Becoming Men

Black masculinities in a South African township
Author(s):
  • Publication Date: April 2020
  • Dimensions and Pages: 229 x 152; 192pp
  • Paperback EAN: 978-1-77614-567-6
  • eBook EAN: 9781776145690
  • PDF EAN: 9781776145683
  • Rights: World
  • Recommended Price (ZAR): 300.00
  • Recommended Price (USD): 20.00

In a society where violence in its direct, institutional and discursive forms has sunk people’s
lives to the level of the absurd, while the charge of how to raise boys into becoming
caring, beautiful, non-violent, and kind men calls for new visions, the psychologist Malose
Langa’s book could not be more timely. A most remarkable element of this book is giving
us a glimpse of one man’s 12-year steadfastness as he bears witness, studies, supports,
fails, humanises and processes the development of a group of boys in Alexandra. Yet this
is not only a book about boys in Alex growing into and struggling with manhood; not only
about masculinities and violence; not only about tsotsis and angst about sex among teens.
Becoming Men is also about conditions that shape boys’ existence in this country, about
privation, about the interior lives of young people that we so easily misapprehend, about
black male youth endeavouring to survive the peace and falling down under the vicious trick
of political freedom, about fathers missing-in-parenting-action, about how many a dream gets
unrealised, and above all, about what a society needs to do to build new men.
— Kopano Ratele, author of Liberating Masculinities and The World Looks Likes This From Here

How do black boys growing up in impoverished urban environments become men? And how
do they give South Africans hope for the future? In this highly readable, clearly structured and
beautifully observed book, Malose Langa introduces us to 32 boys in Alexandra township.
They are black and for the most part poor, and only a few of them have working relationships
with their fathers. On the other hand, most have strong and loving bonds with their mothers.
With tender heart, Malose reveals the hopes and dreams, vulnerabilities and failings of the
boys as they grow to manhood. Will these bornfree young men inaugurate new forms of
masculinity that will contribute to peace, democracy and harmony in a future South Africa?
Read this book to find out.
— Robert Morrell, Editor of Changing Men in Southern Africa

Becoming Men is the story of 32 boys from Alexandra, one of Johannesburg’s largest townships, over a period of twelve seminal years in which they negotiate manhood and masculinity. Psychologist and academic Malose Langa has documented graphically what it means to be a young black man in contemporary South Africa. The boys discuss a range of topics including the impact of absent fathers, relationships with mothers, siblings and girls, school violence, academic performance, homophobia, gangsterism, unemployment and, in one case, prison life. Dominant themes that emerge are deep ambivalence, self-doubt and hesitation in the boys’ approaches to alternative masculinities that are non-violent, non-sexist and non-risk-taking. The difficulties of negotiating the multiple voices of masculinity are exposed as many of the boys appear simultaneously to comply with and oppose the prevalent norms.

Providing a rich interpretation of how emotional processes affect black adolescent boys, Langa suggests interventions and services to support and assist them, especially in reducing the high-risk behaviours generally associated with hegemonic masculinity. This is essential reading for students, researchers and scholars of gender studies who wish to understand manhood and masculinity in South Africa. Psychologists, youth workers, lay counsellors and teachers who work with adolescent boys will also find it invaluable.

Acknowledgements
Chapter 1 What makes a man a man?
Chapter 2 Reshaping masculinities – Understanding the lives of adolescent boys
Chapter 3 Backdrop to Alex – South African townships and stories in context
Chapter 4 Absent fathers, present mothers
Chapter 5 Pressures to perform – Tsotsi boys vs academic achievement
Chapter 6 Double standards – Dating, sex and girls
Chapter 7 Defying homophobia: ‘This is who I am, finish and klaar’
Chapter 8 Young fathers and the world of work
Chapter 9 ‘I’m still hopeful, still positive’ – Holding onto a dream
Chapter 10 Safe spaces – Listening, hearing, action
Bibliography
Notes
Index

About the Author

Malose Langa is Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology, School of Human and Community Development at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He is a psychologist in private practice specialising in psycho-legal work based on his LLB degree.

In a society where violence in its direct, institutional and discursive forms has sunk people’s
lives to the level of the absurd, while the charge of how to raise boys into becoming
caring, beautiful, non-violent, and kind men calls for new visions, the psychologist Malose
Langa’s book could not be more timely. A most remarkable element of this book is giving
us a glimpse of one man’s 12-year steadfastness as he bears witness, studies, supports,
fails, humanises and processes the development of a group of boys in Alexandra. Yet this
is not only a book about boys in Alex growing into and struggling with manhood; not only
about masculinities and violence; not only about tsotsis and angst about sex among teens.
Becoming Men is also about conditions that shape boys’ existence in this country, about
privation, about the interior lives of young people that we so easily misapprehend, about
black male youth endeavouring to survive the peace and falling down under the vicious trick
of political freedom, about fathers missing-in-parenting-action, about how many a dream gets
unrealised, and above all, about what a society needs to do to build new men.
— Kopano Ratele, author of Liberating Masculinities and The World Looks Likes This From Here

How do black boys growing up in impoverished urban environments become men? And how
do they give South Africans hope for the future? In this highly readable, clearly structured and
beautifully observed book, Malose Langa introduces us to 32 boys in Alexandra township.
They are black and for the most part poor, and only a few of them have working relationships
with their fathers. On the other hand, most have strong and loving bonds with their mothers.
With tender heart, Malose reveals the hopes and dreams, vulnerabilities and failings of the
boys as they grow to manhood. Will these bornfree young men inaugurate new forms of
masculinity that will contribute to peace, democracy and harmony in a future South Africa?
Read this book to find out.
— Robert Morrell, Editor of Changing Men in Southern Africa

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