The Transformation of Circumcision and Masculinity among the Agikuyu of Kiambu, 1945-2008
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Rites of passage are very significant in many African societies. They mark a critical stage in a person’s life. Of the many rites of passage that exist, circumcision is common. Traditionally, the practice entailed elaborate procedures that required early planning and was accompanied with specific rituals. However, circumcision has undergone major transformation overtime. This study analyzes the transformation of Agikuyu circumcision over the period 1945-2008. The research focused on the rite in the traditional setup and how it transformed during the colonial times and post-independent era, due to the influences of many factors including the impact of missionary work, western education, western medicine and the monetization of the economy. The research is based on the principle that Agikuyu circumcision was and still remains an important practice with deep cultural significance and the basis upon which manhood and identity among the Gikuyu is determined. This study elaborates this concept as it informs the Gikuyu notion of masculinity and political leadership. The research also analyses the social changes in the Agikuyu society as informed by circumcision. The process of becoming a man and identity formation in the Agikuyu society and how this notion has changed over time is also assessed. The study employs hegemonic masculinity as a theoretical tool to analyze the notions of Agikuyu masculinity in the context of its changing character. In this study, sampling was based on purposive technique. Secondary and primary data were core to this study; the latter was collected through interviews and observations. Data analysis was done by employing historical criticism, evaluation and corroborating collected and existing data. Based on these principles, the premises of this study were analysed and we observed that before colonialism circumcision was important in the making of the Agikuyu man. The study also confirmed that Agikuyu circumcision has transformed not only due to the influence of colonialism but also due to social changes in the society even after independence. This transformation in Agikuyu circumcision influenced Kenya’s ‘politics of the foreskin’. This study concludes that Agikuyu circumcision has transformed over time and this change has affected the making of a Gikuyu man. These changes have also affected the Agikuyu political hegemony over other communities.