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Title:Becoming a 'big man' in neo-liberal South Africa: migrant masculinities in the minibus-taxi industry
Author:Gibbs, TimISNI
Periodical:African Affairs: The Journal of the Royal African Society (ISSN 1468-2621)
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:urban transport
External link:http://afraf.oxfordjournals.org/content/113/452/431.abstract
Abstract:The last two decades of economic decline in Africa have drawn attention to the crisis of masculinities, to 'failed men' unable to build kinship networks and to 'violent men' who damage social networks whilst competing for scarce resources. This article argues that a fragmented, neo-liberal society also produces new patterns of patriarchal aggrandisement. Focusing on Johannesburg's minibus-taxi industry, it shows how large informal sector activities are structured through kinship networks that in turn give rise to modes of masculinity seeking to control these networks. Johannesburg's minibus-taxi business is dominated by retrenched labour migrants, who moved into the transportation sector in the 1980s and 1990s at a time of industrial decline. It thus offers a case study of the changing patterns of accumulation and household formation in a social landscape where kinship ties continue to constitute the key relationships of obligation and support. Drawing on three-dozen core interviews with Zulu-speaking taxi owners and transporters, this article demonstrates that the taxi owner and the taxi boss are men to be emulated, but that the relationships between 'big men' and 'failed' or 'violent' men are uncomfortably close. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]