The Social Construction of Masculinity among the Chuka through Circumcision, 1906-2000
Murangiri, Murugi Rita
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Masculinity denotes the attributes that a particular society judges to be ideally associated with men and boys. It is distinct from maleness, a biological and physiological classification concerned with male reproductive system. Masculinity entails socially constructed features, behaviour and secondary sex characteristics associated with men. Among the Chuka, the definition of manhood is not only complex but also embedded in the practice of circumcision.Thus circumcision is a process through which boys ‘become’ men after acquiring certain attributes, values and skills that have come to define a ‘real man’. It is a rite through which boys become men and acquire certain attributes, values and skills that define a ‘man’. It is a pubertal rite of passage which enacts a symbolic rebirth of boys into the domain of adulthood. This research has focused on the circumcision rite as a whole, its practice, importance and its role in creating a ‘man’ among the Chuka. It has therefore highlighted various rituals associated with this rite as boys strive to become ‘men’.The research elaborates on the heavy price the male person had to pay for his masculine privilege and power. This study has utilized the concept of Hegemonic Masculinity advanced by Robert Connell, which theorizes that in any society, there is a form of masculinity which indirectly controls and dominates others without using any form of coercion. The concept has been used in this study to evaluate how some circumcised men occupy positions of power, control and influence over other men and women. Hegemonic masculinity not only enables us to understand how the ritual of circumcision embodies the most honoured way of being a Chuka man, but opens avenues for us to isolate and interrogate the escalation of subordinate and marginalized masculinities.The current study proposes that the rite of circumcision is of great value and importance to the individual as well as to the society. This is based on the assumption that during the colonial and post-colonial eras, the rite of circumcision underwent fundamental changes. The study also offers a challenge to old renditions of masculinity and opens possibilities of new ways of thinking and understanding ‘masculinity’ in Chuka. The study population was sampled using purposive and snowballing techniques and data was collected through use of interviews, field observations and questionnaires. Being a historical study, primary and secondary sources from the National Archives and libraries around the country were significantly used. The data was analyzed and presented using descriptive statistics.