Southern African Studies 24 (4): 653–67.

Author: Anne Mager


Organisations of Xhosa-speaking youth – predominantly boys and young men – in the 1950s and 1960s were critical spaces for the construction of masculine identities in rural Ciskei and Transkei. In the context of post-Second World War industrialisation, collapsing reserve agriculture and apartheid rule, these organisations were critical sites for filtering influences and fashioning values and lifestyles. While boys and young men constantly reconstructed a distinction between boyhood and manhood around the axis of circumcision, they reinvented notions of masculinity in the shadow of decreasing prospects of establishing themselves as men with rural homesteads and herds of cattle. Moreover, in the absence of migrant fathers, youth organisations operated with considerable autonomy in rural localities. Concomitantly, the terrain on which boys and young men constructed their identities was shaped more by inter-group rivalry, aggressive behaviour and control over girls than by generational conflict.

Topics: Age, Youth, Ethnicity, Gender, Men, Boys, Masculinity/ies, Sexuality, Violence Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 1998

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