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‘I Can Weep but not Wail’: Contemporary Young African Men Masculinities

Changing socio-historical contexts notwithstanding, decades after feminist scholars first applied the lens of patriarchy to examine constructions and performances of masculinity to explain gender inequalities, many narratives about young black man have remained static and devoid of nuance.

They are still vilified as sexual or otherwise violent predators; lazy n’er-do-wells; political mobsters or gangsters; or bearers of disease (eg. HIV). Alternatively the black male is frequently the object of racial fetishism—presented as a super stud. Where different scenarios are presented, such as of the caring, stay-at-home father, or the sensitive son, they often come across as stories of the exceptional man.  This lecture explores constructions and imaginings of black/African masculinities via conversations with young men in Africa and the Diaspora. I focus especially on the ways in which men recognise and acknowledge their vulnerabilities (or not), and how they respond to and cope with these.