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Open Access Negotiating Respectable Masculinity: Gender and Recognition in the Somali Diaspora

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Negotiating Respectable Masculinity: Gender and Recognition in the Somali Diaspora

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Following years of civil war, many Somalis are displaced in Western countries as refugees or family re-unified persons. This situation has caused multiple losses of social position and upheavals in gender relations. Although both men and women are subject to these changes, Somalis describe the situations of men as more difficult. Taking departure in multi-sited fieldwork in Copenhagen, Somaliland and London, this article explores how Somalis negotiate respectable masculinity in the Diaspora, arguing that men’s difficulties are articulated as a transfer of male authority to the welfare state, reflecting female empowerment and male misrecognition. However, the focus on men’s loss can also be understood as processes of positioning and of re-instituting a ‘traditional’ gender baseline in which the positions of respectable versus failed masculinity are established. Finally, the article argues that Somali men negotiate and enact respectable masculinity through associational and community involvement, creating alternative social spaces of recognition.

Affiliations: 1: Danish Institute for International Studies, Strandgade 56 1401 Copenhagen K Denmark, Email: nkl@diis.dk

Following years of civil war, many Somalis are displaced in Western countries as refugees or family re-unified persons. This situation has caused multiple losses of social position and upheavals in gender relations. Although both men and women are subject to these changes, Somalis describe the situations of men as more difficult. Taking departure in multi-sited fieldwork in Copenhagen, Somaliland and London, this article explores how Somalis negotiate respectable masculinity in the Diaspora, arguing that men’s difficulties are articulated as a transfer of male authority to the welfare state, reflecting female empowerment and male misrecognition. However, the focus on men’s loss can also be understood as processes of positioning and of re-instituting a ‘traditional’ gender baseline in which the positions of respectable versus failed masculinity are established. Finally, the article argues that Somali men negotiate and enact respectable masculinity through associational and community involvement, creating alternative social spaces of recognition.

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/content/journals/10.1163/187254610x526913
2010-10-01
2016-12-05

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