Constructions of gendered identities through lobolo

Lobolo is amongst one of the most discussed and debated customary practice in both the academic and public spaces. Despite the centrality of men in the custom of lobolo, men and masculinities remain predominantly absent from many social and academic discussions of lobolo. Studies on lobolo tend to have followed in the trajectory of gender studies which have highlighted the hierarchical nature of the relationship between men and women and in so doing enveloping men and women into essentialist subjectivities of villains and victims. Citing the monetisation of the custom there has been questions of the relevance of lobolo in contemporary societies. For some lobolo has become a patriarchal and capitalist practice that positions women as objects of trade in their family’s efforts to gain financial resources.

Despite these criticisms levelled against lobolo it remains dominant practice in the formalisation of marriage. In this discussion I suggest we not only consider how men and women are positioned through lobolo as well consider how lobolo used as a discursive space for men and women to construct, challenge, resist and confirm to particular gendered identities. Drawing on examples from public media (television show, podcasts and online news sites) I hope to demonstrate how lobolo is not only a gendered practice but can also be gendering.

Refiloe Makama is a PhD candidate registered with the Psychology department in the University of South Africa. She works as a researcher at the Institute of Social and Health Sciences within the Research Unit on Men and Masculinities. She is currently supervised by prof Kopano Ratele on a study that aims to explore how lobolo functions as an apparatus for the construction of gendered identities and the operation of power. She considers her work to be transdisciplinary and works within an African-centred feminist perspective. Her research interests include gender, men and masculinities, African feminisms, marriage and narrative methodologies.


Tue, 11 Feb 2020 -
12:50 to 14:00

CSSR Seminar Room 4.29 Leslie Social Science Building, Upper Campus


Contact Information: 

Nondumiso Hlwele

Tel: 021 650 4656