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Traditional male circumcision: What is its socio-cultural significance among young Xhosa men?

Year: 2009
Working paper number: 264
Author: Gwata, Feri
Unit: ASRU
Abstract:

This paper explores the socio-cultural perceptions of Xhosa-speaking men on traditional male circumcision. Given that the ritual is painful and can result in 'botched circumcisions' (which get reported every year in the media), it is useful to explore the reasons young, urban men give for participating in it.

Using the narratives of five young men from the Western Cape, four of whom have undergone circumcision, the study reveals that the ritual carries social and cultural significance and is understood primarily as an agent of socialization. The study affirms the findings of earlier studies that pressure from one's family is a major influencing factor in a Xhosa man's decision to undergo traditional circumcision. Respondents stress the importance of the ritual in 'becoming a man', but point more to the endurance of pain than to changing one's subsequent behavior as a marker of that transition.

Keywords: male circumcision, masculinity, ritual, social pressure


Publication file: WP264.pdf
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