Posted: Wednesday, 06 February 2013

Il est garçon: Marginal Abidjanais masculinity and the politics of representation

Jordanna Matlon (United States) | 2012 Rieger Award for Paper/Projects

Il est garçon: Marginal Abidjanais masculinity and the politics of representation

Abstract: Using barbershop signs in Abidjan, Coˆte d’Ivoire, this paper explores images of idealized masculinities that reflect pervasive themes in the lives of marginal Abidjanais men. 

I argue that men engage in a politics of representation that stresses their likeness to icons from the African diaspora. Global, black and male – the images embody the desires and disappointments of marginal Abidjanais men. Global, the images indicate belonging to the world beyond Africa. Black, the images affirm racialized identities denigrated by colonial domination and mass media hegemony. Male, the images reflect the disproportionately gendered disempowerment that African men experience as a consequence of neoliberal restructuring. Marginal Abidjanais men’s relationship to the global economy having shifted from exploitative to excluded, the images suggest a consumption-oriented masculinity that connects them to global capitalism as consumers but not to their hoped-for families as providers.