New article on Pentecostalism, political masculinity and citizenship in Zambia

A new article of mine has recently been published in Journal of Religion in Africa 46:2-3 (2016), 129-157. It is entitled, “Pentecostalism, Political Masculinity and Citizenship: The Born-Again Male Subject as Key to Zambia’s National Redemption”, and it is the final publication of a project I have been working on since 2008, focusing on Pentecostal masculinity politics in Zambia.


Africa has become a key site of masculinity politics, that is, of mobilisations and struggles where masculine gender is made a principal theme and subjected to change. Pentecostalism is widely considered to present a particular form of masculinity politics in contemporary African societies. Scholarship on African Pentecostal masculinities has mainly centred around the thesis of the domestication of men, focusing on changes in domestic spheres and in marital and intimate relations. Through an analysis of a sermon series preached by a prominent Zambian Pentecostal pastor, this article demonstrates that Pentecostal discourse on adult, middle- to upper-class masculinity is also highly concerned with men’s roles in sociopolitical spheres. It argues that in this case study the construction of a born-again masculinity is part of the broader Pentecostal political project of national redemption, which in Zambia has particular significance in light of the country constitutionally being a Christian nation. Hence the article examines how this construction of Pentecostal masculinity relates to broader notions of religious, political and gendered citizenship.


New Chapter: Masculinities, HIV and Religion

The recently published Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global Development, edited by Emma Tomalin, provides a cutting-edge survey of the state of research on religions and global development. Taking a global approach, the Handbook covers Africa, Latin America, South Asia, East and South-East Asia, and the Middle East. The section on Africa includes a chapter I have co-authored with Ezra Chitando: ‘Masculinities, HIV and Religion in Africa’. The chapter critically discusses men and masculinities in contemporary Africa at the intersections with issues of HIV and AIDS as well as of religion.


Exploring and examining the intersections of masculinities, religion and the HIV epidemic in Africa, this chapter engages various fields of study: masculinities and development, masculinities and HIV and AIDS, masculinities and religion, and religion and HIV and AIDS (cf. Haddad 2011). Within development studies gender is a central theme, but until recently discussions often narrowly focussed upon women. Only with the turn of the new millennium, as a late reception of masculinity studies, did development scholarship and practice begin to widen its scope to include ‘the other half of gender’. However, this trend is not yet reflected in studies of religion and development, where gender continues to be conceptualised predominantly as referring to issues that concern women. Cleaver (2002) identifies several arguments for the need to pay attention to men and masculinities in global development, and three of them are particularly relevant to the focus on HIV and AIDS in Africa in this chapter: arguments concerned with gendered vulnerabilities, the crisis of masculinity and strategic gender partnerships. The idea of gendered vulnerabilities means that not only women but also men can be disadvantaged by certain concepts of masculinity. This has proved to be especially true in the context of the HIV epidemic, where the virus infects and affects both men and women. The notion of ‘crises of masculinity’ refers to multiple processes of social, economic and cultural change that undermine and challenge traditional men’s roles and forms of masculinity, and it is clear that in contemporary Africa the epidemic has posed serious threats to men and masculinity. Finally, if the HIV epidemic in Africa is a gendered phenomenon, as it is now generally acknowledged, then the response to the epidemic should also be gender-based and thus involve men and address questions of masculinity. To build such a strategic partnership, men indeed have become special ‘targets for a change’ in Africa (Bujra 2002). In this chapter we explore these and other themes related to men, masculinities and HIV in Africa, critically examining their intersections with religion. Doing so our focus is on sub-Saharan Africa, and the discussion is limited to the three major religions on the continent: African Traditional Religion, Christianity and Islam, with one section looking in particular at Pentecostal strands of Christianity.
As a preliminary remark, we acknowledge the risk that ‘scholarship and policy-related research on masculinities can covertly reinforce colonial myth-making about the “essential” nature of African masculinity’ (Lewis 2011: 205). In much of the literature, including our own work, there is a tendency to problematise African male sexuality as the cause of high-risk behaviour and sexual aggression, while the discourse of transforming masculinities may implicitly reflect a project of ‘civilising’ African men. Most scholars have engaged with the social constructivist theory of masculinities as a plural (Connell 2005) to avoid essentialist and monolithic representations of masculinity, but this has not completely prevented generalising accounts that indeed echo colonial perceptions of African sexuality and black masculinity. The challenge, therefore, has been about how to continue to agitate for more responsible masculinities, without slipping into colonising discourses.

Following this introduction, the chapter continues with the following sections:

  • Gender and HIV: The Turn to Masculinities
  • Religion and HIV-Critical Masculinities
  • Religion and HIV-Constructive Masculinities
  • Pentecostal Trajectories to Transform Masculinities
  • Pressing Academic and Political Issues

Adriaan van Klinken and Ezra Chitando, ‘‘Masculinities, HIV and Religion in Africa’, in Emma Tomalin (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global Development, New York and London: Routledge, pp. 127-137.

CfP Men, Masculinities and Religion Group AAR

As co-chair of the Men, Masculinities and Religion Group in the American Academy of Religion, I’m pleased to post here the group’s Call for Papers for the AAR Annual Meeting in November, 2015.

Men, Masculinities, and Religions Group

Statement of Purpose 

This Group provides a forum within which the phenomenon of masculine gender – as identity, practice, discourse and structure – is examined, building on scholarship in masculinity, gender and, queer studies, and using the range of methodologies found in the broad field of religious studies. This Group engages in the critical study of men and the performance of masculinities in culturally and religiously specific settings and traditions.

Call for Papers

Performing Intersectional and (Un)recognized Masculinities
For this panel we solicit papers that critically investigate the performativity of masculinity at the intersections of categories such as gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and class, and/or at the boundaries of what is socially, culturally and religiously recognized as ‘masculine’ (and what is not). Possible topics are Asian, Jewish, Black, Latino, gay, transgender and female masculinities, in relation to particular religious, social, political, ritual and/or discursive performances.

Masculinities and Religion in Africa
The study of gender and religion in Africa has so far focused mostly on women. Yet in recent years, men and masculinities have emerged as a new field in African Studies, raising a number of issues. On the one hand, scholars have problematized and interrogated dominant forms of African masculinity for their role in issues such as HIV and AIDS, violence, and the oppression of women. On the other hand, this focus has exposed ways that men, too, are affected by patriarchal norms and struggle with the expectations of modernity. We welcome papers that address constructions and transformations of masculinity in African cultural, social, and political contexts, examining the complex ways in which religious discourses, practices, and politics intersect with the diverse modalities of masculinity in contemporary Africa. (For a possible co-sponsored session with the African Religions Group)

Male Aesthetic and Muscle Gods
For a possible quad-sponsored panel with the Religion, Sport, and Play Group; the Gay Men and Religion Group; the Religion and Popular Culture Group; we invite explorations of the gym-built body as the masculine ideal for gay/hetero/bi men (for example, Internet subcultures that praise bodybuilders as “muscle gods”). What might this form of virtual/actual veneration say about gay/hetero/bi men and masculine ideals? How might we theorize approaches to the muscular male body? We welcome proposals that employ case studies whether historical or contemporary and/or draw on a range of disciplinary perspectives and diverse religious traditions. A successful proposal will include a thesis statement and a clear statement of both evidence and methodology.

The deadline for submissions is Monday, March 2, 2015, at 5:00 pm EST. For more information and submission, please follow this link.

New Article: Imitation as Transformation of the Male Self

Masculin plurielThe French journal Cahiers d’Études africaines (Journal of African Studies) has recently published a special issue on the theme ‘Masculin pluriel’, or in English, ‘Masculinities’, edited by Christophe Broqua and Anne Doquet. The volume includes my article, ‘Imitation as Transformation of the Male Self: How an Apocryphal Saint Reshapes Zambian Catholic Men‘. This article is an output of the postdoctoral research project ‘A Saint in Times of AIDS: Religion and Masculinity Politics in Postcolonial Zambia’ that I conducted at SOAS, University of London (2011-2012) with funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The article analyses the religious transformations of masculinity taking place in a Zambian Catholic men’s organisation.

Article abstract

St Joachim, who according to the apocryphal Protoevangelium Jacobi is the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the patron saint of a Catholic Men’s Organization in Zambia which promotes him as model of Catholic manhood. Through a case study of this organization, this article explores the intersections of religion, men and masculinity in a contemporary African Catholic context, in relation to broader discussions on African masculinities. The focus is on the practice of imitation of St Joachim and its effects on masculinity as the symbolic, discursive and performative construction of embodied male gender identity. Two theoretical concepts inform the analysis, being the notion of imitation as a hermeneutical process and Michel Foucault’s conceptualization of the technologies or hermeneutics of the self. The article shows how a sacred text is mobilized and inspires a communal imitative practice through which men are shaped, and shape themselves, after a religious ideal of masculinity. 

Imitation et transformation du soi masculin: comment un saint apocryphe remodèle les hommes catholiques zambiens. — Saint Joachim, présenté par le proto-évangile apocryphe de Jacques comme le père de Marie, elle-même la mère de Jésus, est le saint patron d’une organisation catholique d’hommes en Zambie, qui le promeut comme modèle de masculinité catholique. À travers l’étude de cette organisation, l’article explore l’intersection entre religion, hommes et masculinité dans le contexte de l’Afrique catholique contemporaine, en lien avec une discussion plus large sur les masculinités africaines. Une attention particulière est accordée à la pratique d’imitation de saint Joachim et à ses effets sur la masculinité comme construction symbolique, discursive et performative de l’identité de genre masculin incorporée. L’analyse repose sur deux concepts théoriques: la notion d’imitation comme processus herméneutique et la conceptualisation des techniques ou herméneutiques de soi par Michel Foucault. L’article montre comment un texte sacré est mobilisé et inspire une pratique imitative commune à travers laquelle les hommes sont façonnés, et se façonnent eux-mêmes, sur la base d’un idéal religieux de masculinité.

Jesus Traditions and Masculinities in World Christianity


The academic journal Exchange: Journal of Missiological and Ecumenical Research has recently published a special issue on Jesus Traditions and Masculinities in World Christianity. I have guest edited this volume, together with Peter-Ben Smit of VU University in Amsterdam. 

The volume presents five contributions from four continents in the world, exploring the intersections of “Jesus traditions” (i.e., canonical and non-canonical texts, images, symbols and doctrines about Jesus Christ) and men and masculinities in specific contexts of contemporary global Christianity. The articles explore a wide range of issues, from homophobic to messianic masculinity, from Harry Potter to Obama, and from Catholic legionaries in Spain to Zimbabwean Pentecostal men. These issues are explored from various disciplinary perspectives, such as biblical studies, religious studies, gender studies, cultural anthropology and literary studies. Together the articles give an in-depth impression of the sheer productivity of Jesus traditions and of the diversity of constructions of masculinity (and their intentions) that currently exist in global Christian contexts.

The volume opens with an introductory essay in which the guest editors position the theme of the special issue in broader debates in the study of gender and religion, the critical study of men, masculinities and religion, and the study of gender in early Christianity including the debates about the masculinity/ies of Jesus Christ. The full text version of this introduction is online available.