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Journal issues, NORMA 7.1

Sexualized bodies: Masculinity, power and identity in Mozambique

Sofia Aboim

Drawing on ethnographic work carried out among Mozambican men living in Maputo (the capital of Mozambique), this paper intends to describe how subordinate men from a poor background are reconstructing their masculinity through the explicit sexualization of their self. It has been shown that among poor Mozambican men the lack of money or other material goods is compensated by complex practices and a variety of discourses on sex and sexuality. Sexuality, and its bodily enactment, is then used to reconstruct a powerful sense of manhood, which may take a variety of forms ranging from identification with the norm of the ‘good lover’ to more struggle-based discourses. All of these strategies imply an explicit investment in various forms of ‘bodily capital’, which may lead to the building up of a phallocentric masculinity, though women’s sexual agency is not ignored. In male discourse, a value is attributed to goods, whether material or symbolic, which function discursively according to an imagery of economic exchange as if the body were a commodity, a discursively constructed capital of manhood. Through a number of ethnographic examples, I will contend that we can consider masculinity as a complex structure of capitals that can be enacted in different spheres and with different meanings. As a result, different power hierarchies can be reconstructed and a degree of plurality may be incorporated into what we consider hegemonic masculinity. Sexuality and sex, while performed through a bodily hexis and discourses on power and control, are at the core of these processes and represent a vital constituent of the male self.

masculinity, sexuality, bodily capital, Mozambique (Southern Africa), power, performance

NORMA: Nordic Journal for Masculinity Studies 7(1), 67-90.


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