Men, Identity and Power. A Case Study of the Re-Invention of 'Tradition': Implications for Involving Men in Training and Education about Gender

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Sideris, Tina


Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity, p.88-93 (2004)



The personal identity conflicts of a young man living in rural South Africa, and their resolution by means of 'tradition', form the focus of this briefing. The case study used illustrates how hegemonic beliefs and values about kinship and identity urge men and women to conform to dominant gender norms. Through a discussion of this case, the briefing suggests that efforts to impact on men's beliefs about gender, which appeal to education or training and rely on rational intellectual processes, are likely to have limited effect. The case presented illustrates how deeply hegemonic meanings and values are felt, and how, articulated through tradition, they reach into people's lives directing their actions and behaviours. The case study also shows that new ways of relating are produced in practice. It suggests that the success of the pressure to yield to the hegemonic will depend on the strength of social support for alternative practices and on changing patterns of power in actual relationships.

Medical Humanities in Africa

WISER is working to establish the field of medical humanities in South Africa with other partners at Wits and in the region. Medical Humanities took root in the interdisciplinary spaces between social history of medicine, medical sociology, medical anthropology, literary studies, art and film studies, cultural studies, politics, philosophy, legal studies, public health, psychiatry, medical economics and medical ethics. Although initially concerned with contrasting and comparing approaches from the humanities and medical science to themes of health, suffering, therapy, pain and illness, it has grown in ambition to consider the foundational question of what it is to be fully human, inviting debate around vital epistemological problems. The interface of medicine and humanities also demands a broadly interdisciplinary discussion about what constitutes evidence, and this is critical in the formulation of all contemporary political arguments, including health policies. 

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