Whose crisis? Development interventions and the politics of representation of masculinities and migration in Africa
Keywords:Representation, statistical indicators, crisis, masculinities, development
While anthropologists have been occupied on focusing on certain ‘cultures’ and their supposed impediment to development, relatively little research has been done on the institutional cultures of specific development actors, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), particularly on the ways they produce and disseminate their knowledge and how such processes may contribute to the crisis narrative. The crisis of masculinities and migration crisis narratives in South Africa as elsewhere emanate from development actors because they are mandated to identify and respond to problems and crises affecting communities. Their effectiveness in responding to such problems is directly tied to continued streams of funding. As a result, the narratives that currently dominate development work paint a gloomy picture of the said crises to justify interventions that are supposedly the needed solutions to bring about change. With this case study, I explore how problematising narratives around masculinities emerge, specifically highlighting the role of NGOs in perpetuating such hegemonic ideologies. I advance my arguments using data drawn from an ethnographic study which focused on masculinities and violence, conducted from June 2017 to February 2018 in Johannesburg. I use politics of representation as a lens to unpack the processes of knowledge production within development interventions, linking this to the colonial trope that represents Africa as a place of perpetual deficiencies and crises. I conclude that the development interventions aiming to ‘fix’ men have led to a proliferation of the crisis discourse, presenting a black marginalized man as the face of problematic masculinities in South Africa.
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