van Klinken, “Imitation as Transformation of the Male Self How an Apocryphal Saint Reshapes Zambian Catholic Men”

June 11, 2013

van Klinken, Adriaan. 2013. Imitation as Transformation of the Male Self How an Apocryphal Saint Reshapes Zambian Catholic Men. Cahiers d’études africaines 1-2(209-210): 119-142.

Abstract: St Joachim, who according to the apocryphal Protoevangelium Jacobi is the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is the patron saint of a Catholic Men’s Organization in Zambia which promotes him as model of Catholic manhood. Through a case study of this organization, this article explores the intersections of religion, men and masculinity in a contemporary African Catholic context, in relation to broader discussions on African masculinities. The focus is on the practice of imitation of St Joachim and its effects on masculinity as the symbolic, discursive and performative construction of embodied male gender identity. Two theoretical concepts inform the analysis, being the notion of imitation as a hermeneutical process and Michel Foucault’s conceptualization of the technologies or hermeneutics of the self. The article shows how a sacred text is mobilized and inspires a communal imitative practice through which men are shaped, and shape themselves, after a religious ideal of masculinity.

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