Accepted paper:

Negotiating respectable masculinity: gender and recognition in the Somali diaspora


Nauja Kleist (Danish Institute for International Studies)

Paper short abstract:

Displacement following the Somali civil war has caused changes in Somali gender and family relations, often described as more difficult for the men. The paper explores negotiations of respectable and ‘failed’ masculinities, focusing on encounters with the welfare state and community involvement.

Paper long abstract:

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 paper 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 paper argues that Somali men negotiate and enact respectable masculinity through associational and community involvement, creating alternative social spaces of recognition.

panel W072
Masculinities in times of uncertainty and change