Reading List

Below is a list of books that were referenced by contributors on the blog theme “The Personal is the Political: Love, Sex and Gender in the Postcolony”. Below each title is a brief description.

Salvation: Black people and Love (2001) All about Love (2001) and Communion: the female search for love (2002) all by bell hooks: This collection of books by renowned feminist bell hooks takes us deeper into the many historical and cultural aspects of society that influence our ability to give and receive true love. They each touch in different ways on the role of patriarchy or racism and other structural barriers, in limiting our ability to love fully. hooks clarifies the ways we can fight oppressive systems, defeat oppressive legacies, and let true love be our liberation.

Daughters of Anowa (1995), African Women and Patriarchy, Mercy A. Oduyoye: A Ghanaian woman, writes about the role of stories, culture, and religion in maintaining the oppression of patriarchy in West Africa by training both men and women from a young age to maintain their “rightful place” beneath men. She also shows the heterogeneity of different cultures placement of women by introducing fables and metaphors from different African cultures that show women in equal and powerful roles to men.

‘Male daughters, female husbands: gender and sex in African society’ (1987) by Ifi Amadiume – Challenging the received orthodoxies of social anthropology, Ifi Amadiume argues that in precolonial Nnobi society in Nigeria, sex and gender did not necessarily coincide. Examining the structures that enabled women to achieve power, she shows that roles were neither rigidly masculinized nor feminized.

The invention of women: making an African sense of Western gender discourses’ (1997) by Oyeronke Oyewumi – The author traces the misapplication of Western, body-oriented concepts of gender through the history of gender discourses in Yoruba studies. The invention of women demonstrates that biology, what Oyewumi terms European bio-logic, a rationale heavily based on gender as a way of organizing the social world is a Western construction. This Western worldview” is not applicable in Yoruba culture where social organization, “world sense”, was determined by relative age/seniority.

Love in the Time of AIDS: Inequality, Gender, and Rights in South Africa (2010) by Mark Hunter. In some parts of South Africa, more than one in three people are HIV positive. Love in the Time of AIDS explores transformations in notions of gender and intimacy to try to understand the roots of this virulent epidemic. By living in an informal settlement and collecting love letters, cell phone text messages, oral histories, and archival materials, Mark Hunter details the everyday social inequalities that have resulted in untimely deaths. Hunter shows how first apartheid and then chronic unemployment have become entangled with ideas about femininity, masculinity, love, and sex and have created an economy of exchange that perpetuates the transmission of HIV/AIDS. This sobering ethnography challenges conventional understandings of HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

African Masculinities: Men in Africa from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Present (2005) Edited by: Lahoucine Ouzgane and Robert Morrell: Great book dealing with men in Africa looking through four main lens, viz: a) interpreting masculinities, b) representing masculinities c) constructing masculinities and d) contesting masculinities. It is a really great historical of African men through many different lens, some of the chapters look at religion and how it reduced black wo/men’s personhood by perpetuating the light/dark skinned myths in Africa, e.g. that light skinned via Biblical representation = white and capable, while dark skinned = dumb and incapable. Other chapters look at representations of manhood by Drum magazine, masculinities in Tsitsi Dangarembga’s ‘Nervous Conditions’, men doing “Women’s work”, sexuality and so much more.

The Republic of Therapy: Triage and Sovereignty in West Africa’s Time of AIDS (2010) By: Vinh-Kim Nguyen. The Republic of Therapy looks at how West Africa is responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The book is narrated through the experiences and perspectives of community organizers, activists, and people living with HIV in West Africa. The author documents the politics of triage used to determine who would/would not get antiretrovirals. For e.g. The books shows how international agencies created a “market” for the barter of HIV stories, but this required men in conservative West African societies where primacy is placed of men not being vulnerable to renegotiate the “self” for confessionals in exchange for access to limited HIV treatment. But the book also covers many other issues around sexuality, pleasure, and religion in the time of AIDS.

Reproduction, Globalization and the State: New Theoretical and Ethnographic Perspectives (2011) Edited by: Carole H. Browner and Carolyn F. Sargent: This book features research from Africa, Asia, Western Europe and the Americas. The focus is on the interaction between the state (public) and the personal domain (intimate relationships/individual aspirations/reproduction). Some of the chapters include the role of men in family planning, transnational reproduction among Africans in Europe and a look at structural responses to male sex workers/tourism workers.

“The Quiet Violence of Dreams” (2001) and “Thirteen Cents” (2000) by Sello Duiker: The Quiet Violence of Dreams follows Tshepo, a young man on a journey of self-discovery in Cape Town. In the world of male prostitution, he confronts his father’s horrendous deeds, discovers sexuality, and that what he’s been longing for has always been inside him. A deeply sad, but eventually triumphant book. Thirteen cents, takes into the streets with 13 year old Azure’s story. A book that takes us into the heart of urban South Africa and the violence young boys raising themselves in the streets have to get themselves through.

“A man who is not a man” (2009) by Thando Mngqolozana: This book follows the story of a young Xhosa man who suffers a botched circumcision. It traces his journey as a “failed man” as he renegotiates for himself what it means to be a “man” in a society that tells him he not one for having not completed the Xhosa male circumcision school successfully. However it’s also a (beautiful) love story, not all doom and gloom or all about a penis.

“When a man cries” (2007) by Siphiwo Mahala: The book follows the story of Themba Limba who is a teacher and municipal councillor in Sekunjalo, Grahamstown. The story traces his early life to his eventual “downfall”. It’s an engrossing look at manhood and the challenges it presents when men attach heavily to harmful societal sanctions for how men should be. But it’s more than just manhood; it’s about shame, vulnerability, dignity, grief, and the various socio-economic realities of many South Africans post-apartheid have to grapple with.