Social Science Seminar by Dr. Phillip Kapulula of the Sociology Department
The making of men in Ntchisi: is it an enabler or barrier to improving maternal health?
The paper attends to the subjective way in which the Chichewa speakers of Chilooko, conceptualise and construct masculinities. This article examines the processes and practices men engage in as individuals, through which they are constructed as different from women or from other men. I attempt to explore the notions of masculinity in Chilooko following the social constructionist perspective. Constructions of masculinity identified in this paper are then linked to men’s lives in connection with their sexuality and marriage, as well as their practices of fatherhood and conduct regarding reproductive and maternal issues. Notions of masculinity in Chilooko are representations of how the people in the community understand “a real man” to be and act, but such local constructs will be contextualised vis-a-vis the arguments presented in extant literature. The paper argues that local constructs or signifiers of masculinity are employed by men as instruments in their social practices to either undermine or promote women’s maternal health. The paper also seeks to demonstrate that in Ntchisi masculinity and maternal health are constructed in relation to femininity and institutional arrangement of marriage among the Chichewa speakers.
The paper is presents part of the results of a doctoral research I conducted in TA Chilooko in Ncthisi. This study I adopted an inductive approach to learning in which the participants were the main players in describing and explaining social phenomena as they are constructed and experienced in the research site. I conducted multiple in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with 53 married men, key informant interviews with eight local leaders and traditional birth attendants, as well as focus group discussions with 12 married women who had given birth multiple times. Data analysis involved intensive scrutiny of transcripts to determine prevailing themes.
KEYWORDS: Masculinities, maternal health, Chewa, Chilooko.