A Man of Power : Gender and HIV/AIDS in Zambia

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: This thesis examines the construction of masculinity and femininity in relation to sexual and reproductive health (SRH). The ethnographic material is from fieldwork among the Goba people in a rural area in southern Zambia and two peri-urban communities near Lusaka. Using an embodiment approach, local concepts of the sexed body and the nature of women and men are explored and related to a cosmology that emphasises fertility and reproduction. An ideology of male dominance is analysed in terms of object relations theory, phallic symbolism and hegemonic masculinity. These ideals of a ‘man of power’ are encapsulated within a morality of respect that buttresses the gender and age hierarchy.Concepts of adult personhood in relation to responsibility, autonomy and freedom are explored in which the reality of contemporary male roles is examined. Syntheses of local and biomedical discourses on SRH are explained and related to local misfortune explanation, as well as concepts of SRH risk and blame. Modern gender relations are sketched out and discussed in terms of moral discourses on sexuality, which tend to blame women more than men for sexual impropriety and transmission of SRH illnesses and infections. Women’s lives are more regulated by propriety and their sexual networking is explained in terms of the ‘presents’ they receive for sexual relations outside of marriage. This is in contrast to male sexuality, which is perceived as natural and uncontrollable and linked to male ideas of autonomous agency. In conclusion, the findings are related to impacts on SRH and interventions to ameliorate the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

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