October 20, 2020

Breathing Through the Wounds: Senses, Pleasure and Intimacies in the Lives of amaXhosa Men and Boys in a Rural and Peri-Urban Context

Gcobani Qambela

In this paper, I explore senses, pleasure and intimacies in the lives of amaXhosa men and boys living in a rural and peri-urban context. The paper builds on a developing corpus of works from Black Boyhood Studies. This work has been characterised by the murders of Black boys, their adultification, and their literal inability to “breathe” in white supremacist America. I expand on this work in the South African context with my research amaXhosa men and boys by looking at the experiences of Black boys in SA which have many shared similarities to the US contexts (e.g. the recent murder of Nathaniel Julius as well as Enock Mpiazi’s death earlier in the year among others). While not downplaying the ways in which Black boys are murdered physically, spiritually or structurally, I explore through my research the ways in which even under such conditions, Black boys, “breathe” (and create “life”) for themselves. I do this through an exploration of issues of pleasure, intimacy and the sensual lives of Black boys, and amaXhosa boys specifically, even in conditions where they cannot “breathe” and are variously constrained from living lives of optimal well-being.

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About Gcobani Qambela

Gcobani Qambela is a Senior Lecturer and award-winning educator in the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies at the University of Johannesburg. He is a Research Fellow at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities at Oxford University. He is currently working on a number of monographs and book projects around what he terms ‘The Anthropology of Boyhoods’, works on amaXhosa masculinities and Global South Perspectives on Masculinities.