Making Men in Ghana
Publication Year: 2005
By featuring the life histories of eight senior men, Making Men in Ghana explores the changing meaning of becoming a man in modern Africa. Stephan F. Miescher concentrates on the ideals and expectations that formed around men who were prominent in their communities when Ghana became an independent nation. Miescher shows how they negotiated complex social and economic transformations and how they dealt with their mounting obligations and responsibilities as leaders in their kinship groups, churches, and schools. Not only were notions about men and masculinity shaped by community standards, but they were strongly influenced by imported standards that came from missionaries and other colonial officials. As he recounts the life histories of these men, Miescher reveals that the passage to manhood -- and a position of power, seniority, authority, and leadership -- was not always welcome or easy. As an important foil for studies on women and femininity, this groundbreaking book not only explores masculinity and ideals of male behavior, but offers a fresh perspective on African men in a century of change.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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The initial ideas for this book were ﬁrst tossed around in a coffee shop on Chicago’s north side during the fall of 1990. As a brand-new graduate student I talked with my adviser, David William Cohen, who was immediately enthusiastic about a dissertation project exploring understandings of masculinity in twentieth-century Ghana. I am deeply grateful to David for his...
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Prologue and Personae
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I ﬁrst visited Ghana at the end of a trans-Sahara journey in 1989. During this trip I not only became painfully aware of my ignorance and Eurocentric education but was taken with West Africa, particularly with its warm, hospitable people. In contrast to my ignorance of Africa, the Africans I met were extremely knowledgeable about my European world. I decided to learn...
1. “To Be a Man Is Hard”: Masculinities and Life Histories
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In Ghana many of the road transport lorries and buses bear painted slogans. Some are in English, some in Twi or another West African language. They might say, “No Hurry in Life” or “All Shall Pass” or “Trust in God” or “Good Father.” I became curious and asked drivers about the meanings of these slogans. I was told that they reflect...
2. Children and Childhood: Work and Play, 1900–1930
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In early-twentieth-century Kwawu work was the dominant experience of mmofraase (childhood).1 At a young age children’s lives were gendered as they learned about norms and expectations for men and women. Talking about childhood, the eight men provided vivid descriptions of tasks they performed and games they played. They were exposed to notions...
3. Forms of Education: Apprenticeships and Schools, 1919–1947
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In colonial Ghana European forms of education were dominated by mission societies, particularly the two Protestant churches, Presbyterian (former Basel Mission) and Wesleyan Methodist, as well as the Catholic Church.1 There is a broad consensus in gender studies on the importance of missionary activities, especially the introduction of formal education, in shaping...
4. The Employment of Men: Clerks, Police, Soldiers, and Teachers, 1930–1951
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In colonial Ghana of the 1930s and 1940s male students who had passed the Standard VII examination were called in Twi krakye (pl. akrakyefoɔ). The word is derived from the English word “clerk” and is often translated as “scholars.” Akrakyefoɔ were mainly trained in mission schools to work as clerks, cocoa brokers, storekeepers, pupil teachers, and, if they pursued their education, as certified teachers...
5. The Marriages of Men: Sexuality and Fatherhood, 1930–1970
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Since the colonial period, multiple forms of marriage have existed in Akan societies. Some men lived monogamously, others in polygynous marriages. Most couples entered customary marriages, involving an exchange of marriage payments between lineages. A small minority contracted marriages regulated by statutory law. Members of Christian congregations had their customary marriages blessed...
6. Speaking Sensibly: Men as Elders in the Twentieth Century
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...means not only disposable wealth but also incorporates values like generosity, the commitment to share one’s riches. Big men replaced an older ranking system based on lineage and chiefly office. Such social categories were formulated, contested, and renegotiated in a dialectic response to historical transformations like migration, cash-cropping, salaried employment...
Epilogue: “No Condition Is Permanent”
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“No Condition Is Permanent” is one of the popular slogans painted on lorries and buses in southern Ghana. Understandings about masculinity were not permanent either in twentieth-century Ghana but were fluid and changing. R. W. Connell has suggested that the spread of European empires and ideologies brought a “global gender order” and a “prospect of all indigenous gender regimes foundering under this...
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The conversations that led to this book usually ended with a ritual. Some interview partners insisted on an additional drink. Others, who were spiritually inclined, offered prayers or libations, depending on their personal preference. Whenever I parted for an extended period, a formal closing became imperative. On my last visits...
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Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 23 b&w photos, 1 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2005