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Masculinities and religion in Kaduna, Nigeria: a struggle for continuity at a time of change

Author: C. Harris

Based upon data collected between 2007-2011, this Religion and Gender journal paper examines the coping mechanisms used by men in Kaduna, northern Nigeria, to ward off the chaos resulting from economic instability, and the effects of global processes of change. The author does so by looking at the interconnections between colonialism, religion, globalising capitalism, and the Nigerian state, in relation to the performance of masculinities among the male inhabitants of the city.

The paper examines the role of religion in particular, noting how control over women, and breadwinning, are crucial traits of adult masculinity that stem not from local tradition, as often thought, but from colonialism, and through Islam and Christianity. Religion also plays a role in maintaining this framing of masculinities, with newer Pentecostal churches and reformist mosques emphasising literal interpretations of the scriptures that give rise to notions of male superiority.

The authors conclude that men of low socioeconomic status, especially those struggling to perform appropriate masculinity, have welcomed the levels of certainty, moral and material support, and legitimisation of their gender power position, that such institutions provide. At the same time, these establishments have facilitated sectarian violence that has come to dominate in Kaduna; violence sustained by the position of the Nigerian state, embedded as it is in the neoliberal global political economy.

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