Reconceiving Muslim Men: Love and Marriage, Family and Care in Precarious Times 9781785338830

This volume provides intimate anthropological accounts of Muslim men’s everyday lives in the Middle East, Asia, Africa,

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Fertility, Reproduction and Sexuality GENERAL EDITORS: Soraya Tremayne, Founding Director, Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group and Research Associate, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. Marcia C. Inhorn, William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, Yale University. Philip Kreager, Director, Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group, and Research Associate, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and Institute of Human Sciences, University of Oxford. For a full volume listing please see back matter.


Edited by

Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib

berghahn NEW YORK • OXFORD

First published in 2018 by Berghahn Books © 2018 Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib

All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without written permission of the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Inhorn, Marcia C., 1957– editor. | Naguib, Nefissa, 1960– editor. Title: Reconceiving Muslim Men: Love and Marriage, Family and Care in Precarious Times / edited by Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib. Description: New York, NY: Berghahn Books, 2018. | Series: Fertility, Reproduction and Sexuality; Volume 38 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018015960 (print) | LCCN 2018019929 (ebook) | ISBN 9781785338830 (eBook) | ISBN 9781785338823 (hardback: alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Muslim men—Conduct of life. | Muslim men— Religious life. | Masculinity—Islamic countries. | Sex role—Islamic countries. Classification: LCC BP188.18.M46 (ebook) | LCC BP188.18.M46 R43 2018 (print) | DDC 305.38/697—dc23 LC record available at

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 978-1-78533-882-3 hardback ISBN 978-1-78533-883-0 ebook


Acknowledgments Introduction Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib

vii 1

PART I: Muslim Men in Love and Marriage Chapter 1. Gender Troubles in Shatila, Lebanon: Bodies That Matter (the Fidāʾiyyīn’s Heroism) and Undoing Gender (the Shabāb’s Burden) Gustavo Barbosa


Chapter 2. A Man in Love: Men, Love, and Hopes for Marriage in Cairo Mari Norbakk


Chapter 3. Shaping a “Different” Masculinity: Subjectivity, Agency, and Cultural Idioms among Afghan Pashtun Men Andrea Chiovenda


Chapter 4. From Soft Patriarch to Companionate Partner: Muslim Masculinity in Java since the “New Order” Nancy J. Smith-Hefner


Chapter 5. “Supportive” Masculinities and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Changing Gender Relations in Contemporary Urban India Gauri Pathak


PART II: Muslim Family Life and Men as Caretakers Chapter 6. Teaching Him to Care: Labor and the Making of Working-Class Men in Urban Egypt Farha Ghannam




Chapter 7. The New Kurdish Man: Men as Refuge-Granters, Doting Family Members, and Romantics Diane E. King


Chapter 8. Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh? Politics of Care in Postsocialist Kazakhstan Ainur Begim


Chapter 9. Brothers in Islam: Faith and Care among Muslim Men in Brazil Gisele Fonseca Chagas


Chapter 10. How to Be a Man: Everyday Care and Piety among South Asian Muslim Men in Barcelona Guillermo Martín-Sáiz


PART III: Muslim Men in Precarious Times Chapter 11. General Tarzan the Coach: Humanitarian Detours in the Career of a Central African Man-in-Arms Louisa Lombard Chapter 12. “And What Will Our Children Eat?” Dispossession and Food Insecurity among Makonde Men on Tanzania’s Swahili Coast Vinay R. Kamat Chapter 13. Moral Masculine Intimacy: The Care and Protection of the Living and the Dead among Muslim Migrant Men Living in Greece Tina Palivos Chapter 14. Casualties of Fatherhood: Syrian Refugee Men and Nurturance in the Arctic Nefissa Naguib Chapter 15. Searching for Love and Test-Tube Babies: Iraqi Refugee Men in Reproductive Exile on the Margins of Detroit Marcia C. Inhorn Index





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he idea for this edited volume was initially conceived at a conference-workshop held at Yale University, “Muslim Men: On Love, Nurturance, Care, and Fulfillment,” 14–16 April 2016. The Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund of Yale University’s MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies sponsored the conference. We thank the Yale Council on Middle East Studies and the Department of Anthropology for hosting the group of fifteen anthropologists. We are grateful to Elizabeth Berk, Marleen Cullen, Jennifer DeChello, Hira Jafri, Lora LeMosy, and Aalyia Sadruddin, who helped us with the event. We also thank Mari Norbakk of the University of Bergen, Norway, for being a phenomenal conference rapporteur, and the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo, Norway, for providing additional editorial support. We are extremely grateful to our able editor, Bonnie Rose Schulman, for polishing our prose before final submission of this book, and to the Berghahn editorial staff, including Harry Eagles and Soraya Tremayne, the founder of the Berghahn “Fertility, Reproduction, and Sexuality” series.

INTRODUCTION Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib


ver the past two decades, and especially in the aftermath of 9/11, dominant Western portrayals of the Muslim world and the men who live there have been bleak—literally filled with danger. Particularly pernicious constructions of Muslim masculinity rely heavily on stereotypes of Muslim men as patriarchal, oppressive, even brutal. In recent years, this portrayal has been fueled by Western media discourses that focus on zones of conflict in the Muslim world and visions of Muslim men as violent Islamic terrorists. Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS, the Taliban, and other jihadist groups represent potent examples of this terrorist trope. Unfortunately, numerous ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks around the world, especially in the United States and Europe, have clearly fueled these extremely negative images, leading to fear and real-world consequences. Indeed, by 2015, in the midst of the worst European refugee crisis since World War II, many European countries began turning away Muslim refugee families, in part by claiming that Islamic terrorists were entering Europe disguised as Muslim refugees. By 2016, in the midst of one of the most contentious presidential campaigns in U.S. history, candidate Donald Trump began calling for a “Muslim ban,” thereby preventing Muslim travelers and refugees from entering the country. Upon his January 2017 inauguration as the forty-fifth U.S. president, Trump kept his promise by issuing an executive order barring admissions from seven Muslim-majority countries, mostly in the Middle East and Africa. Clearly, dominant conceptions of Muslim men as dangerous Others—who perpetrate war, brutality, and radicalization, as well as the oppressive subjugation of women and religious minorities—are


Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib

what the Western world has come to know and to expect in the twenty-first century. Yet, these negative portrayals of Muslim men harken back to earlier times, as shown in Edward W. Said’s (1978) brilliant analysis, Orientalism. In the Muslim Orient, men purportedly ruled over their harems with iron fists. These Orientalist discourses, in turn, reflected the violent views of masculinity described by the Western Enlightenment philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who in his book Leviathan (1958 [1651]) argued that the “natural state” of humankind revolved around war and strife. Men, Hobbes inveighed, were inherently aggressive and compelled toward the brutal subjugation of others. Unfortunately, these tropes of violent Muslim masculinity persisted throughout the twentieth century, creeping into scholarly discourse. For example, in his now classic text, Lords of the Lebanese Marches, anthropologist Michael Gilsenan (1996) portrayed the Lebanese men in his study as skilled pugilists—recounting their past “dirty deeds,” including violent acts committed toward others. Similarly, in “Peaks of Yemen I Summon”: Poetry as Cultural Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe, anthropologist Steven C. Caton (1990) explored how tribesmen used oral poetry in their war mediations. Much recent anthropological literature on men’s lives in Muslim societies continues to focus on war and violence—how men fight with words and weapons, how men are socialized into violent “warrior” and “street” masculinities, and how militarized masculinity takes its harmful toll, including on men themselves (e.g., Abufarha 2009; Al Rasheed 2013; Edwards 2002; Kanaaneh 2008; White 2014). Anthropological studies of Muslim men that examine other facets of manhood, and that reach across a broader geography, are sorely needed. For example, we need to understand more about men who do not resort to violence, even when their real-life experiences might lead them to do so. The various and contrasting social roles of men; their identities as sons, husbands, fathers, and friends; the sources of and constraints on their power and control; and their access to and productive use of their own labor are all factors that figure into a fuller, more nuanced account of Muslim manhood. As editors of this volume, we have strived in our own work to provide such nuanced accounts of Muslim masculinity. In 2012, Marcia C. Inhorn published The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East (2012), a book devoted to the lives of mostly Lebanese, but also Syrian and Palestinian men. Inhorn forwarded the trope of “emergent masculinities” to capture all that is new and transformative in these Middle Eastern Muslim



men’s lives. Inspired by Marxist scholar Raymond Williams’s (1978) concept of “emergence,” Inhorn argued that the term “emergent masculinities”—intentionally plural—can be used to embrace historical change and new patterns of masculine practice. Emergent masculinities thus encapsulate individual change over the male life course, change across generations, and social change involving men in transformative processes (e.g., male labor migration, new forms of political protest, the harnessing of social media). In addition, emergent masculinities highlight new forms of masculine agency that accompany these social trends. These include, for example, men’s desire to enter partnerships before marriage, men’s acceptance of condoms as a form of male birth control, men’s desires to live in nuclear family residences with their wives and children, and men’s encouragement of daughters’ education and professional aspirations. All of these masculine practices are emerging in the Muslim world but are rarely noticed by scholars or media pundits. Analyzed as emergent and transformative (Inhorn and Wentzell 2011), this understanding of Muslim masculinities not only questions the patriarchal dimensions of a mode of social life but foregrounds the changing local and emotional worlds of Muslim men within larger social and kinship structures. Similarly, in her 2015 book, Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food, and Family in Contemporary Egypt, Nefissa Naguib questions the socalled public-private gender divide by exploring men’s practices of food provision, nurturance, and care in the domestic realm. Egyptian men’s practices of food provision are one measure of their lives as active and caring family members. Attention to individual men’s aspirations as providers and ideas about masculine fulfillment capture the variety of ways in which Muslim men conduct themselves in a caring, nurturing mode as sons, husbands, fathers, friends, and community members. Such humanizing portrayals render legible the social realities of gender relations, including how the lives of Muslim men and women intersect on a much different, more humane level in relation to care, respect, love, nurturance, and intimacy in domestic life. The ethnographic studies that make up this volume continue to challenge, in one way or another, the stereotypes of Muslim manhood as aggressive, religiously zealous, and inherently patriarchal. Instead, we see a multiplicity of masculine practices and forms, as men think and act in highly nuanced and sometimes surprising ways. The volume thus renders Muslim men’s everyday lives, hopes, and dreams visible in societies ranging from the Middle East


Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib

and sub-Saharan Africa to South and Southeast Asia. The volume also addresses the lives of Muslim men in diasporic communities in the West, including as refugees. Filled with rich ethnographic portrayals of how Muslim men create romantic relationships, parent their children, and care for others in their families and communities, this volume encourages readers to ponder the plurality of Muslim men’s existences, as well as the collective challenges facing them in the twenty-first century. Our goal in this volume is thus threefold. First, we explore new forms of romantic and marital intimacy in Muslim societies, including how Muslim men themselves are contributing to globally emergent forms of conjugality. Romantically inspired, companionate “love” marriages are becoming more normative in many Muslim societies, given real demographic shifts in marriage practices. As more men and women delay marriage for economic, educational, and social reasons, dramatic declines in fertility rates are occurring across the Muslim world—a “quiet revolution” in both marriage and family life in which men are actively participating (Eberstadt and Shah 2012; Inhorn forthcoming). Our second goal is thus to explore these new manifestations of family life across the Muslim world, including how Muslim men are rethinking patriarchy and emphasizing the care of kin, both fictive and real. Muslim men’s active participation in, and positive contribution to, marriage and family life depend on a number of factors, including whether a man is able to generate a living wage for his family, whether he is forced to migrate for economic reasons, whether his country is politically unstable or torn apart by war, and whether his own religious values cultivate a sense of social and ethical responsibility. Thus, our final goal is to examine the inexorable challenges facing Muslim men around the world, challenges that range from the political (war, genocide, political dictatorship) to the economic (structural adjustment, rising poverty, un- and underemployment) to the environmental (natural disasters, drought, chemical warfare). Given these sobering realities, we turn in the final section to Muslim men’s lives in precarious times. We focus in particular on the challenges facing Muslim men in their home countries, as well as in the migrant and refugee communities in which they and their families have attempted to make new lives. In the chapters that make up this volume, the anthropologist authors have taken care to bring forth “real” individuals, with their



particular and complex biographies. In this type of person-centered ethnographic writing (Hollan 2001), the dynamism, variation, and uniqueness of Muslim men’s experiences are brought to light. Ethnographic accounts are founded on men’s stories as they tell them to anthropologists. These stories reveal individual perceptions of facts; they provide knowledge of men’s lives and their gendered experience of social and economic pressures; they foreground men’s attempt to “do right” as sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, and members of the larger community. In the quest to uncover Muslim men’s lives as lived, these ethnographic stories contest stereotypical narratives and broaden the field to include the voices of men in mainstream society and on the margins. Such studies make the dynamism between men’s creativity and agency accessible. The complexity that surrounds these stories demonstrates that among Muslim men there are no particular or formulaic templates. Contemporary gender research, as it addresses men’s agency and self-reflection, conveys a sense of liveliness and contradiction in everyday life.

Part I. Muslim Men in Love and Marriage In many global sites, new forms of masculinity and conjugality are becoming increasingly apparent and are often centered on notions of romance, love, commitment, and nurturance (e.g., Ashcraft and Flores 2003; Falabella 1997; Padilla et al. 2007; Thompson 1985; Wentzell 2013). Changing notions of masculinity and conjugality have been shaped by a number of global forces. First, women’s political participation and feminist movements in many societies have encouraged more egalitarian gender relations in both the public and private spheres (Connell 1990; Gutmann 1997). The rise of companionate marriage, which privileges emotional bonds over economic and social reproduction, has been coproduced with these political shifts (Hirsch and Wardlow 2006; Padilla et al. 2007). This companionate ideal has reached global audiences through the media (Altman 2001), as well as through the spread of global religious movements, some of which call for men to become more faithful, sober, and attentive to family life (Martin 2013; Tuzin 1997; Wentzell 2013). On a more structural level, reforms of the personal status laws governing marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance are increasingly incorporating notions of gender equity, facilitating


Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib

the practice of these emerging ideals and linking them to popular ideas of social modernity (Aboim 2009; Charrad 2001; Esposito and DeLong-Bas 2001; Mir-Hosseini et al. 2013). The Muslim world has not been immune to this shift toward companionate marriage. Although anthropological studies in Muslim societies have tended to divide marriage into two types, arranged versus love, this division of conjugality into oppositional types is inherently problematic, as many marriages do not easily conform to this dualism. For example, in his study “Love and Marriage in a Sri Lankan Muslim Community,” anthropologist Victor De Munck (1996: 698) noticed that “love can be accommodated to an arranged marriage model,” with many arranged marriages being, in fact, “romantically motivated.” What might best be described as the “romantically companionate marriage”—in which marital partners look to each other for love, emotional intimacy, friendship, and sexual fulfillment—is clearly emerging as the ideal form across many parts of the Muslim world (Inhorn 1996, 2003, 2012). Scholars have found clear historical precedents for companionate marriage in Muslim societies (Musallam 2009), and the pattern appears to be intensifying over time. As shown in Lila Abu-Lughod’s (2002) path-breaking work on Egypt, the idea of companionate marriage is endorsed today by both liberal secularists and Islamists in the country, with Islamists framing companionate marriage in religious terms. In the Islamic scriptures, marriage is considered a moral and legal mandate, and adultery is a major sin. While allowing for divorce, Islam clearly extols the virtues of marriage, regarding it as sunna, or the way of the Prophet Muhammad, and as the “completion of half of the religion” (Serour 1996). Thus, given the call to marriage, Muslims are among the “most married” people in the world, with more than 90 percent of adults marrying at some point over the course of their lives (Omran and Roudi 1993). Given this marriage mandate, Muslims in general take the call to marriage quite seriously. As noted by Diane Singerman and Barbara Ibrahim (2001: 80) in their study of marriage economics in Egypt: Marriage is an event infused with multiple meanings in the lives of Egyptians. It is a civil contract between two families with legally binding conditions on both parties. Marriage is a means for consolidation of social status, and in a conservative society, it also provides the only approved access for young men and women to sexual and reproductive partners. In the Arab world in general, and in Egypt in particular,



marriage is considered a “social pinnacle and major turning point in the lives of both men and women,” heralding the transition to fullfledged adulthood.

However, Singerman (2007, 2011) was also the first to describe the significant delays in marriage in Egypt, which she called “waithood.” Because marriage is culturally linked to social adulthood, the emerging pattern of widespread delayed marriage—and, hence, delayed adulthood—has resulted in considerable youth frustration in Egypt and across the Middle East region. Singerman argues that in countries like Iran, Morocco, and Egypt, young people are obtaining higher levels of education than ever before; however, education is not necessarily leading to employment. Focusing primarily on the experiences of young men, Singerman highlights the role of governments in failing to supply sufficient remunerative employment opportunities and the failure of educational systems to adequately prepare young men for the jobs that exist. High marriage and housing costs, and a cultural pattern whereby young people live at home until they marry, have led to a situation of prolonged dependence on parents, as young people are “forced to wait”—for a job, for housing, and for marriage and a family of their own. Waithood is playing out in demographic terms across the Middle East and in many other parts of the Muslim world. Demographers Hoda Rashad, Magued Osman, and Farzaneh Roudi-Fahimi (2005) show that the average age at marriage for both men and women is generally rising across the Arab world, with more and more Arab women staying single or not marrying at all. Such shifts are also being felt across Muslim societies in South and Southeast Asia (Basu and Ramberg 2014; Jones 2004, 2005; Jones, Hull, and Mohamad 2011). This, in turn, has led to massive declines in Muslim fertility levels—a veritable sea change in family formation, but one that has gone “curiously unnoticed,” according to scholars who have called the Muslim fertility decline a “quiet revolution” (Eberstadt and Shah 2012). These shifts in marriage and family formation in Muslim societies are, in part, a reflection of rising educational opportunities for women. That is, as education becomes more widely available in Muslim-majority countries, young women have taken advantage of these opportunities and have in many cases begun to surpass the accomplishments of their male peers. For example, anthropologist Fida Adely’s (2012) award-winning ethnography Gendered Paradoxes:


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Educating Jordanian Women in Nation, Faith, and Progress explores how young Jordanian women are excelling in higher education, often outstripping Jordanian men in their educational achievements. However, the future remains uncertain for both men and women in Jordan, given that education does not guarantee meaningful employment. Many of these shifts are clearly reflected in the chapters that comprise Part I, “Muslim Men in Love and Marriage.” We begin in the Middle East—or, to be more exact, in the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon. In Chapter 1, Gustavo Barbosa investigates how men come of age and display proper gender belonging, when they are essentially blocked from the traditional trappings of male identity. On the one hand, Lebanese legislation bars their free access to the labor market, forcing them to postpone marriage plans—and thus delaying the acquisition of an essential marker of masculine belonging—and, on the other hand, participation in the Palestinian resistance movement, at least in its military form, is no longer an option for younger generation Palestinian men. Thus, young Palestinian refugee men of marriage age create new ways of being men and forming intimate relationships, as the ethnographic stories in this initial chapter show. Chapter 2 takes readers to Cairo, where Mari Norbakk explores how young middle-class men talk about love and marriage. On the subject of love, men link it to ideas of chastity, an attempt to transcend bodily desires and formulate love through Islamic ideals. In their expressed hopes and desires for the future, they present their ideals of femininity and womanhood, as well as manhood and masculinity, as they describe how they understand love and the type of relationships they seek. As these young men imagine their future marriages, their wives, and themselves as husbands, they share their dreams and expectations of what the modern, married, middle-class couple should look like. Chapter 3 by Andrea Chiovenda provides an intimate view of Afghan Pashtun men’s changing notions of love and intimacy. His research shows how individual Pashtun men, far from simply implementing a shared set of cultural idioms for an aggressive masculinity, respond idiosyncratically and at times reject privately those aspects that clash with a more tender and nurturing side of their own subjectivity. Through a psychodynamic, in-depth investigation of the subjective states of a select number of Pashtun men, Chiovenda shows how these individuals privately strive for a different expression and performance of their own masculinity, one that in



their wishes should, for example, leave room for a more egalitarian and loving relationship with their wives, for an understanding of romance and sexual desire more attuned to one’s personal choices, and for a downplaying of cultural idioms of violence and revenge. These and other different expressions of masculinity among Pashtun men are perhaps precursors to broader social change. Contemporary forms of Islam, masculinity, and conjugality are the topic of Nancy J. Smith-Hefner’s account in Chapter 4. She examines the changing contours and dynamics of masculinity among Muslim Javanese since the fall of Indonesia’s New Order government in 1998. During President Suharto’s New Order (1966–1998), the figure of the firm but loving patriarch was adopted by the state with a decidedly more authoritarian emphasis. More recently, however, with the spectacular expansion in higher education and the subsequent formation of an expanded Indonesian middle class, new pressures have emerged for Javanese men to assume not only more normatively Islamic forms but also a more affectively responsive companionate intimacy. Thus, marital dynamics among the Javanese middle class are in the midst of change. Today, Indonesian husbands and fathers are trading the “soft patriarchy” of an earlier era for an increasingly central and active role in supporting their wives—even as the wanita karier, the “career woman” who abandons her children to the care of others, is eyed with unease and disapproval. From the changing sociocultural landscape in Indonesia, we move in Chapter 5 to India. In Gauri Pathak’s study, she develops the trope of “supportive masculinities” to explain the urban, aspirational, middle class and what women want their male partners to be. This is especially true in the face of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), an infertility-producing reproductive problem that is becoming epidemic in that country. This endocrine disorder has no known cure and affects a growing number of urban middle-class Indian women. Pathak uses PCOS-related infertility issues as a lens through which to examine the gendered experiences and marital relationships of Muslim Indian couples. She shows that “good” Muslim husbands support their wives, even when infertility affects their marriages and aspirations for parenthood.

Part II. Muslim Family Life and Men as Caretakers As shown in the ethnographic chapters in Part I, contemporary marriage across the Muslim world is moving toward a companionate


Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib

ideal—what Inhorn has characterized in her own work as “conjugal connectivity” (Inhorn 1996, 2012). This term is derived from anthropologist Suad Joseph’s (1993, 1994, 2004) groundbreaking research on patriarchal connectivity—or how patriarchy operates through both male domination and loving commitments. In an attempt to index the ongoing strength of family bonds in the Middle East, Joseph argued persuasively that love and emotional commitment exists within patriarchal power structures. Patriarchy is evident when senior men (i.e., fathers, uncles, older brothers) exert their dominance and authority over women (i.e., wives, sisters, nieces, daughters) as well as junior males (i.e., sons, nephews, cousins) in the extended family. However, such gendered and aged patriarchy is not antisocial. As Joseph shows in her ethnographic research from Lebanon, men are socialized to be deeply enmeshed in family structures. Fathers love and care for their children, sons show lifelong commitment to their mothers and sisters, and men love, protect, and marry their female cousins, even if these males are also expected to demonstrate relations of dominance over the women in their lives. According to Joseph, socialization within Arab families places a premium on connectivity, or the intensive bonding of individuals through love, involvement, and commitment. As Joseph (1999: 121–22) writes: I use connectivity to mean psychodynamic processes by which one person comes to see himself or herself as part of another. Boundaries between persons are relatively fluid so that each needs the other to complete the sense of selfhood. One’s sense of self is intimately linked with the self of another so that the security, identity, integrity, dignity, and self-worth of one is tied to the actions of the other. Connective persons are not separate or autonomous. They are open to and require the involvement of others in shaping their emotions, desires, attitudes, and identities. . . . The concept of connectivity is useful in characterizing the social production of relational selves with diffuse boundaries who require continuous interaction with significant others for a sense of completion.

Joseph notes that connectivity can exist independently of patriarchy and probably occurs in most cultures in which individuation, autonomy, and separation are not valued or supported. In such cultures, family members are generally deeply involved with each other, expecting mutual love, exerting considerable influence over each other’s lives, prioritizing family solidarity, and encouraging subordination of members’ needs to collective interests. Persons



are thus embedded in familial relational matrices that shape their deepest sense of self and serve as a source of security when the external social, economic, and political situation is uncertain (Johnson and Joseph 2009). Numerous anthropological studies from across the Muslim world explore how deeply connected and rooted Muslim families are, not only in their everyday lives but also in their family values, goals, desires (e.g., Abusharaf 2009; Bowen and Early 2013; Chatty and Rabo 1997; Dahlgren 2010; Dickerscheid, Nawar, and Schwartz 1987; Hoodfar 1997; Jennings 2009; Moors 1995). These studies yield insight into how family members’ roles are culturally constructed and how individual men and women, within the context of their families, contribute to the construction of larger social identities. These conceptualizations of family values, traditions, and ties have led to important ethnographic portrayals of everyday family life, including lower-class families’ coping strategies and solidarity in the face of harsh economic conditions (Fakhouri 1984; Ghannam 2013). Focusing on family narratives and the experiences and practices of those who share the same household, this work has shed light on how the Muslim family often serves as a sheltering foundation within which men, women, and children live and share whatever life brings their way (Delaney 1991; Hopkins 2003). In addition, in recent years, anthropologists working in a variety of Muslim societies have focused on Islam and the family, particularly how Islamic movements mobilize participation through family networks. For example, anthropologist Jenny White (2002), in her work on Turkey, found that the key to Islamists’ success lies in their ability to engage in “vernacular politics,” tapping into family life within communities and creating bonds and linkages based on mutual trust and understanding. Similarly, numerous scholars demonstrate how Islamic piety and religiosity in everyday life often center on men’s and women’s lives in the domestic sphere (El Guindi 2008; Meneley 1996). Caring for the family—whether blood relations or religious brethren—is often invoked as a central feature of Muslim piety. Thus, studying Muslim men’s religious lives can reveal a great deal about the construction of masculinity, religiosity, and Islamic ethics. In many ways, recent ethnographies on the “Muslim family man” are a reminder of Joseph’s earlier work on “connectivity,” which depicted the family as a collection of lives lived together in dynamic and ever present interaction. In these “new Arab families”—as Joseph and several other anthropologists have chosen to call them (Hop-


Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib

kins 2003)—men are active agents, deeply invested in the pursuit and maintenance of a successful family life. Furthermore, hubb, or “love,” permeates these family relations, including between spouses, parents and children, and other close kith and kin. The fact that hubb—and many other affective terms derived from it—is among the most uttered phrases in everyday life in the Arabic-speaking world (Inhorn 2012; Soueif 2000) reflects the importance of love and its salience for connecting family members and other relations into deeply enmeshed relations of emotion, affection, and care. Over the past decade, the topic of “care” has come to occupy a central space in the discipline of anthropology. Well-known medical anthropologists Arthur Kleinman and Sjaak van der Geest (2009: 159), forward this powerful definition: The term “care” has various shades of meaning. Its two basic constituents are emotional and technical/practical. The latter refers to carrying out activities for others who may not be able to do them alone. Parents take care of their children by feeding them, providing shelter, educating and training them, and so forth. Healthy people take care of sick ones and young people of older ones. Technically, this type of care has a complementary character: one person completes another one. “Care” also has an emotional meaning; it expresses concern, dedication, and attachment. To do something with care or carefully implies that one acts with special devotion.

According to Kleinman (2012: 1550), caregiving is central to what it means to be human. “It is,” he says, “the very definition of how families and friendship networks cope.” Unfortunately, with very few exceptions, care, caregiving, and the affective dimensions that accompany it are almost forgotten features of ethnographies on Muslim family life. At issue here is an intellectual unease about how to develop critical thinking about caring Muslim men who love their children and their wives and who demonstrate concern, caregiving, and nurturance within their families and communities (Inhorn, Chavkin, and Navarro 2014; Naguib 2015). Thus, the ethnographic studies presented in Part II, “Muslim Family Life and Men as Caretakers,” provide refreshing recognition of the ways that Muslim men, individually and collectively, carry out their caregiving roles and responsibilities. In so doing, Muslim men express their hopes, sorrows, humor, and self-reflection about why the provision of care is such an important aspect of their manhood. To begin, Farha Ghannam in Chapter 6 draws upon ethnographic research in a low-income neighborhood in northern Cairo to look



at how young men learn early on to begin providing for their families. But, as responsible adults, they often struggle daily to provide for their families, often engaging in physically taxing, backbreaking forms of labor to do so. Focusing on two stories—one of a teen learning how to labor and the other of a man in his early thirties who attempts to secure income to adequately support his wife and two children—the chapter considers how the efforts of many men to care for their families are complicated by the challenges generated by Cairo’s rapid urbanization, neoliberal policies, and current unstable economic and political situation. Ghannam’s sensitive chapter clearly addresses masculine emotional trajectories, exposing poor Cairene men’s vulnerabilities, dependencies, and inner conflicts, particularly as they struggle to put food on the table. In Chapter 7, a study from Iraqi Kurdistan, Diane E. King contextualizes portrayals of and questions about Kurdish masculinity within the context of patrilineal descent. In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, men are expected to support the cloistering of women, overlook intrafamilial violence, and demonstrate through stoicism or other forms of social distance that they do not fear their wives or other female relatives. However, many men depart from these expectations. Embedded as they are in a larger set of moral and legal codes and behavioral expectations, these masculine innovators may be in the process of bringing significant change to the Kurdistani political order of things, creating, in effect, a “new Kurdish man” through their nurturing efforts to build emotionally rewarding relationships with the women in their lives, to protect younger female relatives from male aggression, and to be surprisingly doting family patriarchs. As Ainur Begim shows us in Chapter 8, experts predicted a resurgence of Islamic practice in Kazakhstan, an oil-rich state in Central Asia, after the fall of the Soviet Union. Twenty-five years later, in the post–socialist period, normative Islamic discourses and practices remain marginal. Low levels of Kazakh religiosity are frequently explained by Kazakhstan’s socialist past and years of state-sponsored atheism. But these explanations largely ignore the rich history of presocialist practices, which were heavily influenced by local preIslamic Tengrist beliefs and a nomadic mode of life. These explanations also fail to recognize the authenticity of specifically Kazakh ways of being a man. This chapter thus examines what it means to be a Kazakh Muslim man, particularly by focusing on one middleaged but unmarried urban Kazakh man and his strong feelings of social responsibility for the care of his extended family members.


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Begim argues that caring and providing for one’s family and helping relatives and extended kin is one of the main ways in which Kazakh men assert and perform their masculinity. Similarly, in Chapter 9, Gisele Fonseca Chagas analyzes how conceptions and practices of manhood are produced by Muslim men in Brazil, specifically Arabic-speaking immigrants from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. Drawing on her work in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba, Chagas focuses on how Muslim men construct their male religious identities and their collective belonging as Brazilian Muslims through notions of care related to their families and their religious communities. In these Brazilian cities, Muslim men—both those raised in the Muslim tradition as well as Brazilian Muslim converts—construct their male religiosity through notions of caregiving, with care for families and communities indexing an authentic, pious masculinity. In Chapter 10, Guillermo Martín-Sáiz forwards the concept “pious homosociality” to characterize the diverse forms of male companionship and caregiving among South Asian Muslim men of different ages living in Barcelona, Spain. He addresses how the absence of female relatives and the conditions of labor migration shape relationships of reciprocal care among these Muslim men. This includes financial support for housing and maintenance, the provision of job opportunities, and the personal and religious advice that elders usually offer to younger countrymen from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. By focusing on the pious homosociality of immigrant Muslim men engaged in these forms of friendship, caregiving, and mutual aid, Martín-Sáiz challenges images of the quintessential “violent Muslim man,” which has been reproduced over the course of Spanish history.

Part III. Muslim Men in Precarious Times The challenges facing Muslim men around the world are plentiful. They include various forms of dislocation, uncertainty, social upheaval, and rupture. Indeed, this book comes at a time when millions of Muslim men, women, and children have been driven from their homes by conflict. In its annual reporting of “10 Conflicts to Watch,” Foreign Policy described 2017 as a year in which “the world is entering its most dangerous chapter in decades” (Guéhenno 2017). Of the ten most serious conflicts facing the world at the beginning of 2017, seven of them were occurring in and around Muslim-majority



countries, with the number one conflict involving both Syria and Iraq, followed in order by Turkey, Yemen, the Greater Sahel region of West Africa (Niger and Burkina Faso), South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Myanmar, where the Rohinga Muslim population is facing genocide. In reality, the majority of ongoing armed conflicts—some with cumulative casualties in the hundreds of thousands—are occurring in the Muslim world, particularly in Muslim countries of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, it is fair to say that no other region of the world has suffered so much war and population disruption due to protracted conflict. For example, by 2011, fifteen of twenty-two Arab League nations—comprising 85 percent of the region’s population—had already suffered from complex emergencies due to protracted conflicts (Mowafi 2011). As a result, by 2011, the Middle East had the largest percentage of migrants in the world, the majority of whom had fled from ongoing conflict, persecution, and political instability by crossing international borders as refugees or by becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs) within their own countries. However, in the aftermath of 2011’s “failed” Arab Spring, those numbers escalated dramatically. In a grim pronouncement on World Refugee Day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that 65.3 million people were now forcibly displaced in the year 2015, the majority from the Middle Eastern countries of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan (as well as Somalia). Conflicts in those countries were responsible for a 10 percent increase in the total number of refugees and IDPs worldwide in 2015—the first year since World War II in which more than sixty million persons worldwide were forcibly displaced. Furthermore, those men, women, and children who remain in politically tumultuous home countries face disappearing labor opportunities, high unemployment, rampant corruption, military rule, and increasing (although often internalized) rage against governing forces. For ordinary people in many Muslim societies, the certainties of daily life have diminished, as the second decade of the new millennium has brought with it unprecedented levels of economic, political, and social precarity. How have Muslim men responded? In 2016, a gender advocacy nongovernmental organization (NGO) called Promundo partnered with UN Women (the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) to conduct the International Men and Gender Equality Study in the Middle East and North Africa (IMAGES MENA) in collaboration with local research partners in four


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MENA countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, and Palestine). Based on quantitative and qualitative research with nearly ten thousand men and women aged eighteen to fifty-nine, the study was the first large-scale survey of its kind to assess the lives of Middle Eastern men on a comparative basis—as sons, husbands, and fathers; at home and work; in public and private life—to better understand how men see their positions as men and to assess their attitudes and actions toward gender equality. According to the survey, traditional attitudes about gender equality prevail, including among younger generation men. However, the study authors also stressed that at least one-quarter of Arab men surveyed held more open and equitable views, supporting women’s economic, social, and political equality. Personal histories, family influence, and life circumstances were among the factors that affected men’s support for gender equality. Perhaps not surprisingly, men with higher incomes, with higher education, whose mothers had more education, and whose fathers carried out traditionally feminine household tasks were more likely to hold gender-equitable attitudes. Most interestingly from the standpoint of care, the study saw cause for optimism: On the positive side, there is also evidence for inter-generational cycles of care: although many traditional norms are reinforced at home, fathers can have a powerful role in breaking these norms. Fathers who encouraged daughters to take on non-traditional professions or to work outside the home, or who allowed daughters to choose their husbands, seemed to contribute to the emergence of more empowered women. (Promundo 2017)

Nevertheless, the study highlighted the tremendous levels of stress in Middle Eastern Muslim men’s lives, particularly regarding the challenge of finding paid work and fulfilling the traditional masculine role of a provider in times of economic uncertainty. Unsurprisingly, this was particularly true in countries affected by conflict. The effects of conflict and unemployment were frequently cited as the main reasons for, or aggravating factors in, men’s depressive symptoms. One-third to one-half of men in the four countries surveyed reported being ashamed to face their families, because of their lack of work or income. Although the study report attempted to highlight positive directions and signs of hope for gender equality across the Middle Eastern region, the Western media—in typical fashion—reported the study results in highly negative terms. The British journal The Economist



led with this nested series of headlines in its 4 May 2017 edition: “Down and out in Cairo and Beirut,” “The sorry state of Arab men,” and “They are clinging to the patriarchy for comfort.” Given these ongoing, stereotypical Western media portrayals, it is important to counter with ethnographic research showing how real Muslim men, under considerable stress from war, impoverishment, and flight, are responding in unexpected and surprising ways as they continue to enact their roles as father figures and nurturers. To that end, all of the chapters in the final section of this book, Part III, “Muslim Men in Precarious Times,” examine how Muslim men are living through this historical moment—worrying about the welfare of their families and communities—while attempting to maintain some semblance of their former lives and fundamental humanity. This section of the book begins in the Central African Republic. In Chapter 11, Louisa Lombard examines the situation of young Muslim men, marginalized and stuck in place with very limited prospects. Some of these men join armed rebel groups, which offer subsistence and some measure of success where opportunities are few. Soumaine Ndodeba—also known by his nom de guerre, General Tarzan—is one of these men waiting in a disheartening limbo for a disarmament program that might possibly give him a job. In the meantime, he has found part-time work with a humanitarian organization, caring for children and coaching them in soccer. This rebel warrior, it turns out, is particularly good with kids and has converted his wish to care for and protect into a peaceful livelihood, albeit a temporary one. This chapter thus tempers the literature on stuck youth, and stuck members of armed paramilitary groups in particular, reminding us of behaviors that are changing, specifically the new ways of thinking and doing that, while not necessarily transforming the social status of armed group members, alter these Muslim men’s everyday lives. In Chapter 12, Vinay R. Kamat takes readers to the coastal villages of rural Mtwara in southeastern Tanzania to examine men’s generational concerns over food insecurity and future livelihoods. There, Muslim Makonde men of different age groups index their consternation regarding the sudden loss of traditional livelihoods and lands. In this region, a transnational gas extraction project has decimated ancestral farmlands, intergenerational coconut trees, and other assets vital to these communities’ welfare. As caring fathers and grandfathers, a majority of Kamat’s interlocutors expressed their main concern that their land and coconut tree losses would affect the lives of their children and grandchildren in the future. Thus,


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this chapter throws into relief the intergenerational nature of men’s caring sensibilities as they attempt to secure the long-term survival of their families in communities where extractive economies have taken their economic toll. The final three chapters of this volume zoom in on war, displacement, and resettlement. Chapter 13, by Tina Palivos, is set in the tumultuous political, cultural, and economic conditions in Greece. She describes the plight of Muslim refugee and migrant men who struggle to provide much needed care and protection for their fellow Muslims, both dead and alive. Through the stories of Muslim refugee men residing in Athens, this chapter explores how these vulnerable men confront challenging moral predicaments concerning how to best care for the most vulnerable members of refugee communities and how to prepare the bodies of those who have died for proper disposition and burial. In Chapter 14, Nefissa Naguib explores the harrowing journey of Syrian refugees who have literally crossed the frigid RussianNorwegian border on bicycles. She focuses on what she calls “the casualties of fatherhood”—men who are questioning the painful decisions they have made in search of security for their families, taking them to a place where they know no one, and where “we are nobody.” What makes men take their wives and children—who don’t even own warm clothes—to the coldest parts of the earth? How do such extraordinary journeys shape men’s relationships with their children? How are notions of gender, family, and parenthood articulated, and how are notions of caring and nurturing children expressed by these men? These are the difficult questions taken up in this chapter, which focuses a harsh light on Europe’s new Muslim refugee crisis. In the final chapter, Chapter 15, Marcia C. Inhorn takes readers to the United States and to the problems faced by impoverished, infertile Iraqi refugees living in Detroit, Michigan, America’s poorest big city. Tracing the history of Middle Eastern wars—especially the U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan—to the current refugee crisis, she examines how refugees fare once resettled in America. In the United States, Iraqi refugees face discrimination and vulnerability as they struggle to find employment and to rebuild their lives. Iraqi refugees who have fled from war zones also face serious reproductive health challenges requiring in vitro fertilization. Without money to afford these costly services, Iraqi refugee men are caught in a state of “reproductive exile”—unable to return to their war-torn country with its shattered healthcare system but unable to



access affordable healthcare in America. Thus, this final chapter questions America’s responsibility for, and commitment to, Arab refugees, mounting a powerful call to end the violence in the Middle East.

Conclusion Given this particular historical moment, when dangerous stereotypes of Muslim men are circulating freely around the globe, we have a special scholarly responsibility to engage with these dominant discourses and to deconstruct them. The chapters in this book do so by pointing to the myriad articulations of commitment, love, family connection, and caregiving that are manifested by Muslim men in their communities and in diasporic migrant and refugee settings in the West. As Janice Boddy (2007: 14) writes, “Studies about women are never only about women.” So it is that the accounts about men in this book are not only about men. Bringing together the spaces that Muslim men inhabit—from different classes, ages, and social locations— these chapters show that men’s life concerns and struggles to fulfill their roles involve complex negotiations of gender that both underpin and undermine taken for granted social and cultural continuities. When Muslim men are viewed as men in detailed ethnographic accounts, their lives are revealed to be interesting, complex, diverse, and often completely different from prevailing stereotypes. As shown in these chapters, Muslim men’s articulation of masculinity in practice in a wide variety of global settings reveals their everyday efforts to be “good men,” to meet their conjugal and familial commitments, while, at the same time, responding to new forms of precarity. This book’s ethnographic foray into real men’s lives—their hopes, dreams, and aspirations—showcases Muslim men as sons, lovers, husbands, fathers, grandfathers, neighbors, friends, and community members. It shows that marriage, family, caregiving, and the social reproduction of Muslim societies themselves are changing. Most of all, this book highlights emergent, nurturing forms of masculinity in the Muslim world—humanizing accounts that seem critical in these politically dangerous times.

Marcia C. Inhorn is the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs in the Department of Anthropology and the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and


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Area Studies at Yale University. A specialist on Middle Eastern gender, religion, and reproductive health issues, Inhorn has conducted research on the social impact of infertility and assisted reproductive technologies in Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Arab America over the past thirty years. She is the author of six award-winning books on this subject, including The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East, Cosmopolitan Conceptions: IVF Sojourns in Global Dubai, and her latest, America’s Arab Refugees: Vulnerability and Health on the Margins. Nefissa Naguib is a professor of anthropology at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo. Her work is motivated by a twofold interest: to understand the contemporary world and to understand the human condition. Naguib has written on the social life of food and water; dynamics of gender, culture, and identity; cosmopolitanism and the politics of memory; globalization; and humanitarianism. She is the author of Women, Water and Memory: Recasting Lives in Palestine, coeditor of Interpreting Welfare and Relief in the Middle East, and coproducer of the documentary Women, War and Welfare in Jerusalem. Her most recent monograph is Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food and Family in Contemporary Egypt.

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Basu, Srimati, and Lucinda Ramberg. 2014. Conjugality Unbound: Sexual Economies, State Regulation and the Marital Form in India. London: Women Unlimited. Boddy, Janice. 2007. Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Bowen, Donna Lee, and Evelyn A. Early, eds. 2013. Everyday Life in the Muslim Middle East, 3rd ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Caton, Steven C. 1990. “Peaks of Yemen I Summon”: Poetry as Cultural Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe. Berkeley: University of California Press. Charrad, Mounira. 2001. States and Women’s Rights: The Making of Postcolonial Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Berkeley: University of California Press. Chatty, Dawn, and Annika Rabo, eds. 1997. Organizing Women: Formal and Informal Women’s Groups in the Middle East. Oxford: Berg. Connell, R. W. 1990. “The State, Gender and Sexual Politics: Theory and Appraisal.” Theory and Society 19: 507–44. Dahlgren, Susanne. 2010. Contesting Realities: The Public Sphere and Morality in Southern Yemen. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. Delaney, Carol L. 1991. The Seed and the Soil: Gender and Cosmology in Turkish Village Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. De Munck, Victor. 1996. “Love and Marriage in a Sri Lankan Muslim Community: Toward a Reevaluation of Dravidian Marriage Practices.” American Ethnologist 23: 698–716. Dickerscheid, Jean D., Isis A. Nawar, and P. M. Schwartz. 1987. “Familial Factors Affecting the Educational Attainment of Daughters and Sons in Rural Egyptian Households.” Ahfad Journal 4(2): 26–35. Eberstadt, Nicholas, and Apoorva Shah. 2012. “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World.” Policy Review 173: 29–44. Edwards, David B. 2002. Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad. Berkeley: University of California Press. El Guindi, Fadwa. 2008. By Noon Prayer: The Rhythm of Islam. Oxford: Berg. Esposito, John L., and Natana J. DeLong-Bas, eds. 2001. Women in Muslim Family Law. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. Fakhouri, Hani. 1984. Kafr El-Elow: An Egyptian Village in Transition. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press. Falabella, G. 1997. “New Masculinity: A Different Route.” Gender & Development 5(2): 62–64. Ghannam, Farha. 2013. Live and Die like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Gilsenan, Michael. 1996. Lords of the Lebanese Marches. London: I. B. Tauris. Guéhenno, Jean-Marie. 2017. “10 Conflicts to Watch in 2017.” Foreign Policy, 5 January. Retrieved 11 March 2018 from 2017/01/05/10-conflicts-to-watch-in-2017/. Gutmann, Matthew C. 1997. “Trafficking in Men: The Anthropology of Masculinity.” Annual Review of Anthropology 26: 385–409.


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Hirsch, Jennifer, and Holly Wardlow, eds. 2006. Modern Love: The Anthropology of Romantic Courtship and Companionate Marriage. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Hobbes, Thomas. 1958 (1651). Leviathan, Parts I and II. New York: BobbsMerrill. Hollan, Douglas. 2001. “Developments in Person-Centered Ethnography.” In The Psychology of Cultural Experience, ed. Carmella P. Moore and Holly F. Mathews, 48–67. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hoodfar, Homa. 1997. Between Marriage and the Market: Intimate Politics and Survival in Cairo. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hopkins, Nicholas S., ed. 2003. The New Arab Family. Cairo: American University Press. Inhorn, Marcia C. 1996. Infertility and Patriarchy: The Cultural Politics of Gender and Family Life in Egypt. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ———. 2003. Local Babies, Global Science: Gender, Religion, and In Vitro Fertilization in Egypt. New York: Routledge. ———. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ———. Forthcoming. “Fertility, Demography, and Masculinities in Arab Families: From 1950 to 2015 and Beyond.” In Arab Family Studies: Critical Reviews, ed. Suad Joseph. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. Inhorn, Marcia C., Wendy Chavkin, and José-Alberto Navarro, eds. 2014. Globalized Fatherhood. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books. Inhorn, Marcia C., and Emily A. Wentzell. 2011. “Embodying Emergent Masculinities: Reproductive and Sexual Health Technologies in the Middle East and Mexico.” American Ethnologist 38(4): 801–15. Jennings, Anne. 2009. Nubian Women of West Aswan: Negotiating Tradition and Change, 2nd ed. Boulder: Lynne Reinner. Johnson, Penny, and Suad Joseph. 2009. “Introduction: War and Transnational Arab Families.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 5(3): 1–10. Jones, Gavin W. 2004. “Not ‘When to Marry’ but ‘Whether to Marry’: The Changing Context of Marriage Decisions in East and Southeast Asia.” In (Un)tying the Knot: Ideal and Reality in Asian Marriage, ed. G. W. Jones and K. Ramdas, 3–58. Singapore: National University of Singapore Press. ———. 2005. “The ‘Flight from Marriage’ in South-East and East Asia.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 36(1): 93–119. Jones, Gavin W., Terence H. Hull, and Maznah Mohamad, eds. 2011. Changing Marriage Patterns in Southeast Asia: Economic and Socio-cultural Dimensions. New York: Routledge. Joseph, Suad. 1993. “Connectivity and Patriarchy among Urban WorkingClass Arab Families in Lebanon.” Ethos 21: 452–84. ———. 1994. “Brother/Sister Relationships: Connectivity, Love, and Power in the Reproduction of Patriarchy in Lebanon.” American Ethnologist 21: 50–73. ———. 2004. “Conceiving Family Relationships in Post-War Lebanon.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 35: 271–93.



Joseph, Suad, ed. 1999. Intimate Selving in Arab Families: Gender, Self, and Identity. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. Kanaaneh, Rhoda Ann. 2008. Surrounded: Palestinian Soldiers in the Israeli Military. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Kleinman, Arthur. 2012. “Caregiving as Moral Experience.” The Lancet 380: 1550–51. Kleinman, Arthur, and Sjaak van der Geest. 2009. “‘Care’ in Health Care: Remaking the Moral World of Medicine.” Medische Antropologie 21(1): 159–68. Martin, Bernice. 2013. “Tensions and Trends in Pentecostal Gender and Family Relations.” In Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century, ed. Robert W. Hefner, 115–48. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Meneley, Anne. 1996. Tournaments of Value: Sociability and Hierarchy in a Yemeni Town. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Mir-Hosseini, Ziba, Kari Vogt, Lena Larsen, and Christian Moe, eds. 2013. Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law. London: I. B. Tauris. Moors, Annelies. 1995. Women, Property, and Islam: Palestinian Experiences, 1920–1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mowafi, Hani. 2011. “Conflict, Displacement and Health in the Middle East.” Global Public Health 6: 472–87. Musallam, Basim F. 2009. “The Ordering of Muslim Societies.” In Cambridge Illustrated History: Islamic World, ed. Francis Robinson, 164–207. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Naguib, Nefissa. 2015. Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food, and Family in Contemporary Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press. Omran, Abdel Rahim, and Farzaneh Roudi. 1993. “The Middle East Population Puzzle.” Population Bulletin 48(1): 1–40. Padilla, Mark, Jennifer Hirsch, Miguel Munoz-Laboy, Robert Sember, and Richard G. Parker, eds. 2007. Love and Globalization: Transformations of Intimacy in the Contemporary World. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Promundo. 2017. “Men in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at a Crossroads, Reveals Ground-Breaking, Multi-Country Study on the State of Gender Equality in the Region.” Retrieved 27 September 2017 from Rashad, Hoda, Magued Osman, and Farzaneh Roudi-Fahimi. 2005. “Marriage in the Arab World.” Population Reference Bureau. Retrieved 11 March 2018 from .pdf. Said, Edward W. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books. Serour, Gamal I. 1996. “Bioethics in Reproductive Health: A Muslim’s Perspective.” Middle East Fertility Society Journal 1: 30–35. Singerman, Diane. 2007. “The Economic Imperatives of Marriage: Emerging Practices and Identities among Youth in the Middle East.” Middle East Youth Initiative Working Paper 6. Washington, DC: Wolfensohn Center


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for Development at the Brookings Institution; Dubai: Dubai School of Government. ———. 2011. “The Negotiation of Waithood: The Political Economy of Delayed Marriage in Egypt.” In Arab Youth: Social Mobilisation in Times of Risk, ed. Samir Khalaf and Roseanne Saad Khalaf, 67–78. London: Saqi. Singerman, Diane, and Barbara Ibrahim. 2001. “The Cost of Marriage in Egypt: A Hidden Variable in the New Arab Demography.” In The New Arab Family, ed. Nicholas S. Hopkins, 80–116. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. Soueif, Ahdaf. 2000. The Map of Love: A Novel. New York: Random House. Thompson, D. Cooper. 1985. “A New Vision of Masculinity.” Educational Leadership 43(4): 53–56. Tuzin, Donald. 1997. The Cassowary’s Revenge: The Life and Death of Masculinity in a New Guinea Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Wentzell, Emily. 2013. Maturing Masculinities: Aging, Chronic Illness, and Viagra in Mexico. Durham: Duke University Press. White, Jenny B. 2002. Islamist Mobilization in Turkey: A Study in Vernacular Politics. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ———. 2014. Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Williams, Raymond. 1978. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Part I


Chapter 1


Some Romance Nawaf, a 28-year-old clerical worker, took a long puff of his cigarette. It was his fifth, but there was obviously no room for me to complain: by then, I had become a passive chain smoker. Nawaf hesitated for several seconds, and after gathering his thoughts, finally continued. We were sitting together for the second time to record his life story. At this opportunity, we opted for a meal at Kabab-ji, a restaurant serving Arab food in bohemian Hamra. This was at a safe distance from the scrutinizing ears of Nawaf’s mother and five siblings, with whom he shares a tiny two-room dwelling in the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp, a sprawling and increasingly vertical shantytown with barely two square kilometers and home to some thirteen thousand residents,1 in the southern outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon. Between dips of hummus and sips of oversweetened tea, Nawaf directed our conversation. On the previous occasion, when I prompted him to talk about his childhood, Nawaf nostalgically dwelled on what seemed to him happy years, despite the severities of the Lebanese Civil War (1975– 1990). He is one of the children from his father’s second marriage. All of his four brothers from his father’s first marriage were fidāʾiyyīn, or resistance fighters.2 He hardly disguises his pride when talking about his brothers’ deeds: “I remember it all quite clearly: how they carried their guns and defended the camp.”


Gustavo Barbosa

At the Hamra eatery, Nawaf decided to talk about his love life. He first discovered the pleasures of sex through a European activist, who had moved to Lebanon to develop her Arabic. The intense relationship lasted for as long as she stayed in the country. Her departure forced the end of the love story, with Nawaf not enjoying the means or visas to follow her. Another European, also an activist, captured the attention of the still heartbroken Nawaf sometime later. She came from a family of communists and had moved to Lebanon out of her political commitment to the Palestinian cause. Her connection to Nawaf came to a sudden stop; this time, he was the one to end it: “You know, Gustavo, she loved Palestine in me. What she liked most about me is the Palestinian hero that I know I can’t afford to be.” The gloomy love life of this shāb3 (lad)4—and the relationships he cannot afford—sets a dissonant tone to his depiction of his fidāʾiyyīn brothers’ heroic accomplishments. Back in the 1970s, during the glorious ʾayyām al-thawra (the days of the revolution), the heyday of the Palestinian Resistance Movement in Lebanon, and other diasporas, the situation was different. With donations flowing from Arab oil states, the Palestinian leadership began to erect the military and bureaucratic apparatus necessary to function in the camps, which went through a period of nationalistic fervor. The Shatila of the 1970s was a cradle for the fidāʾiyyīn. Fidāʾiyyīn’s recollections of their heroic deeds during the ʾayyām al-thawra and the nationalistic discourse collude to frame Palestinian men’s passage from boyhood into manhood within a hegemonic notion of masculinity, purging the emasculating effects of refugees’ lives in Lebanon and shunning feminine spatial and symbolic spheres (Kanafani 2005, 2008). To be fit for the “consequential agency” (Kanafani 2008: 314) of fighting to reconquer the motherland, Palestine, the fidāʾiyyīn had to detach themselves from another “motherland”: home. The way in which Abu Fawzi, sixty-two, an ex-Fatah commando, recounted his biography is typical: “I joined the fidāʾiyyīn without my family knowing. When they found out, my mother cried a lot and my father forced me into my first marriage, hoping I’d leave the fidāʾiyyīn. But my marriage didn’t last: I gave up my wife but not the thawra [revolution].” Here, I explore how Nawaf’s biography and coming-of-age are profoundly different from Abu Fawzi’s. With the Palestinian Resistance Movement, in its military facet, demobilized in Lebanon from the 1990s onward, Abu Fawzi’s extraordinary heroism cannot simply be reenacted by Nawaf, a fact that bespeaks the full historicity and pliability of masculinity in time. This research is based on two

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years of participant observation in Lebanon, including one living in Shatila. Fieldwork conducted mainly in Arabic consisted of informal interactions, workshops dedicated to discussing 1970s’ and 1980s’ nationalistic songs and present-day rap with older and younger refugees, and interviews with sixteen pairs of fathers and sons (in some cases, mothers and daughters). I begin this chapter5 by describing the historical shifting contexts these two iconic figures—the allstrong fidāʾiyyīn and the subdued shabāb—inhabit. Then, I move on to argue that gender is a concept imbued with notions of power.6 As such, it captures perfectly well fidāʾiyyīn’s biographies but not the shabāb’s. Next, I provide some ethnographic depth to this argument through the life stories of two fidāʾiyyīn and two shabāb. This allows for the remark with which this brief study concludes: that the shabāb live no crisis of masculinity. Indeed, it is a certain narrow definition of gender as characterizing different access to power that, by heuristic fiat, forces into supposed crisis men unable or unwilling to live up to the requirements of an ideal-typical hegemonic masculinity.

Lords of the Palestinian Marches: Context and Contest Songs7 constitute a potent instrument to portray the shifting historical contexts8 affecting fidāʾiyyīn’s and present-day shabāb’s trajectories.9 Upon listening to the first lines of “Romana”—a march-like composition by Shokair portraying fidāʾiyyīn’s daring but ultimately futile efforts at resisting the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon—55year-old Abu Hassan shared a generous smile: “This song stirred in us the desire to continue fighting. . . . This song reminds me of my war and my enemy, who wants to take me away from my roots. . . . Revolutionary songs gave the strength for us . . . to stay firm.” Shortly after, I proposed to him and his son, 21-year-old Hassan, another song, Katibe 5’s rap “Ahlān Fīk bil-Mukhayyamāt” (Welcome to the Camps), which, instead of celebrating bygone glories, depicts the lives Palestinians lead in the camps today, with all their predicaments: unhealthy living conditions, dearth of social services, and skyrocketing unemployment. “Ahlān Fīk bil-Mukhayyamāt” precipitated yet another smile: this time, Hassan’s. Abu Hassan did not condemn his son’s musical tastes: “These . . . songs . . . tell about what’s going on now with us. It isn’t only about fighting the enemy anymore; it’s also about an inner fight. This music criticizes those responsible for the situation we find ourselves in now.”


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The 1970s were glorious years, also from the perspective of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon. A country of some four million inhabitants,10 belonging to eighteen different religious communities and often located at the intersection of different local, regional, and international interests, Lebanon has historically been prone to conflicts. Since their arrival in the country in 1948, Palestinians have also played a role in Lebanese sectarian politics. It was, thus, an already politically loaded environment that the Palestinian leadership encountered in Lebanon upon its relocation from Jordan in 1970. The years between 1967 and 1982 were the paramount moment of strength of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the country, as well as of its leader, Yasser Arafat, and the fidāʾiyyīn (Sayigh 1979). Through the 1969 Cairo Agreement, Palestinians obtained official permission to launch attacks against Israel from Lebanese territory and gained virtual autonomy for the camps’ administration. Lebanon became the focus of Palestinian political and military activity until 1982. While the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990) resulted from historic divisions within the country, Palestinians did contribute to the conflict’s explosion (Picard 1996; Trabulsi 2007). It is with nostalgia that Ahmad, a 31-year-old unemployed accountant, remembers growing up during the ʾayyām al-thawra: “The fidāʾiyyīn were like Conan, walking in the alleys of the camp, all powerful, with their guns attached to their waist. We so much wanted to be like them.” There is bitterness in Ahmad’s recollection: the life of this lad (shāb) could not be further away from that of a fidāʾī. His biography reflects the 1982 turning point in the Palestinians’ trajectory in Lebanon. That year, Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, the forced evacuation of the PLO, and the massacre of thousands of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila marked the demise of the ʾayyām al-thawra. The official end of the Lebanese Civil War, the 1989 Taef Agreement, sanctioned Palestinian exclusion and scapegoating. For instance, a 1962 law, made more stringent in 1982 and lifted, with little effect in practice, by a new law in 2010, forbade Palestinians from working in seventy-two professions and trades. Unemployment levels among refugees remain accordingly very high, hitting the shabāb particularly hard. Ahmad holds two diplomas of advanced education: in accounting and computer engineering. Despite a brief stint as a computer engineer, he has been unable to find work in either field. It is in the cramped entrance room of the house he shares with his 23-year-old wife and eight-month-old daughter, that Ahmad makes his living,

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giving private classes to high school students. The house belongs to his mother. “That is, my mother owns the walls, not the ground. For we, as Palestinians, aren’t allowed to own property in Lebanon,” he clarified. Yet, despite the difficulties, I saw no sign that the Shatila shabāb lived their masculinity as in crisis. This alone should invite scholars to review some of the ways gender is traditionally conceptualized.

Gender Troubles: Theorizing Power During a hot evening in 2007,11 I was attending English lessons for adults at a refugee camp in West Beirut. The teacher spoke in Arabic, to cater to students with different levels of English. For a moment, she switched into English to say “gender equity” and immediately returned to Arabic. I decided to provoke her: “You don’t actually have a word for ‘gender’ in Arabic.” She replied: “Of course, we do: it’s jins.” I pushed, “But jins is actually ‘sex,’ no? It is not ‘gender.’” Teacher: “Jins is ‘sex’; jins is also ‘gender.’” To end our conversation and return to her lesson, she added, “There isn’t a problem here, all right?” Late twentieth-century gender theorists maintain that, actually, there is a problem here. The debate in the 1970s and 1980s argued that “sex” should be differentiated from “gender.” Anthropology contributed to this discussion (Moore 1999): as the cultural elaboration of the supposedly natural differences between men and women, “gender” cannot be subsumed by “sex.” In addition, separating “gender” from “sex” made sense at the time, for it reflected the structuralist taste for binaries as well as the nature/culture divide, a central parameter in the discipline. Since the inception of the sex/gender debate, gender—unlike sex—has allowed political mobilization. Sharing the insight that both masculinity and femininity are attainments and, as such, constructed, philosophy and sociology joined anthropology to demonstrate how such constructions are constitutive of inequalities to be politically “denaturalized.” The difference between the constructions of masculinity and femininity is largely taken to mean an inequality (Leacock 1983) that has served to establish a hierarchy in terms of different access to power by men and women (Ortner 1974; Rosaldo 1974; Strathern 1988). From this, masculinity has been associated with power, and femininity with the lack thereof. As an endeavor to overcome the excessive rigidity of structuralism’s dichotomies, praxis theory persuaded the next generation of


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anthropologists to adopt the concepts of practice and performance. The idea of gender lost any trait of fixity it may have retained until then. One’s gender was now what one does. Here the mandatory reference is Butler’s (1993, 2007 [1999]) work on gender performativity. According to her, one “does” a gender by performing it; that means that a gender can also be undone. Performativity offers the possibility of failed repetition of the sex/ gender system—by camp and drag practices, for instance—revealing its artificiality and changeability. Actors gained agency, but agency of a specific kind, understood as resistance against subordination to a sex/gender system that imposes heterosexuality. While one can fully understand (and sympathize with) Butler’s ideas in the context of feminist and gay and lesbian movements in North America, the logics of gender struggles of one place should not necessarily be used to explain gender sociologics of other ethnographic settings.12 In various specific ethnographic and historic settings, the automatic equivalence of agency with resistance is problematic. Within historically and ethnographically specific relations of subordination (Mahmood 2001, 2005) and even if not in possession of (or maybe attracted to) “power,” people can still act when not resisting. Men’s studies often display a similar “mesmerization by power” that occasionally blends into a “mesmerization by the spectacle” as public performative materializations of actions and values associated with hegemonic masculinity, a tendency especially pronounced in research on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern societies (Caton 1985; Gilsenan 1996; Herzfeld 1985). Due to the notion that these societies are marked by a sharp distinction between public and private, domains conceived of as exclusive and gendered, scant attention has been paid to the way men act as “engendered and engendering subjects” (Gutmann 1997: 385) through their everyday chores and mundane anxieties. Unable to replicate the heroic personas of the fidāʾiyyīn, the shabāb from Shatila, with less access to power, quietly try to live their lives, engaging in the relatively mundane routines of trying to secure a house, start an independent household, or get married.13 Herzfeld’s (1985) Poetics of Manhood and Gilsenan’s (1996) Lords of the Lebanese Marches provide consummate instances of this “anthropology of the spectacle.” In Herzfeld’s depiction, men in Glendi, Crete, have to be not only good men but also good at being men. When playing cards, abducting women, dancing, or stealing animals, they have to display “performative excellence,” by exceed-

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ing themselves and others. Deeds have to be narrated and displayed in public by their perpetrator, who shows off his latest daring goat theft, with the ethnographer providing the more than attentive audience. But what if some men pursue a moral quest: simply that of being good men, according to a local ethics, rather than that of spectacularly bragging about their excellence at being men? Closer to Shatila, Gilsenan reports how in Akkar, northern Lebanon, narrative and violence play essential roles in the reaffirmation of hierarchy in relations among men. But there is room for contest in Akkar: subversive laughter sometimes counterpoints the mere reproduction of the heroic ethic of challenge and revenge by men. There, as in Palestinian shabāb’s rap, irony occasionally destabilizes, at least discursively, the epic narratives of idealized masculinity. Following the example of the shabāb of Shatila, I do not seek to provide an all-complying audience to the fidāʾiyyīn’s narratives. Were I to do that, I would simply be contributing to the consolidation of certain discourses about hegemonic masculinity, which cost the shabāb dearly. The fidāʾiyyīn were all power, all gender as a discourse on power, all public, all spectacle. Their narratives amalgamate all that the heroic 1970s stand for: territorial nationalism, Third Worldism and, in the case of the rare women fighters, a feminism of power. Nonetheless, certain tropes of the 1970s have become an impossibility for those coming after, like the Shatila shabāb and this researcher.

Bodies That Matter: The Fida¯ʾiyyı¯n’s Heroism At first, it was impossible not to succumb to awe in the presence of a fidāʾī narrating his heroic deeds. Abu Fawzi, the ex-Fatah commando mentioned above, showed me the pronounced scar on his leg, proof of his intrepid activities as a fidāʾī, with several incursions deep into Palestine. He bragged to me: “I still have a very strong body. I did wrestling when I was younger. . . . In our nid.āl (struggle), we never stop; we don’t retire. We fight until we die.” Massaging the tips of his long moustache, Abu Fawzi told me that his own father had been a fighter, but in Palestine. His father was against carrying guns in Lebanon. The young Abu Fawzi and his siblings were too rebellious, though, to follow in their father’s footsteps: they were all fidāʾiyyīn. Caught by the Syrians, Abu Fawzi spent sixteen days in a prison and was tortured. Neither this nor his second wife’s criticism that his time devoted to the fidāʾiyyīn meant that the family could not af-


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ford to buy a house compromised Abu Fawzi’s determination. Abu Fawzi still defines himself as a fighter: “I go on thinking of myself as a fidāʾī. I never look back, only toward the future. And I never feel sorry for what I did.” Throughout our conversation, a question kept crossing my mind—“What is it like to kill someone?”—but I never verbalized it. Instead, having seen a carefully kept cigar box on one of the shelves in Abu Fawzi’s sitting room, I made a mental note to offer him a Habano. A couple of months later, I did. Abu Naji, thirty-nine, who retired from his military position with Fatah when he got a job at UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Refugee Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), claimed his heroic persona even before we properly started our interview. Barely one minute lapsed after I entered his sitting room, when he volunteered: “Do you want to see my wounds?” Ignoring my hesitation, Abu Naji raised his shirt and showed me several scars on his back, the result of war-related injuries. Abu Naji’s presentation of his heroic persona should not come as a surprise. He grew up among the fidāʾiyyīn. Younger than the latter, and with many siblings—his father, a womanizer, married seven times and bore several children and was hardly able to give attention to any—Abu Naji left school at a very early age and spent his time in the military ranks. He claims as his own battles fought by his comrades, even though he was too young to have participated. He acted as a fidāʾī only during the Camp Wars, an intracamp conflict that broke out in 1985, opposing pro- and anti-Syria Palestinian factions (Sayigh 1993). Severely injured, Abu Naji almost died and was sent to Italy for treatment. There, he befriended an Italian who was recovering on the bed next to his. Once released from the hospital, the Italian man found Abu Naji a job and wanted to give him his own daughter in marriage. Abu Naji did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps and decided to live up to the commitments he had left behind in Beirut, where he had gotten married just before leaving. Though his years as a fidāʾī are pivotal in Abu Naji’s sense of self, he forbids his own son from becoming one: “No one should be a fidāʾī, unless there is a war.” And, in a comment that surprised me, he confessed: “You know, I actually don’t like Kalashnikovs (the machine guns normally used by the fidāʾiyyīn). This is not my life. I just need it to defend Palestine, to fight our enemy. . . . No, I’ve never seen Palestine. But I’ll never forget it.”

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Abu Naji is not much of a dreamer: “My dreams aren’t good. Why does one want to dream? Since 1948, we dream of going back [to Palestine]. Tomorrow, there will be a new generation, and we’re still saying we’ll return.” Inhorn (2012) enumerates the clichés that characterize “hegemonic masculinity, Middle-Eastern style”: patriarchy, polygyny, hypervirility, tribalism, violence, militarism, and Islamic jihad. Under such a guise, hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy are notoriously Orientalizing actualizations of the “theoretical metonyms” (AbuLughod 1989)—tribes, the harem, and Islam—often adopted by a previous generation of anthropologists working in the Middle East. Such tropes—linking masculinity, violence, and militarism—also fuel other agendas, within and beyond academia. Nagel (1998) establishes a connection between manhood and nationhood and between masculinity and nationalism through a series of hastily ascertained parallelisms. According to her research, there is a current set of masculine standards that can be defined as hegemonic, which also constitutes a core of modern “isms”: (territorial) nationalism, colonialism, militarism. For Nagel, there is something inescapably and structurally masculine in institutions such as crime, violence, and politics. She persistently ignores the notes of analytical caution by Connell (1995) and Gerzon (1982), notwithstanding the citations of both in her text. Connell properly observes that men do not actually behave according to a John Wayne model of manhood, and Gerzon (1982) shows how hegemonic masculinity, always well beyond reach, remains impossible to achieve: “In comparing themselves to the dashing figure riding off into the setting sun . . . , ordinary men in ordinary life cannot help but feel overshadowed.” He goes on to argue that, in private, “men no longer feel like heroes” (5). In turn, Massad (1995) uses recent archival data on Palestinian nationalism to give some historical scaffolding to a thesis not unlike that of Nagel: “Palestinian is always already conceived in the masculine” (483), he writes. In the introduction of the Palestinian Nationalist Charter, the Zionist conquest of Palestine is characterized as a rape, as a result of which the motherland cannot be trusted anymore to produce legitimate Palestinian children. In addition, Massad says, in the Unified Leadership of the Uprising’s communiqués and in some of Arafat’s utterances, the Palestinian people as a whole are seen as a man’s body, which “has erected itself and will not bow” (479, emphasis in the original).


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Scholars have explored how gendered bodies become metaphors for the nation and how gendered subjectivities correspond to nationalist agendas (Bracewell 2000; Hemmings, Gedalof, and Bland 2006; Lambeviski 1999; Puri 1999).14 Healthy and heterosexual bodies, duly idealized, stand in for the nation. In the case of the thawra, the idealized bodies are the fidāʾiyyīn’s: strong and scarred, they have survived torture. Moreover, those bodies forcibly exude virility, playing a pivotal role in fidāʾiyyīn’s performance as daring commandos during the thawra. Such a performance allows them to overcome, but on a discursive level only, their prior and assumed effeminized status as passive refugees. If the expulsion from their land and the defeats of 1948 and 1967 were blights on Palestinian honor (Humphries and Khalili 2007), restoring it through battle became, for the fidāʾiyyīn, a way of reclaiming their manhood. The thawra made heroes of young men and brought them to the threshold of maturity: “Guns in hand,” Haugbolle (2012) writes, “boys become men.” (120). Against such a background, in which a version of hegemonic hypermasculinity is valorized, the Shatila shabāb today appear forcibly effeminized, with their masculinity on the verge of crisis. But in fact they are not.

Undoing Gender: The Shaba¯b’s Burden With the European activist gone, Nawaf finally found his girl. The European’s departure had an awakening effect on Nawaf. He had known that she was not for him: “When I was with her, I was out of the camp all the time, going to pubs, sleeping with her. . . . I was out of focus all the time, often drunk. . . . I was ignoring my university, my family. . . . When the European traveled, I woke up.” Nawaf decided the time had come to be serious about his life. And there was Jamila. One day, he crossed her in one of the alleys of Shatila. He smiled. She smiled back. He sent a colleague to her place to give her his phone number. Jamila refused to call back, telling Nawaf’s messenger that he had to talk to her father first. Nawaf sent his colleague again to overcome her resistance. She finally conceded. Their first encounter happened in a juice shop. Nawaf recalls: “The first time we met, she seemed like a village girl to me. Her hands weren’t soft; she worked a lot at her home. And she didn’t have a proper education. I encouraged her to get back to school. . . . In my previous relationship, I felt alone. But not in this one, even if we can’t meet often enough.”

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Sensing his hesitation and aware of how much was at stake for a camp girl like herself, Jamila forced Nawaf’s encounter with her father. Nawaf was worried because he did not know what her family would ask for the engagement to take place. Nonetheless, it was not the muqaddam, the first part of the bride-price, that came between Nawaf and Jamila. Her father asked whether he was able to provide for her and was informed that he had not finished university yet. He adjourned the meeting and suggested reconvening in a week, so that he would have time to check Jamila’s reaction. To Nawaf’s disappointment, however, the meeting one week later did not go smoothly. Jamila’s father agreed to a one-year engagement, at the end of which Nawaf was expected to have purchased a house for the newlyweds to live in. Speaking on the groom’s behalf, Nawaf’s brother counterargued with the father-in-law-to-be that Nawaf needed at least two years to graduate from the university. An agreement could not be reached. As a result, now Nawaf had two priorities in his life: “I need to graduate and to build a house.” Soon after moving to Shatila at the age of twelve, Halim, now twenty-seven and a sales assistant at a mini-market, dropped out of school and started working at a blacksmith’s workshop in the Shiite-majority Dahiya, which borders the camp. The salaries of his father and mother—as a car mechanic and a cleaner, respectively— were not enough to provide for their family of eight. The beginning of Halim’s work life was burdensome. His co-workers beat him. After a couple of months, Halim’s career at mini-markets started. He secured a job in an establishment of that kind, outside the camp. In a couple of years, he started making some money—$700 per month—and building a house, only half-finished, on the roof of his family’s building. But he verbalized a deep distaste for camp life and wants to leave: “Camp life isn’t life—no electricity, no sun, no clean streets, no proper school, no proper sleep. . . . I don’t want my children to lead the life I’ve had.” That is why he started seriously considering migration. And, in this case as well, there was a girl. He was introduced to a Palestinian woman living in Germany and with German nationality. She was twenty years old and spoke very limited Arabic. She came to Lebanon, and a hopeful Halim rushed to meet his prospective bride. The outcome was not what he expected: “When I saw the girl, I felt nothing. She wasn’t beautiful; I didn’t like her; she wasn’t the right girl for me. True, I wanted to travel, to have a good life outside, with my kids attending school. But that wasn’t the way.” He asked her family to allow him a week to consider the subject. It was a difficult week for him:


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Part of me said: get married. Maybe this marriage will work. And, even if it doesn’t, you can get a divorce and go on living in Germany. But another part of me said: you know you didn’t like her. It isn’t fair to her. If you divorce, she’ll feel bad for a long time. She may even come to like you: h.arām (a shame)!

So, a week later, he called her and apologized for not going ahead with the marriage plans. Retrospectively, he felt good about his decision. In response to my usual question about whether he played any sports, he answered that he boxes, which prompted him to talk about not holding violence within himself and feeling weak: I like sports. I like boxing. Every day I practice a little bit, here at home. . . . There’s no violence in boxing, you know? . . . It’s a strong sport, but it isn’t violent. . . . I have no violence whatsoever inside me. I never have and I wish I did. It’s important to have violence inside; my problem is precisely that I haven’t. Life is hard. If you’re kind, people eat you; they think you’re weak. . . . I don’t know if I’m really strong. I don’t know how much longer I’ll bear this situation. . . . I’m weak at this moment and I don’t know if I have hope anymore.

In addition to boxing, Halim likes surfing the net. He spends hours navigating Google Earth, virtually visiting countries he knows would be difficult to reach. Shatila shabāb’s moral quest is to be good men, even if and when it may not be possible to be good at being men (Herzfeld 1985). The failure to fulfill certain gender expectations, nevertheless, is in no way indicative of a “crisis of masculinity.” Rather, it suggests the need to promote another crisis, of an epistemological nature: the crisis of gender and hegemonic masculinity discourses. Nawaf’s dilemma between finishing his university studies or making money fast to afford marriage with Jamila and Halim’s refusal of the temptation of a pragmatic marriage and distress over his self-admitted nonviolent nature bear testimony to the difficulty of fulfilling certain ideals. On the ground, ideals of masculinity have a complex relationship to practice, varying across place and time. While the fidāʾiyyīn’s recollections contribute to the ideology of hegemonic masculinity, the Shatila shabāb expose the difference between that ideology and their own gender practices. If, as Kanafani (2005, 2008) indicates, the fidāʾiyyīn’s reminiscences permit no place for the feminine, hegemonic masculinity discourses also operate through omissions. Within such discourses, the shabāb’s current experiences disappear from view. Indeed, on an epistemological level,

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nonhomosexual men with limited access to power have no place in hegemonic masculinity discourses. For an ethnographic analysis, however, the shabāb’s invisibility is unjustifiable. Inhorn (2012) contends that in studies of the Middle East, and I would add, in North American media portrayals, “We need to rethink whether patriarchy [hegemonic masculinity, Middle Eastern style] should remain the dominant theoretical trope” (15). By nuancing our patriarchal polemics and opening them up to more closely reflect ethnographic findings, she anticipates that men in the Middle East will not necessarily show up as always patriarchal and hypervirile. Whereas ideals of manhood may reveal a certain obstinate persistence, the way manhood is lived in practice changes from place to place and time to time, as the social contexts vary. The eventual gap between ideal and practice does not necessarily entail a crisis of masculinity. Crisis of masculinity discourses are required for the functioning of gender theories and hegemonic masculinity and patriarchy frameworks. If men, for whatever reason, cannot fulfil the expectations placed on them, their masculinity is considered to be in crisis. Rather than tuning their analysis to changes in practices of manhood at varying times and spaces, crisis of masculinity scholars proceed to an epistemic freezing of the ideal: theirs is an ideological and often politically motivated discussion of masculine values, either considered to be in decline—because real men are not in a position to live by them (Bly 2004; Campbell 1991; Faludi 1999; Gibbs and Merighi 1996)—or intrinsically pathological—because there is something utterly wrong with them (Campbell 1993; Clare 2001; Horrocks 1996). Heartfield (2002) fustigates against such lines of reasoning. For him, rather than a crisis of masculinity, there exists a crisis of the working class in the increasingly exploitative economies of late liberalism. He contends that there is no crisis of masculinity, because “masculinity” is an ideological concept, methodologically suspect: “In posing the analysis of the condition of men in terms of masculinity the theories tend to make a fetish of sexual difference.” The fact that crisis of masculinity discourses constitute a fetish does not mean that they do not produce effects in practice, especially in the Western media industry. The idea that men in (very) specific parts of the world are in crisis and cannot live up to the demands of an atavistic, misogynist, and hypersexual masculinity, as in pseudoanthropological and psychological-behavioralist approaches, feeds terrorology industries in the service of the neocolonial enterprise of


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empire (Amar 2011). Seen—or, more properly speaking, not actually being seen—against such a background, (some) actual men and their biographies become forever silenced: epistemically invisible, they cannot speak on their own terms. While promoting such invisibility, the “retradionalization” of Muslim men and stigmatization of their masculinity (Ewing 2008) are also demanded by other agendas. Mythologies of traditional Muslim men, who may not be in practice as traditional as liberal feminism’s and some LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/ transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) movements’ prejudices and expectations want them to be, feed social fantasies, fear, and anxiety about differences and the Other. Indeed, nonhomosexual Muslim men with limited access to power constitute the abject Other of liberal feminism and some LGBTIQ movements. Perdigon (2012) reports how a newborn infant, found soaking in blood in an alley of a Palestinian refugee camp in Southern Lebanon, was rushed to the hospital, followed by his young, single mother. Her father, Abu Ahmed, was in disarray when local leaders and relatives intervened to break the news of his daughter’s pregnancy, of which he was unaware. Six months later, Perdigon met the same Abu Ahmed, who, while holding his grandson on his lap, elaborated on how he managed to control the impulse to murder his daughter. Based on that story, Perdigon argues that the archetypal image of the hot-blooded Arab and Muslim man as ruthless in the protection of his honor and defense of his male pride fails to pay proper attention to the fact that there is a wound that bleeds in cases like Abu Ahmed’s. There is an epistemological reason such a wound must remain invisible: it entails a move that is masculinizing and effeminizing at the same time, “as though he can’t really be that much of a man, he whom a woman can wound so easily” (Perdigon 2012). In Perdigon’s understanding, this invisibility is due to a liberal, secular, and modernist rejection of the possibility that vulnerability to others is a legitimate way of living relationships and being-in-the-world.

Conclusion: Changing the Beat This chapter shows that Shatila shabāb’s masculinity is not threatened by their predicaments. Rather it is certain gender discourses understanding gender simply as a reflection of different access to power that cannot properly accommodate men with limited power.

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They constitute matter out-of-place, and it comes as no surprise that they have become virtually invisible within the specialized and engaged literature on gender, prominently so in the case of Middle Eastern societies. Gender discourses produce crises of masculinity by heuristic fiat and, in the case of the Middle East, operate through a hypermasculinization of the Muslim Other. This hypermasculinization is required because Middle Eastern men’s cooperative selves expose the limits of one of the ideals most cherished by political modernity, liberal feminism, and some LGBTIQ movements: freedom from norms. That is precisely why freedom from norms—this “liberal’s humanism authorization of the fully possessed speaking subject . . . rationally choosing modern individualism over the snaring bonds of family” (Puar 2007: 22–23)—ends up being regulatory. Nawaf’s and other shabāb’s being-in-the-world has therefore become an epistemic impossibility. Yet they insist on existing and want to talk with their own voices—or sing. Theirs, however, is not music to everyone’s ears. But, also beyond Shatila, the time has come to change the beat.

An anthropologist, journalist, and diplomat, Gustavo Barbosa holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science. As a diplomat, Gustavo acted as deputy consul at the Consulate General of Brazil in Beirut, deputy head of the Brazilian Embassy in Damascus, and deputy head of the Division for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brazil. As an anthropologist, his academic interests are in political anthropology, (non–)state making in refugee camps, Palestinians, youth, gender, masculinity, and hope. Dr. Barbosa is published in a number of edited volumes and journals.

Notes 1. This number does not account for the present influx of refugees into the camp, fleeing from the bloodshed in neighboring Syria. 2. Plural for fidāʾī, defined by the Hans Wehr’s Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic as “one who sacrifices himself (esp. for his country), fighter who risks his life recklessly; . . . freedom fighter (esp. for the freeing of Palestine).” 3. Singular for shabāb, shāb, in its verbal root, is defined by the Hans Wehr’s Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic as “to become a youth or young man, to adolesce, to grow up.” Other uses noted by the dic-



5. 6.

7. 8.


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tionary are evocative of qualities such as intensity and boldness often associated with the shabāb: “to raise the forelegs as if about to jump; to rear . . . ; to burn, blaze (fire); to break out (fire, war) . . . to light, kindle (fire).” In Shatila, the term was normally used to describe unmarried men, most times still young, but eventually even those well beyond what could be labeled as “youth.” I was myself an example: in spite of being over forty years old when in the field, I was often referred to as a shāb for being single. Even though aware that the use of “lad” is rather restricted to British English, I decided to keep it as the best translation I could come up with for shāb. “Guy” seemed too neutral a term and “youth” too politically correct. “Lad,” on the other hand, kept the class overtones and group belonging that the word shāb, at least as deployed in Shatila, normally suggests. This chapter is a summarized version of two chapters of my Ph.D. dissertation (Barbosa 2014). This is obviously not the place to engage in a full discussion of what “power” is. I use the term loosely and throughout this chapter “power” may sometimes appear closer to the stricter Weberian (Weber 1978) understanding of the notion—as the capacity to direct other’s behaviors, even if against the latter’s will—and, at other times, to the looser Foucauldian (Foucault 1995) depiction as actions dispersed throughout the social body that structure the field of other possible actions. Whether one prefers one definition to the other, I believe the case can be made that, at least within certain trends of feminism, gender as a concept mandates different access to power by men and women. Gender is thus reduced to hegemony. When criticizing such a reduction, this chapter is an invitation for broader interpretations of sex/gender complexes. For a discussion of other arguably more ethnographically meaningful understandings of sex/gender complexes, check Barbosa (2014) on the notion of jins. The title of this section is inspired by Gilsenan’s (1996) Lords of the Lebanese Marches. I dedicate a whole chapter of my Ph.D. dissertation (Barbosa 2014) to the different ways fidāʾiyyīn and present-day shabāb react to the nationalistic marches from the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s, celebrating the ayyām al-thawra and the fighters’ achievements, and contemporary rap that exposes the difficulties of life in the camps in Lebanon. My discussion in this section is an unavoidably abridged version of the arguments developed there. Contrasting with the stiffer concept of “life cycle”—dependent as it is on a fixed repetitive socialization of individuals into well-established and socially sanctioned roles, I consider Ghannam’s (2013) dynamic notion of “masculine trajectories” as more compelling to depict fidāʾiyyīn’s and shabāb’s biographies. Ghannam defines “masculine trajecto-

Gender Troubles in Shatila, Lebanon

10. 11. 12.




ries” as the “continuous quest for a sense of (illusive) coherence that has to be cultivated and sustained in different spatial and temporal contexts to garner the social recognition central to the verification of one’s standing as a real man” (7). Again, this number does not consider the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon. I borrow the titles of this and the next two sections of this chapter from Butler (1993, 2004, 2007 [1999]). This is admittedly a rather cursory evaluation of Butler’s massively influential books. I engage with her work more thoroughly elsewhere (Barbosa 2014). Recent research from different ethnographic settings has registered similar tendencies for young men willing neither to follow the steps of their fathers—sometimes experimenting with ideas of conjugality and sexuality along the way—nor to attend to the expectations and demands of normative masculinity: for the Dominican Republic, check Padilla (2007); for Mexico, Gutmann (2003, 2007); and for Japan, McLelland and Dasgupta (2005), Dasgupta (2012) and Cook (2012, 2013). In the case of Palestinians, the specialized literature, reflecting feminist studies, has been remarkably prolific when it comes to researching women’s lives in light of the relation between gendered subjectivities and nationalism (e.g., Abdallah 2006; Abdo 1999; Jean-Klein 2000, 2002; Kanaaneh 2002; Peteet 1991; Sayigh 1988). Surprisingly, studies on the relation between Palestinian men and nationalism constitute an exception, amounting to a handful only (Hart 2008; Jean-Klein 1997; Kanaaneh 2003, 2005; Peteet 1994).

References Abdallah, Stéphanie. 2006. Femmes Réfugiées Palestiniennes. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Abdo, Nahla. 1999. “Gender and Politics under the Palestinian Authority.” Journal of Palestine Studies 28(2): 38–51. Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1989. “Zones of Theory in the Anthropology of the Arab World.” Annual Review of Anthropology 18: 267–306. Amar, Paul. 2011. “Middle East Masculinity Studies—Discourses of ‘Men in Crisis,’ Industries of Gender in Revolution.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 7(3): 36–70. Barbosa, Gustavo. 2014. “Non-Cockfights: On Doing/Undoing Gender in Shatila, Lebanon.” Ph.D. dissertation. London: London School of Economics and Political Science. Bly, Robert. 2004. Iron John: A Book about Men. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.


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Bracewell, Wendy. 2000. “Rape in Kosovo: Masculinity and Serbian Nationalism.” Nations and Nationalism 6(4): 562–90. Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex.” New York: Routledge. ———. 2004. Undoing Gender. New York and London: Routledge. ———. 2007 (1999). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York and London: Routledge. Campbell, Beatrix. 1991. “Kings of the Road.” Marxism Today, December, 20–23. ———. 1993. Goliath: Britain’s Dangerous Places. London: Methuen. Caton, Steve. 1985. “The Poetic Construction of the Self.” Anthropological Quarterly 58(4): 141–51. Clare, Anthony. 2001. On Men: Masculinity in Crisis. London: Arrow. Connell, Robert. 1995. Masculinities. Cambridge: Polity Press. Cook, Emma. 2012. “Still a Child? Liminality and the Construction of Youthful Masculinities in Japan.” In Super Girls, Gangstas and Xenomaniacs— Gender and Modernity in Global Youth Cultures, ed. Karen Brisson and Susan Dewey, 58–81. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. ———. 2013. “Expectations of Failure: Maturity and Masculinity for Freeters in Contemporary Japan.” Social Science Japan Journal 16(1): 29–43. Dasgupta, Romit. 2012. Re-reading the Salaryman in Japan: Crafting Masculinities. London and New York: Routledge. Ewing, Katherine. 2008. Stolen Honor: Stigmatizing Muslim Men in Berlin. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Faludi, Susan. 1999. Stiffled: The Betrayal of the Modern Man. London: Chatto & Windus. Foucault, Michel. 1995. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Random. Gerzon, Mark. 1982. A Choice of Heroes: The Changing Faces of American Manhood. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Ghannam, Farha. 2013. Live and Die like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Gibbs, Jewelle Taylor, and Joseph R. Merighi. 1996. “Young Black Males: Marginality, Masculinity and Criminality.” In Just Boys Doing Business? Men, Masculinities, and Crime, ed. Tim Newburn and Elizabeth A. Stanko, 64–80. London: Routledge. Gilsenan, Michael. 1996. Lords of the Lebanese Marches—Violence and Narrative in an Arab Society. London and New York: I. B. Tauris. Gutmann, Matthew. 1997. “Trafficking in Men: The Anthropology of Masculinity.” Annual Review of Anthropology 26: 385–409. ———. 2007. Fixing Men: Sex, Birth Control and AIDS in Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gutmann, Matthew, ed. 2003. Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America. Durham: Duke University Press. Hart, Jason. 2008. “Dislocated Masculinity: Adolescence and the Palestinian Nation-in-Exile.” Journal of Refugee Studies 21(1): 64–81.

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Haugbolle, Sune. 2012. “The (Little) Militia Man: Memory and Militarized Masculinity in Lebanon.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 8(1): 115–39. Heartfield, James. 2002. “There Is No Masculinity Crisis.” Genders 35. Retrieved 18 February 2018 from IAV_606661_2011_53/genders/g35_heartfield.html. Hemmings, Claire, Irene Gedalof, and Lucy Bland. 2006. “Editorial.” Feminist Review—Special Issue on Sexual Moralities 83(1): 1–3. Herzfeld, Michael. 1985. The Poetics of Manhood: Contest and Identity in a Cretan Mountain Village. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Horrocks, Roger. 1996. Masculinity in Crisis. London: Macmillan. Humphries, Isabelle and Laleh Khalili. 2007. “Gender of Nakba Memory.” In Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory, ed. Ahmad Sa’di and Lila Abu-Lughod, 207–27. New York: University of Columbia Press. Inhorn, Marcia. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Jean-Klein, Iris. 1997. “Palestinian Militancy, Martyrdom and Nationalism Communities in the West Bank Occupied Territories during the Intifada.” In Martyrdom and Political Resistance: Essays from Asia and Europe, ed. Joyce Pettigrew, 85–110. Amsterdam: Centre for Asian Studies. ———. 2000. “Mothercraft, Statecraft and Subjectivity in the Palestinian Intifada.” American Ethnologist 27(1): 100–27. ———. 2002. “Alternative Modernities, or Accountable Modernities? The Palestinian Movement(s) and Political (Audit) Tourism during the First Intifada.” Cultural Anthropology 16(1): 83–126. Kanaaneh, Rhoda. 2002. Birthing the Nation: Strategies of Palestinian Women in Israel. Berkley: University of California Press. ———. 2003. “Embattled Identities: Palestinian Soldiers in the Israeli Army.” Journal of Palestine Studies 32(3): 5–20. ———. 2005. “Boys or Men? Duped or ‘Made?’ Palestinian Soldiers in the Israeli Army.” American Ethnologist 32(2): 260–75. Kanafani, Samar. 2005. “When We Were Men: Fidāʾiyyīn Recollecting.” M.A. dissertation. Beirut, Lebanon: American University of Beirut. ———. 2008. “Leaving Mother-land: The Anti-Feminine in Fidāʾī Narrative.” Identities 15(3): 297–316. Lambeviski, Sasho. 1999. “Suck My Nation: Masculinity, Ethnicity, and the Politics of (Homo)Sex.” Sexualities 2(4): 397–419. Leacock, Eleanor. 1983. “Interpreting the Origins of Gender Inequality: Conceptual and Historical Problems.” Dialectical Anthropology 7(4): 263–84. Mahmood, Saba. 2001. “Feminist Theory, Embodiment and the Docile Agent: Some Reflections on the Egyptian Islamic Revival.” Cultural Anthropology 16(2): 202–36. ———. 2005. Politics of Piety: the Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Massad, Joseph. 1995. “Conceiving the Masculine: Gender and Palestinian Nationalism.” Middle East Journal 49(3): 467–83.


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McLelland, Mark and Romit Dasgupta, eds. 2005. Genders, Transgenders and Sexualities in Japan. New York: Routledge. Moore, Henrietta. 1999. “Whatever Happened to Women and Men? Gender and Other Crises in Anthropology.” In Anthropological Theory Today, ed. Henrietta Moore, 151–171. Cambridge: Polity Press. Nagel, Joane. 1998. “Masculinity and Nationalism: Gender and Sexuality in the Making of Nations.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 21: 242–69. Ortner, Sherry. 1974. “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?” In Woman, Culture and Society, ed. Michelle Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere, 67–87. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Padilla, Mark. 2007. Caribbean Pleasure Industry: Tourism, Sexuality and AIDS in the Dominican Republic. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Perdigon, Sylvain. 2012. “‘A Word Not Heard in Thirty Years’: On Honour, Ordinary Ethics and the Embodiment of Relatedness in the Palestinian Community in Tyre.” Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Media at the American University of Beirut. Beirut, 22 March. Peteet, Julie. 1991. Gender in Crisis: Women and the Palestinian Resistance Movement. New York: Columbia University Press. ———. 1994. “Male Gender and Rituals of Resistance in the Palestinian Intifada: A Cultural Politics of Violence.” American Ethnologist 21(1): 31–49. Picard, Elizabeth. 1996. Lebanon, a Shattered Country: Myths and Realities of the Wars in Lebanon. New York: Holmes & Meier. Puar, Jasbir. 2007. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Puri, Jyoti. 1999. Woman, Body, Desire in Post-Colonial India: Narratives of Gender and Sexuality. London: Routledge. Rosaldo, Michelle. 1974. “Women, Culture and Society: A Theoretical Overview.” In Woman, Culture and Society, ed. Michelle Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere, 17–42. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Sayigh, Rosemary. 1979. Palestinians: From Peasants to Revolutionaries; A People’s History. Middle East Series no. 3. London: Zed Press. ———. 1988. “Palestinian Camp Women as Tellers of History.” Journal of Palestine Studies 27(2): 42–58. ———. 1993. Too Many Enemies: The Palestinian Experience in Lebanon. London: Zed Books. Strathern, Marilyn. 1988. The Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in Melanesia. Berkeley: University of California Press. Trabulsi, Fawwaz. 2007. A History of Modern Lebanon. London and Ann Arbor: Pluto. Weber, Max. 1978. Economy and Society. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press.

Chapter 2



love you . . . because you fill my life with so much joy. I promise to share this joy with you, and try to make you happy each day. I love you, because you make me a better man.” This quotation is from the wedding vows of Saleh,1 one of the young men I followed as he was preparing to get married in the spring of 2013. As I was doing fieldwork in Cairo in 2013, my interlocutors made it clear that to them, masculinity and manhood was all about “love and responsibility” (see Norbakk 2014). Both concepts are to them intricately bound to marriage, as they see marriage as the place where they become adult men and where responsibility and love for and from a partner and a family come together. This chapter displays how some young men talk about love and how “romantic love” (see Jankowiak and Fischer 1992) is an important element in the young men’s hopes and desires (see Moore 2011) for the future. I also find that these ideas of romantic love, in the musings of one interlocutor in particular, are linked to ideas of Islam, and that romantic love should be a meeting of intellects, transcending the body, laying a foundation for a marital connection and an erotic life to come. The ethnography in this chapter is based on six months of fieldwork conducted in the spring of 2013. Fieldwork took place during the final stage of Muhammad Morsi’s presidency and was based in the middle-class, upscale neighborhood of Heliopolis, Cairo. The peo-


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ple involved were mostly young men, most unmarried, between the ages of twenty-three and thirty-five, as well as their wives, friends, and families. All interlocutors were college or university graduates, and all spoke English very well. Interviews were conducted in English. The way I define class, for the purpose of this chapter, refers to a network of factors connected to different types of capital—social, cultural, and economic (Bourdieu 1986). Embodied practices, such as taste, decide which class or with which individuals in the network one is seen to share class-membership (Bourdieu 1995 [1979]). What my interlocutors have in common is not a specific type of job or a specific amount of economic capital, but a shared class identity on the basis of their education, travels, and certain consumption practices that tends to orient itself toward something vaguely referred to as “global.” My interlocutors are part of a “cosmopolitan class” (see Peterson 2010), urban, educated, and well-traveled. One of my interlocutors worked as a teacher in a small engineering institute and earned 2000 LE (around $250) per month; on the other end of the spectrum, a man ran a multimillion dollar manufacturing company. The period since 2011 has seen Egypt in upheaval, but in the midst of insecurity, the young men and women who let me into their lives were seeking and finding some kind of happiness. The economy is a strong factor in Egyptian masculinity, and the ideal of the male provider is central. As I have shown elsewhere (Norbakk 2014) the production of masculinity, and the necessary preconditions to being a man, are closely linked to economic practices and consumption. The initial goal of fieldwork was to explore how men are made men in Cairo. To operationalize masculinity, I decided to focus on men and marriage, specifically on the period leading up to and just after getting married. In Egypt today, especially for the middle and upper classes, weddings are a milliondollar industry. A wedding is an extravagant display of the couple and their families’ wealth and social networks and often poses a serious financial strain on the prospective husband. It is, however, not merely about affording the wedding: “it is about affording the marriage,” one of my interlocutors told me. For a young man in Egypt to be considered an attractive suitor, he must be able to prove his ability to provide for his wife and family. For the middle class, this often means proving the ability to purchase a home for the couple (in the right neighborhood with the correct qualities and size), to own a car, to hold a job of the correct status, and to be able to pay for (most of) the wedding, as well as

A Man in Love


costly engagement presents (jewelry) for the bride. In a sense, these economic abilities prove that a given man will be able to provide a certain lifestyle for the couple, as well as safeguard the family’s welfare in the future. What this means is that, in order to marry, men must secure stable employment with an income large enough to allow for saving and then wait to accumulate enough capital before they can start seriously looking into marriage. With the realities of the Egyptian economy of late, with soaring numbers of unemployment, many young Egyptian men find it increasingly difficult to “buy” into adult life, as adulthood is only realized through marriage. In the middle and upper middle classes, the cost of setting up a marriage is paralyzing. Young men, in particular, tend to spend most of their young adulthood working and saving. They live at home and are in a sense in “waithood” (Singerman 2007) until they can manage to accumulate the required capital to purchase the necessary items. The men I have followed tend to eventually move into full adulthood but often only after a lot of effort, in addition to extended discussions with their families and the families of their prospective spouses. The discussions revolve around whether the couple should be allowed to marry prior to finalizing the purchase of the house, where the young man’s current job and ability to save is considered a good enough promise. The discussions may also be more concerned with safeguarding the couple against divorce. In one case, a young man, Hani, broke off the engagement to his fiancée numerous times in protest against his future father-in-law. This was due to the fatherin-law’s insistence that Hani sign what is known in Cairo as el qaima, or “the list.” This list is a sort of inventory of the furniture and pieces contributed to the couple’s home by the wife-to-be’s family and sometimes by herself. In Hani’s case, his bride’s father wanted the list to contain prices for each item “much higher than the actual cost of the furniture,” Hani exasperatedly complained. He explained that in the case of divorce, he would have to pay the price of the furniture to his wife as settlement. He went on to say that “if he doesn’t trust me to not divorce his daughter, he should not let me marry her!” One could ask whether the paralyzing cost of marriage in this class segment makes it less likely for couples to divorce. According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics, the divorce rate in Egypt is around 40 percent, with many marriages failing in their first year (CAPMAS 2010). I have not observed any of my couples divorce, perhaps because the stakes are too high for


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couples of the upper middle class. These couples are just too deeply invested in the relationship. For most of the couples I have followed, the bride price, the mahr, is mostly made as a future promise to be paid only in the case of divorce. This makes young men financially liable toward their wives and in-laws in the case of divorce. In addition, with the qaima it may mount up to an impossible sum. This question, however, deserves a separate study. For couples of the middle and upper middle classes, marriage often means moving with one’s new partner into an apartment in another part of the massive city (if not abroad). Many of the young men I followed purchased apartments in the “new” satellite cities around Cairo, effectively taking themselves far away from their families, as it takes hours to visit family members in older, more central neighborhoods because of traffic. Social media allows advice to come through video phone calls or instant messaging, but the hands to help carry or assemble furniture are far away, and the physical closeness and collaboration is one experienced by the couples alone.

Love My motivation for looking into the concept of love is twofold. One was to explore the young men’s motivations for putting in all the labor necessary to get married. Why do they go to such lengths and spend so much time and effort to accumulate the required capital and position to get married? On the other side, men’s relationships to their significant others in deep emotional ways is central to understanding how masculinity is produced and performed. As we see both in Ghannam (2013) and Naguib (2015), love and a deep sense of caring are central in the making of boys and men in Egypt, and a central endeavor for men. The deep affection for their families is a driving force for men, who endure long hours of labor, travel, queuing, and protesting in order to safeguard, provide for, and care for their families. This is not to suggest that everyone finds love or marries the person with whom they are in love. Neither do I suggest that marriages proceed happily for their duration or that people do not change their minds or fall out of love. I merely show how young men make love an important aspect in their hopes and desires for the future. This chapter does not question whether my interlocutors’ subjective experiences of love are similar or not to the subjective experience I myself hold, or the way in which popular culture in Northern Eu-

A Man in Love


rope portrays love. It is merely to document how my interlocutors speak of love and how it is central to their hopes and desires for a married future. As an anthropological endeavor, the study of love has gathered attention and become a legitimate field of inquiry in anthropology in recent decades (Cole and Thomas 2009; Hirsch and Wardlow 2006; Jankowiak and Fischer 1992; Padilla et al. 2007). As an emotion, love is one of those tricky issues at the intersection of an internal, neurobiological phenomenon and a shared, communicated understanding. This chapter engages with the latter concept, as I explore how the young men I followed envision love in their future marriages. As such I do not engage with love directly; rather, I explore how the men talk of future love. I explore how these perceptions of love also say something about their ideas of marriage and of themselves as adult, married men.

The Study of Love Jennifer Hirsch (2007) argues in her chapter “Love Makes a Family: Globalization, Companionate Marriage and the Modernization of Gender Inequality” that romantic love and companionate marriage are new concepts to Mexico, arriving recently alongside the concept of “globalization.” Through her fieldwork, she finds that the ideal of marriage has changed and that the desire to have a loving, companionate marriage has entered Mexican society through various channels. Television, films, and the migrant workers who work in the United States but return to visit bring with them ideas of modernity, consumption, individualism, and romantic love (Hirsch 2007). This equation of love and romantically companionate marriage with globalization and “Western” popular, culture may be valid for the Mexican context, but they are not applicable to Egypt. As Marcia C. Inhorn (2007: 142) argues in her chapter in the same volume: “Furthermore, what Jankowiak and Fischer call ‘the validity of an affectionless past’— that love is a fairly recent European invention with no historical tradition outside of the West—is patently untrue.” With the nation-building propaganda from the early 1900s, Lisa Pollard (2009) shows us how the idea of a “romantically companionate marriage” (Inhorn 2012: 98) was central to Egyptian nationbuilding. Pollard (2009) displays in her article “From Husbands and Housewives to Suckers and Whores: Marital-Political Anxieties in


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the ‘House of Egypt,’ 1919–48” how satirical comics changed character as the idea of nation in Egypt changed in the early twentieth century. For the purpose of this chapter, I focus on just one part of her analysis, which shows how Saad Zaghloul and his wife, Safiyya, were put forward as a national symbol. They were childless and considered modern and intellectual. Saad Zaghloul and Safiyya were famous for their loving relationship. Pollard’s (2009) article shows how this ideal was used to propagate a type of family and national subject intended to rebuild Egypt for Egyptians. The discourse was not one of love but of a certain perspective on what type of marital structure was desirable and productive if Egypt was to become, once again, a great nation. What Pollard thus demonstrates is that the ideal of a romantically companionate marriage is not a Western import that comes with the forces of (recent) globalization, but is a phenomenon most definitively present in Egyptian history and culture. Looking to ancient Egypt even, depictions of couples holding hands and caressing each other adorn the walls of pharaonic tombs. Cairo is a metropolis in Africa, and as a metropolis has a long history of urbanity. Thus, Cairo cannot be viewed as a place that “became” modern, urban, or cosmopolitan. These concepts have epistemological entanglements beyond ideas of linearity and temporality—but they also carry connotations of a development due to Western influences. Cairo has for centuries been a city of the world, and the people who live there have been part of a world with moving bits and pieces.

Haitham—A Man Looking for Love Haitham is a 25-year-old man. In early 2013 he still lived with his parents in Nasr City, Cairo, but by the end of that year he moved alone to a big city in the Arab Gulf. He is thoughtful and often philosophizes about his life, himself, and the future. He enjoys a laugh, likes to tease his friends, never gets embarrassed, and always has a sly response. Haitham was single when I met him, and we spent a lot of time discussing relationships, love, marriage, and family. Haitham was a practicing, spiritual Muslim, and we often talked about religion. He once told me that he thought a problem in a vast part of the Muslim world was that people believed with their hearts, not with their brains. He explained to me that the first bidding in the Qur’an is to

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read and understand. To him this meant to seek its meaning in the practices of Islam. So, he would not fast, just because good Muslims fast. Rather he would seek to understand why it has been decreed, and then, when understanding it, he chose to fast. He felt assured and secure that what has been decreed by God is true and good, but if he did not seek to understand why it had been decreed, he did not fully practice his religion. The first time I met him, Haitham asked me if I knew the purpose of fasting for Ramadan. I told him I thought it was a time for thought and reflection, to deprive the body of food, and to feel close to God. Haitham nodded and then said, “Yeah. That’s part of it, but there is another part which is more important.” Haitham moved our teacups and water glasses out of the way and drew a circle on the table with his finger. He explained: This circle is all that is halal [permitted in Islam], and outside it is all that is haram [forbidden]. Most of the year we move along the edge of the circle (he moved his finger along the circle to demonstrate) and enjoy and take full advantage of all that is halal. But, when we step on the borders for so long it’s very easy to overstep them, because we always want a bit more. Therefore, for one month each year we should stay away from even all that is halal. [At this point he moved his finger to stay in the middle of the circle.] In this way we let our spiritual part beat the animal part.

He explained to me that fasting is about rising above material needs, above the object, above the body, to be truly human and refuse the animal needs, to strengthen the mind, and to withstand physical but also psychological needs throughout the rest of the year. Withdrawing from the borders of what is halal in this way once a year makes it easier not to overstep the boundaries for the rest of the year. Haitham continued: “Also, modern research shows that the fasting is also healthy and good for the body. This shows the Qur’an is true. God made man, the body. Why would he not know what is best for it?” Haitham spoke of Ramadan and fasting but later that evening, he connected this with use of the hijab. Haitham saw Islam, the idea of fasting, and, as he explained to me, the hijab, as linked to the mind controlling and overcoming the physical, bodily needs. He used the word “objectifying” and told me that for him the hijab is supposed to help de-objectify women. Furthermore, Haitham opined that, when women cover their hair and the shape of their bodies, men are bet-


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ter able to choose a spouse based on intellect and personality. These coverings eliminate the physical factor of erotic lust and allow men to notice the way a woman’s face and eyes mirror her soul. Haitham acknowledged his friend’s opposite opinion, that the hijab perhaps does the exact opposite, that it further objectifies women’s bodies. However, Haitham believes that Islam’s goal is to produce a society in which the subjective person—and the mind and intellect—should be raised above the bodily, objectifying needs. As he explained to me later, in a conversation I restate below, to him being a Muslim means attempting to interact with people on an intellectual level, without the physical element. Furthermore, Haitham saw “romantic love” as a meeting of intellects, of minds, before engaging in the physical acts and motions of marriage.

The Friendly Lover Haitham, as a young Arab and Muslim man (well-traveled as both a student and as a professional), seeks to articulate his opinion, his values, and his beliefs in an attempt to disprove the caricature and stereotype of “the Arab Man.” As a result, he often considers and reconsiders, based on discussions with others and internal reflections, his position as an Arab man. This seemed true for most of my interlocutors, as they were often faced with people’s assumptions, fears, and caricatures of Arab men when they traveled. Haitham also explained that the topic of sex is considered inappropriate between young people of the opposite sex, even those in relationships. However, I would soon realize that it was not completely off-limits. One evening, over coffee, Haitham said, “I think it’s important that the partners learn and experience sex together for the first time. That way, none of them will ever be disappointed or wish for anything else because they only know each other. Then, they can learn and practice and become the best for each other.” The next day, Haitham sent me a link to an internet article addressing the platonic types of love “Eros” and “Philos,” explaining that this was what he was referring to the evening before. He believes that the two partners need to meet and connect on an intellectual level, to get to know each other as friends and intellectual beings, before erotic love can develop. He therefore thought a short period of courting was important. However, he was conservative and told me that a young man needs to clarify his intentions early in this process. Haitham saw the engagement period as a time for the

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couple to get to know each other and to see if they are a good “platonic” match before they get married. Erotic love, he believes, will eventually grow and flourish in the marriage. For him, marriage fulfills not only sexual or reproductive desires, but also the desire to develop a loving relationship. This love is a thing that grows and is fed by partners meeting and connecting on an intellectual level, which then moves into a physical relationship. Haitham believes that this physical relationship evolves and improves over time, as long as it is based on a mutual understanding of learning about themselves and each other. Later that year, Haitham left Cairo and moved to the Arab Gulf for work. When I asked him why he wanted to go there, he wrote (on a chat app): Haitham: I want more [professional] exposure, big projects. As you know, the Egyptian market doesn’t have budgets now. Also the political situation [is difficult], and it’s not a healthy environment to live [in]. And earn more money. In a short time. Mari: In the end, why do you want to have more exposure and build a good career? What will be the final result? What will be your ideal life in ten or twenty years? Haitham: Well, I want to live in high standards, which my country doesn’t provide for free, like Western countries. We need money to survive, I mean, education, health, everything. And more and more to live in high standards that equal moderate standards in Western countries. Then, when I achieve that I will be able to reevaluate what will be next. And along the way I want to benefit this world or do any change, through enabling technology, or solving their problems through technology. Mari: Can I ask, what about family life? Are there any motivations linked to that? Haitham: Yeah, sure. [Eighty percent] of it is for family. If I were not willing to have a family, I’ll not need money that bad. Because I already live with my parents in a nice home, I will only need money to travel or to do shopping, or buy a nice car, or to start my own business. Mari: Why do you want to have your own family? Haitham: Because if you tried to be with someone, you will know that you should not be alone. And it’s human nature. And for sure I cannot live with a girlfriend! She should be my wife. Mari: What about love?2 Haitham: I guess it’s all about love and responsibility. And I’m not a big fan of responsibility.


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Later, Haitham was engaged and then married, and instead of moving back to Cairo to settle down, his wife quit her job and moved to live with him in the Gulf. The move was intense for them both, and Haitham expressed anxiety: “I have never shared a room with anyone!” The courting and the path toward marriage were spent exploring their platonic friendship, including their common interests and backgrounds in software engineering. However, the confident Haitham showed a more nervous side when it came to facilitating his marriage. In the couple’s new situation, all security nets were severed, as they moved straight to the Gulf after their honeymoon. Being cut off from their families and friends made them completely dependent on making their relationship work. They relied on just each other to navigate married life. This includes details such as cooking and decorating their flat. Normally, the wife-to-be with her family supplies the furniture for the couple’s home. The selection of the furniture is a communal task, and the young woman gets advice on what is needed, where to buy it, and in which materials and from whom to order the pieces. Haitham and his wife’s marital home (paid for by Haitham on a down payment scheme) was yet to be decorated in case they decided to move back to Cairo. They rented a flat in the Gulf, which they filled with IKEA items that they had to assemble themselves. Haitham and his wife were pleased with the result, but the process of getting a fully furnished flat was one of frustration, bafflement, and much humor. Pictures of their thwarted attempts, as well as successes, circulated on social media. As I revisited my ethnography for this chapter, I chatted with Haitham on WhatsApp, reminding him of our earlier conversations about love. He asked me if we could have an updated discussion on love, as “the concept evolved after marriage.” He told me how living together encourages tolerance and patience: Some people are not able to feel comfortable with the other person[’s] habits, although they love them. . . . To learn how to compromise and feel OK with that can teach a new way of love. . . . It is like roommates’ relationship, you may not be friends or in love, no Eros or Philos, but you can live together . . . in other words, it is a third dimension other than Eros and Philos. Which is very important to make the two others more durable.

Haitham seemed to have been hit with the realities of everyday married life, which highlight the difference between his musings

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before and after marriage. He proudly told me of their routines at home, how he helps his wife by mopping the floors and taking out the trash. “I also iron my clothes.” When I asked him if he has more responsibilities in the Gulf then he would in Egypt, he replied, “In [the Gulf], men are drivers, garbage collectors, doormen. The real masculinity, if I may call it [that (smiley face)]. Ladies are spoiled here.” Here I find it useful to look back to Jankowiak and Fischer’s (1992) distinction between “romantic love” and “companionate love.” As a single man, Haitham had great hopes for romantic love to be the basis for his relationship and marriage. After being hit with the routine of everyday life, Haitham tells me that his concept of love has “evolved.” The way he now speaks of love leads me to think it may be somewhat similar to what Jankowiak and Fischer (1992) term “companionate love,” a gradual, friendly, practical relationship that transitions the couple from romance, passion, and perhaps overwhelming erotic lust into routine, safety, and comfort. Haitham says he feels like his is almost a roommate relationship, and when he talks of their relationship it is no longer about the extravagant gifts and trips they took in the beginning of the marriage but about the routine of being at home. This does not mean that Haitham or I believe this is “less” love or that one idea of love is more important in a conjugal relationship than another. It is merely the realization that being a family and building a home may turn initial (perhaps fueled by pop culture and media) hopes and desires for love into other needs and other ways of viewing relationships, conjugal bonds, and family. In our chats, Haitham no longer reflects on love as a meeting of intellects and “transcending the animal part.”

Notes on Unhappiness As in all other places where people dream of love and happiness, there is always unhappiness and unlawful desire. “I had an affair,” Ibrahim said. He told me he had been unfaithful to his wife. He was still young but had been married for some years. His job required some traveling, and it was during one of these trips that he met another woman. “I didn’t know what love was. And now it’s too late. I’m married. I have my kids; I have responsibilities.” He was surely not the only man (or woman) to have done this, and stories


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of extramarital affairs abounded in the communities I frequented in Cairo. Ibrahim was distraught, saying that the affair had gone on for some time but had ended. He informed me that his wife knew and was very sad about it. However, he felt sad mostly for himself because he realized, “I don’t love my wife.” Ibrahim seemed to wish to be with his lover, but because of their children he would not leave his wife. For him the affair was more about love and about finding a partner. But, as an “honorable” (in his own eyes) family man, he would shoulder his responsibility and remain with his wife and kids. As with happiness and unhappiness, there is also love, and then there is the absence of love. The reason for retelling this story of unfaithfulness is to show how love and the conjugal bond are closely linked to welfare. Welfare is intrinsic to what these men mean when they speak of responsibility. As we saw with Ibrahim, and with Haitham when he talked about why he moved to the Gulf to work, responsibility means ensuring the welfare of one’s family. In Egypt, one’s family is one’s safety net, and Ibrahim, for example, cannot leave his wife and children, as their welfare depends on him. On the other hand, he is also dependent on them because his wife cares for him and maintains his house, which, along with their children, is a symbol of his masculinity in one sense. If he were to divorce her, he would need someone to look after his children, because in Egypt, the father tends to be granted custody should he wish it. His house would need maintenance. Love is therefore also linked to the safety of the family, or caregiving, in Naguib’s (2010, 2015) reading. Furthermore, as Haitham mentioned previously, “Well, I want to live in high standards. Which my country doesn’t provide for free, like Western countries. We need money to survive, I mean, education, health, everything.” Being able to afford marriage and having a good relationship based on love is therefore central to the welfare and safekeeping of people and families. In Ibrahim’s case, this is an important reason to forsake his love and his mistress and remain with his wife. So, he looks for love outside his marriage but at the same time love and responsibility is what stops him from leaving. In this sense, the type of companionate love Haitham experiences after marrying is what keeps Ibrahim from leaving his family. The idea of a passionate, romantic love and the sexual relations that come with it is what tempts him to stray from his marriage.

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Conclusion This chapter shows how young men hope for and desire romantic love (Jankowiak and Fischer 1992) in their future, conjugal relationships and how the musings of one interlocutor, Haitham, were linked to his understandings of Islam. I also show how the young men sometimes wake up to a marital everyday life that does not correspond with their hopes and desires and may leave them somewhat disillusioned. In the process of getting married, many young couples have to set up home (geographically) far away from their family and kin. This, I argue, makes the couple more dependent on each other and makes the conjugal bond more important to them as they start their lives as a family alone in some ways. I find that young men actively seek out prospective partners, whether by arranged marriage or by finding their own partner, with whom they envision attaining the type of loving connection described by Haitham. Here, the idea of love is closely linked to the idea of responsibility. As Haitham says, “It’s all about love and responsibility,” and responsibility often takes on an economic dimension in the lives of the prospective grooms of Cairo. As we see throughout the chapter, making a marriage is also about the material and financial dimensions of creating a family home. The costs involved in this are crippling for the young men, and the hope and desire for love is one of their driving forces as they labor toward marriage and adulthood. In this chapter, Muslim men show how their understandings of love are shaped in part by their ideas of being a good man and a good Muslim. By striving for the same ideals in their relationships as in their other religious practices, they hope to create deep, loving, trusting relationships with their spouses. It is, however, clear that ideals tend to disintegrate as they are turned into lived, everyday practice. As we see with Haitham, and eventually Ibrahim, hope and desire for romantic love are not enough. In Ibrahim’s case, he has fallen in love with another woman and contemplated leaving his wife. In Haitham’s case, everyday family life has caught up with him, and he has altered his ideals of what it means to be in a loving relationship. Haitham has not fallen out of love with his wife; he has merely fallen into a rhythm of everyday life in their new home, where the mundane activities of homemaking subsume his early ideas of how to woo his wife. Postscript: Haitham has recently told me that his wife is three months pregnant and that their little family of two will become a


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full family of three. Haitham now embarks on a new stage of young manhood, that of new father and full adult man.

Acknowledgments This chapter is possible only due to my interlocutors generously letting me into their lives and presenting to me their ideas. Especially Haitham: you know who you are and how much it means to me! Fieldwork was made possible through funding from the Norwegian Lånekassen as well as a grant from the Meltzer Foundation at the University of Bergen. A return trip to Cairo was then generously covered by the Chr. Michelsen Institute project Everyday Maneuvers: Military-Civilian Relations in Latin-America and the Middle East, with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I am grateful to the editors and other contributors to this volume for feedback on the draft as presented at the Muslim Men workshop. I am also thankful to Anne K. Bang and Alexandros Tadros at the University of Bergen for their generous input on the draft.

Mari Norbakk is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen. Her research concerns masculinity practices among Egyptian expatriate workers in Qatar, examining their everyday lives as “expats” and how they maintain their identity as Egyptian men in the particular context of Doha, Qatar. Norbakk has formerly worked on gender in the Middle East, and in 2014 completed her master’s thesis on masculinities and marriage in Egypt. Norbakk was formerly employed at the Chr. Michelsen’s Institute, where she researched Egypt and Tunisia.

Notes 1. All names in this chapter have been altered to ensure my interlocutor’s anonymity. Minor details of exact locations and geographic names have also been omitted. 2. I feel comfortable using the term “love,” as Haitham had spoken about it often prior to this conversation.

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References Bourdieu, Pierre. 1986. “The Forms of Capital.” In Handbook of Theory of Research for the Sociology of Education, ed. John G. Richardson, 15–29. London: Greenwood. ———. 1995 (1979). Distinksjonen [Distinction]. Oslo: Pax Forlag. CAPMAS [Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics]. 2010. El-Ahram 10–12 August. Retrieved from: http://www.msrintranet.cap Cole, Jennifer and Lynn M. Thomas, eds. 2009. Love in Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ghannam, Farha. 2013. Live and Die like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press Hirsch, Jennifer S. 2007. “Love Makes a Family: Globalization, Companionate Marriage and the Modernization of Gender Inequality.” In Love and Globalization: Transformations of Intimacy in the Contemporary World, ed. Mark B. Padilla, Jennifer S. Hirsch, Miguel Munoz-Laboy, Richard G. Parker, and Robert Sember, 93–106. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Hirsch, Jennifer S. and Holly Wardlow, eds. 2006. Modern Loves: The Anthropology of Romantic Courtship and Companionate Marriage. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Inhorn, Marcia C. 2007. “Loving Your Infertile Muslim Spouse.” In Love and Globalization: Transformations of Intimacy in the Contemporary World, ed. Mark B. Padilla, Jennifer S. Hirsch, Miguel Muños-Laboy, Robert E. Sember, and Richard G. Parker, 139–60. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. ———. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. Jankowiak, William R. and Edward F. Fischer. 1992. “A Cross-Cultural Perspective on Romantic Love.” Ethnology 31(2): 149–55. Leila, Reem. 2010. “For Better or Worse.” El-Ahram Weekly Online, 10–12. August. Retrieved 31 August 2016 from: Archive/2010/1012/eg3.htm. Moore, Henrietta. 2011. Still Life: Hopes, Desires and Satisfactions. Cambridge: Polity. Naguib, Nefissa. 2010. “For the Love of God: Care-Giving in the Middle East.” Social Sciences and the Missions 23: 124–45. ———. 2015. Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food and Family in Contemporary Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press. Norbakk, Mari. 2014. Love and Responsibility: An Ethnography of Masculinities and Marriage in Urban Egypt. Master’s thesis. Bergen, Norway: University of Bergen. Padilla, Mark B., Jennifer S. Hirsch, Miguel Munoz-Laboy, Richard G. Parker, and Robert Sember, eds. 2007. Love and Globalization: Transforma-


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tions of Intimacy in the Contemporary World. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. Peterson, Mark Allen. 2010. “Agents of Hybridity: Class, Culture Brokers, and the Entrepreneurial Imagination in Cosmopolitan Cairo.” Research in Economic Anthropology 20: 225–56. Pollard, Lisa. 2009. “From Husbands and Housewives to Suckers and Whores: Marital-Political Anxieties in the ‘House of Egypt,’ 1919–48.” Gender and History 21: 647–69. Singerman, Diane. 2007. “The Economic Imperatives of Marriage: Emerging Practices and Identities among Youth in the Middle East.” Middle East Youth Initiative Working Paper 6. Washington, D.C.: Wolfensohn Center for Development at the Brookings Institution; Dubai: Dubai School of Government.

Chapter 3


Prologue During one of our conversations, Rohullah recounted the following recent event: Rohullah: My older brother Zair was coming back home from work that day and met one of our neighbor’s sons in front of their house gate. He started talking to the guy, asking him why they were being so difficult and disrespectful about this problem. [Their neighbor had recently added two stories to his house, from which the courtyard of Rohullah’s family’s house could be seen, compromising the privacy of Rohullah’s family’s female members.] Then, I don’t know exactly what happened or what they said to each other. I heard Zair screaming outside, and the other guy screaming back at him. You know how Zair is; he does not have much patience. When he thinks that he is being disrespected, he gets upset quickly. By the time I got to the street they were hitting each other. I called out to Iqbal [a younger brother] and my father, and when they arrived there were two or three other people from the other family outside. They had sticks with them, and when my father tried to separate Zair and the other guy, they intervened and hit my father on the head. When I saw my father being hit, I completely lost myself. I went back to my court-


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yard, picked up an ax, and went outside. I started swinging the ax, and I think I got someone in the arm. Zair and Iqbal had gotten ahold of sticks, too, and were fighting with the other guys. Soon after, other people from the neighborhood came to the scene and put themselves between us and the other family. So we stopped fighting. At least one of them ended up at the hospital, I believe. My father later went to the police and denounced what had happened, so that we would be on the safe side. We have yet to reach a solution to the problem of the wall and to the issue of the dukhmani [enmity] between families that started with this fight. Andrea: How do you feel about the fight? Rohullah: Well, that was good ghairat [the masculine virtue of defending one’s own family’s respectability]. I saw my father being hit; what else could I do? And also, these people, they are doing something really wrong. . . . I mean, they are not respecting the parda [privacy] of the women of our family. What else could we have done? Sooner or later we would have ended up fighting, one way or another. I think that it is good when I manage to be aggressive in a situation that really requires it. This is good ghairat. I am proud of my ghairat in situations like these. It makes me feel like a real Pashtun.

This incident took place in the middle of 2012 in a middle-class, Pashtun-majority neighborhood of Kabul, home to many rural Pashtuns who relocated to the city from the eastern provinces of Afghanistan (where I conducted my fieldwork research). Rohullah, a college-educated 29-year-old man, married with one daughter, is one of the close informants with whom I worked on a regular basis while in the field. Rohullah’s account offers a distillation of the main elements that make up the core of shared Pashtun ethics and moral values. Idioms of masculinity are dominant, premised on a conception of honor that revolves around strict control of the family’s women’s behavior and purity (potentially tainted even by the stranger’s gaze, as we can see in this account) and the willingness of the male members to redress any slight to the family’s respectability by recourse to violence (what Rohullah refers to here as ghairat). Rohullah’s words, the behavior that he and his male family members displayed, and the moral justification that he gives for the incident fall squarely within the cultural model of Pashtun society that we find firmly established in ethnographic literature (Ahmed 1976, 1980; Anderson 1975, 1978; Barth 1959; Edwards 1996, 2002; Lindholm 1981, 1982) and “common wisdom” (for example, see Rubin 2013a, 2013b). It would be misleading, however, to limit

Shaping a “Different” Masculinity


our investigation into the subjectivity of these Pashtun men to the face value of their actions and the cultural idioms from which they apparently derived. This chapter looks beyond both outward behavior and cultural constraints in order to acknowledge the inner dynamics and subjective states that lie behind an apparent conformity, as well as those that push the individual to break away from the norms.1 The main underlying epistemological thread in the chapter is that we must avoid conflating cultural idioms with each individual’s subjective take on them, that is, with the reworking that the individual makes of them in the privacy of his or her subjectivity (what Gananath Obeyesekere (1981) called the “subjectification of cultural symbols”). We should hold clearly in mind that outward, public behavior does not derive directly from cultural idioms and enculturation per se, but rather from the personal, private meaning that such idioms assume for each individual. Only upon investigating the subjectivity of the individual can we better (though, alas, never fully) comprehend the reasons and motives behind a certain public behavior or action. Knowledge of a related cultural norm or social constraint, while necessary, is never alone sufficient to attain this goal. In this regard, it is important to remind ourselves of what Edward Sapir (2002: 183) long ago wrote about this very issue: We have no right to assume that a given pattern or ritual necessarily implies a certain emotional significance or personality adjustment in its practitioners, without demonstration at the level of the individual. . . . You have to know the individual before you know what the baggage of his culture means to him.

And “what the baggage of his culture means to him” is what ultimately drives behavior. Social and cultural constraints alone cannot predict, much less explain, the actions one individual carries out: a psychological approach is also needed.2 This chapter portrays how this theoretical edifice plays out in reallife situations. The ethnographic material that I present and analyze provides evidence to show that, first, any pattern of behavior, though on the surface compliant with the requirements of a related cultural norm, may hide strong and deep inner personal conflicts that open the door to a potential and radical modification of one’s own behavior under similar conditions in future occurrences; and that, second, at any given time within a social context pervaded by strongly felt and strict cultural idioms it will always be possible, in the wake of such deep inner conflicts, to encounter individuals who


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defy those idioms and position themselves (whether consciously or unconsciously) as actors of social and cultural change. In this chapter, these actors are Pashtun men who chose to embody a different understanding of masculine appropriateness and adequacy, working (if imperceptibly) toward its public authentication and legitimization (see Deeb 2006 for the authentication of a cultural narrative).3 Through their narrative we realize that there exists a different side to a Pashtun man’s masculinity, which represents a crucial aspect of my informants’ subjectivity. A different approach to the performance of violence, and to the interpretation of intergender relations based on fairness, respect, and, ultimately, love, emerges strongly from the words of these men. I gathered the ethnographic material presented in this chapter during my doctoral fieldwork research, which I carried out in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, for eighteen months between 2009 and 2013. The excerpts that follow are part of the one-on-one, longterm series of interview sessions I had with a select group of male Pashtun informants, with whom I worked psychodynamically. The interviews were held either in the Pashto language (Baryalay), or in English (Rohullah) or a mix of the two (Rahmat), according to the wishes and background of each of the interviewees.

Rohullah: Violence as a Social Lifeboat Rohullah was born in Kabul and relocated during his childhood to the family’s rural village in a province south of Kabul. The civil war that raged in the country from 1992 until 1996 was taking its highest toll among Kabul’s civilian population, and Rohullah’s father decided to leave the city. In the village the young Rohullah found a behavioral environment (Hallowell 1955) that was starkly at odds with that of Kabul, where he had been raised. Violence, spilling out from the battlefield into a civilian context, figured much more prominently in everyday social relations and did not spare the school that Rohullah was attending. A shy and quiet child, he suffered years of bullying and abuse at the hands of his classmates, until he made the conscious decision to fight back. Yet this decision was taken neither lightly nor without deep inner conflicts. About his predicament in the village, he remembered: Rohullah: I was having a hard life outside the house, it was a nightmare . . . and I wanted it to stop. I chose to learn how to be more

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aggressive and assertive. I started following more closely what my elders and the stronger men in the village were doing, how they were behaving. I started attending the marakas and the jirgas in the village [councils of elders to discuss and solve intracommunity conflicts], so that I could see how they were asserting themselves and fighting for their rights. I also started to respond to the other kids’ provocations and to fight back. I fought more often over time. Andrea: How did this new behavior of yours make you feel? How did you feel about fighting? Rohullah: I did not like it. I felt there was something wrong about it, and I remember that when I got home after a lanja [brawl] I felt khapa [unhappy]. But I had to do it. It was about survival. I had to survive in that world, I could not just let things go like they had gone until that time. I had to survive a bad situation. I used to tell myself that it was not my fault; I had to do it.

Rohullah was in the end successful in shaping a new, complementary subjectivity able to grant him the social (and perhaps physical) survival that was at risk for him in the village. This development serves him well still today, when he wants to again identify with those same ethical and moral values that crippled his first years in the village and that now allow him to respond in a culturally appropriate way to the challenges that a social life in a Pashtun environment may have in store (as indicated by the incident in Kabul reported above) and to fully, even proudly, embody what a “real Pashtun” should be like. Yet still today, regarding his relationship with the village and its environment, Rohullah confesses: I hate it when I have to go to the village. I try to go as little as possible, and when I go, I stay for just a few days. Everybody is edgy there; everybody is always anxious, always ready for something bad to happen. They are aggressive, pushy. It makes me uncomfortable. When I go there, I change; I become a different person. I start doing things like they do them. I start to talk like them, to act like them. I also become more aggressive. I have to adjust to how they do things, because otherwise they would consider me a weak person; they would make fun of me. I know the rules; I know how to behave; I adjust. Every time I get in the car to go back to Kabul from the village, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

It would be erroneous to view Rohullah’s ambivalence toward violence as an exception. My research with Pashtun men unveils numerous cases of such contradictions and inner conflicts in the face of


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otherwise conforming outward behavior. In fact, it would be equally erroneous to presume and take for granted that those village elders and strongmen (whom Rohullah says he followed and emulated in order to become conversant in a cultural and behavioral environment in which he was ignorant) were uncritically and seamlessly identifying with the expectations their peers had of them, and more generally with the cultural idioms of their milieu. In this discrepancy between outward behaviors and the private meanings that lie behind them (often publicly unspoken) rests the fault line that gives rise over time to cultural and social change.4 Rohullah is now a vector for social change within his own community in the village. In this context, to which he has successfully adjusted but from which today he decides consciously to remove himself, he operates as the bearer of a legitimate, yet different, masculinity. He now works for a private Afghan company that contracts social research and survey studies in his rural province, through which he tries to “awake the political consciousness of the youth.” About his new impact on the village milieu he says: People know me, remember me; they remember what kind of person I was when I lived in the village. They respect me; they listen to what I say. I still have a group of friends and andiwalaan [supporters] in the village. Now I use my nufuz [influence] for mufid [constructive] purposes now. . . . It makes me feel good.

The Dynamic Fault Line of Gender Relations Indeed, the fault line on which social and cultural change rests is present, and even more active, in many other aspects of Pashtun men’s life. One of these aspects is gender relations. As we have gauged from the fight that Rohullah and his relatives had over additions to their neighbors’ house, the relationship between genders within the Pashtun milieu is fraught with anxiety, obligation, and resentment. As if in a neatly designed Ortnerian paradigm (Ortner 1996 : 21–42), in a Pashtun environment men seem to be devoted to the public sphere, and women to the private one. The parda that Rohullah mentioned during our conversation means in practice that women have direct relations only with their closely blood-related kin (their mahram), those whom they cannot marry due to incest taboos. This rule is strictly upheld. Women are not allowed outside their own house unless accompanied by a male relative or, less frequently,

Shaping a “Different” Masculinity


by another woman or a small child. Even so, women are allowed to go out mostly for family visits, ritual ceremonies, and emergencies. It is a male member of the family who will go to the bazaar to get groceries, for example, despite the fact that women do all the cooking in the household. Parda is, however, interpreted slightly differently in relation to the overall environment where one lives and operates, though whenever possible an effort is made to keep the spirit of the parda rules as close as possible to the (locally understood) ideal. For example, my informants from Nangarhar province confessed to me that even their own closest friends never saw or interacted with their wives. On the other hand, however, the dramatic deprivations that almost four decades of war have inflicted on many families, coupled with the more recent, yet powerful influx of Western gender ideologies, now make it possible for some women in a city like Jalalabad to find a job in a foreign-funded nongovernmental organization (NGO), thus defying the traditional rules of parda (Chiovenda 2012). Parda does not spare the foreign ethnographer, either. During my fieldwork research between 2009 and 2013, I was allowed to dine only twice with one of my friends together with his wife (or wives). Against this background, it must be said that the subjective side of marital relationships among Pashtuns is still poorly understood in the ethnographic literature. The main authors who worked in the past among Afghan or Pakistani Pashtuns (Boesen 1980; Grima 1992; Lindholm 1981, 1982; Tapper 1991) chose not to explore the intimate and personal aspects of the relationship between husband and wife, nor the interstices that lie within the apparent coherence of a cultural analysis often couched in the ethnographic present. The subjectivity of men, in particular, is considered matter-offactly as deriving entirely from the cultural idioms dominant in the individual’s milieu. Not enough effort, I believe, was made to disentangle social expectations from private desires and wishes. I am not referring here to a rigid search for the ontogeny of emotions, that is, their construction either in the sociocultural realm or in the intrapsychic one. Such a reductionist distinction is of no use (and confounding) for an understanding of individuals’ psychological and emotional dynamics. What I am referring to is the experiential take on the sociocultural constraints that society presses onto each one of its members, as we have started to recognize in Rohullah’s inner conflicts.


Andrea Chiovenda

Rahmat: The Unseen Side of the “Perfect Pashtun” During my fieldwork I had the opportunity to unearth some of these experiential dissonances, both in terms of deviant behavior in the face of a hegemonic cultural discourse and in terms of a partially unconscious contradiction in the narratives that informants used to describe their inner dynamics. A good example of the latter case was given by Rahmat, a man in his late thirties from a rural village in Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan. After a troubled upbringing between relocations to Pakistan because of the Afghan civil war (1992–1996) and a return to his village to work in the illicit economy of opium harvesting and heroin processing, Rahmat finally settled down as a prominent figure in his community. There, he was widely recognized and praised by his peers as a perfect example of masculine Pashtun virtues (including a wise use of violence as an expression of one’s ghairat). Despite having received formal education only until the eighth grade (and in a discontinuous manner at that), Rahmat was one of my most sharp-minded and insightful friends. It thus came somewhat as a surprise to me (and so sparked my argumentative response) when, in one of our very first conversations, he told me: Rahmat: I don’t know . . . to me women are just weak, both physically and mentally. . . . I mean, it’s obvious, you can see it every day. They cannot perform all the duties and cannot sustain all the stresses that men have to bear. . . . That’s why they have to stay in the house. . . . What would they do without men outside? They would be unable to function without men. . . . Andrea: But what about all those women who do men’s jobs in the West? If women were really so much weaker, how could they do all those things they do in the West and be successful? There are women in the government, in the schools, in the military, in private companies. . . . And what about giving birth? Don’t you think that giving birth is a very stressful and difficult thing? Rahmat: I think in the West there is too much freedom. . . . Everybody can do whatever they want; there are no rules, no order. . . . Look what happened with AIDS: everybody is free to have sex with anybody else; there are no moral rules, and big problems like AIDS, divorce, and other things become huge problems. . . . I think it’s a wrong way to live.

In his claim that women are weak, both psychologically and physically, Rahmat was not straying away from the culturally shared dis-

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course about women usually attributed to Pashtun men, which also supposedly legitimizes their claim to control over women’s behavior and public life. Taken at face value, this exchange would not surprise anyone conversant in previous ethnographic works about Pashtuns. In later conversations, however, Rahmat let emerge a slightly different aspect of his views on women: Rahmat: A short time before going back to Afghanistan with the rest of the family, my father told me that I had to get married. I think he was getting worried about the things that I was doing in Afghanistan. I was still in Sama Khel at that time, working on opium with my cousin. I did not want to get married; I was not thinking about it. My father and my uncle told me that I should marry this cousin of mine, that they had already decided. I did not know this girl. She was living in Pakistan, close to my family, but I had never seen her. I did not know her. I told them that I did not want to do it. My father insisted that he had already promised my uncle that I would marry his daughter and that it would be a great dishonor and shame if I did not do so. He said that he needed to have a good relationship with this uncle of mine. . . . He was not his own brother; he was an uncle of his really. . . . Andrea: So, you accepted what your father told you. . . ? Rahmat: Well, actually, no. I don’t know if I would have done it if my mother had not been so sad. . . . Andrea: What do you mean? Rahmat: Yes, it was not my father who convinced me; it was my mother. . . . It was my mother’s words that convinced me that I should do as my father was telling me to do. My mother’s words were stronger than my father’s waak [authority]. She was extremely sad, and she was always crying and lamenting to me that I would destroy the reputation of the family by not marrying the girl. . . . She was very sad. . . . I could not see my mother like that, so I said to my father that I would do it. Before I said yes, he also tried to convince me by saying that after marrying this girl, he would give me permission to sell a piece of our land to pay for a second marriage with a girl I like. . . . He said that’s how it went for him, and he did not regret it.

This exchange contains several pieces of intriguing information. It would be convenient to see here further confirmation of the disparaging opinion that supposedly Pashtun men have about women: it was Rahmat’s mother’s “weakness” (her tears and sadness) that coerced him into a marriage he did not fancy. In reality, what I think emerges from his words is something radically different. Not only


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is Rahmat’s mother’s weak stance taken seriously and respectfully by him, but her emotional reaction, far from being dismissed and overruled as merely weakness becomes in fact so potent as to induce him to agree to a marriage into which his father’s formally “powerful” words could not force him. Rahmat did not brand his mother as “weak.” Instead, he (unconsciously, perhaps) acknowledged the authority that his mother held over him and implicitly also the legitimacy of the way in which she expressed her authority. In spite of the emotional way in which his mother conveyed her wishes to him, Rahmat did not see this as evidence of any weakness in her. Later in the same conversation, I pressed Rahmat to elaborate on whether he would follow his father’s advice and look for a love marriage in the future: Andrea: Is that what you are going to do [marry a second wife]? Rahmat: No, no second wife; it’s too many problems. . . . I don’t care; I am fine with my life like it is now. My wife and I have a good relationship. You know, that does not happen very often. . . . I mean, it is common for a husband and a wife to have a bad relationship when the marriage is arranged. . . . They will have hard feelings against each other; they will try to get revenge on the other. . . . Andrea: Wait, why do you say revenge [badal]? Rahmat: Yes, revenge, because both are angry; both are upset because they have to stay with a person they don’t like and cannot have their own life; they could not choose a person that they liked. . . . Sometimes, you know, people have somebody they would like to marry, but they can’t. . . . So husband and wife fight all the time. They are always angry, and the sweetest time of their lives is wasted this way. Then you see that they calm down when they get old, and they stop fighting because they are too tired to keep fighting . . . but at that point it’s too late; their young years are gone, and they become old people. . . . Andrea: This is not happening with your marriage? Rahmat: No, I told you, my wife and I have a good relationship. I don’t want any revenge on my wife. I don’t feel that way. I try to be kind and respectful with people that do not deserve to be treated with violence. . . . My wife’s feeling are important to me; I do not want to hurt them. . . . I mean, how could you hurt someone who loves your children more than you do?

The tenderness and warmth exuding from the last sentence of this exchange is among the most striking expressions of caring I recorded during my whole fieldwork. Again, this passage is richly

Shaping a “Different” Masculinity


multilayered. There is an implicit, strong acknowledgment of equality between Pashtun husbands and wives: both legitimately suffer from a marriage arrangement that often penalizes both. The wife’s suffering is given just as much recognition by Rahmat as the husband’s. The resentful reactions in both are viewed as equally justified and regrettable but still as an unescapable result of a social constraint (the arranged marriage), which he deems unjust to both. Even the typically Pashtun cultural trope of revenge (badal), which represents the apex of a man’s ghairat (i.e., manly attributes), is surprisingly extended to the realm of wives in the middle of a psychologically punishing marital situation.5 Despite his previous disparaging statements about the inferiority of women because of weakness and social awkwardness, a different picture of Rahmat’s subjectivity starts to take shape here. The latter is reinforced by his comments about his own wife. This “perfect” specimen of Pashtun nar (a manly man), who is not new to violence and does not shy away from using it against his peers when needed (as I personally witnessed), speaks in the most caring and respectful way of his wife, whose feelings he does not want to hurt. The private, deeply felt affects of this man slowly find their way through the barrier of an otherwise culturally mandated narrative he articulated at first (the inferiority and weakness of women). His words even acquire a poetic accent, when he speaks of the “sweetest time of their lives” that gets wasted away and the impossibility of hurting someone who “loves your children more than you do.” Though I never had the chance to experience firsthand what the relationship between Rahmat and his wife was really like (because of the parda rules discussed above), after getting to know him quite well in his own public life in the village and in Jalalabad, I have no reason to believe that Rahmat did not in fact shape his marital relations according to the attitude that he showed me in these later conversations. It is interesting to note, coincidentally, that even if we want to consider the fact that Rahmat sees his relation with his wife as a sort of exception (while most couples, he says, in fact are bitter to each other and fight a lot among themselves), the underlying assumption here seems to be that the common scenario is not that of a wholly dominant husband beating up his wife because of sheer resentment toward her (or worse, a crude sense of superiority). Rather it is a sort of egalitarian struggle fueled by psychological despair and unfulfilled private desires in both spouses, in which both women and men figure as legitimately (and agentic) aggrieved parties. From a


Andrea Chiovenda

deeper analysis of Rahmat’s words, then, emerges a picture that is clearly at odds with the shared cultural idioms about women and femininity: scratching the surface of the rhetoric of men’s dominant posture in society, we find that Rahmat does recognize in women a strength and a psychological agency that would seem to be denied in a cursory approach to his narrative. I argue that the fault line that separates the reproduction of knowledge and practice from the creation of social and cultural change lies in the interstices produced by ambiguities such as the ones Rahmat presents us. He is a role model within his community, a figure whom younger men look up to in their quest to embody a culturally appropriate Pashtun man. The example he sets of marital, intergender relations will necessarily carry ramifications for the behavior that others will have in the same sphere, particularly in the assumption (as yet unsubstantiated) that he might be an exception among his peers.

Baryalay: Caught In Between If Rahmat is the prototypical “good Pashtun man,” who seems to positively identify with the cultural idioms of his milieu, my friend Baryalay represents a Pashtun man who holds grievances against the same cultural milieu. In this sense, his case becomes interesting precisely because he does not buy into the cultural idioms that surround him as effortlessly as Rahmat (apparently) does. Baryalay is a 31-year-old man from a rural district south of Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, in southeast Afghanistan. When I left Afghanistan definitively in June 2013, the area was under the control of antigovernment and anti-NATO force insurgents, and has remained so ever since. Baryalay has a degree in agronomy from Khost University in Afghanistan, and when we worked together he held a position in an agricultural foreign NGO. He is now jobless. He hails from a family of pachas, or sayyids, the supposed descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, which for this reason enjoys a special social status vis-à-vis non-pacha Pashtuns. He has a five-year-old daughter with a pacha Pashtun illiterate woman slightly younger than him, whom he married through an arranged marriage. While in theory of Arab descent, the pacha social group is today largely seen by Pashtuns as ethnically and legitimately Pashtun. Thus they are expected to uphold those shared customary norms and cultural values that Pashtuns (though

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in different ways according to regional and local specificities) consider the basic constitutive blocks of their ethnic identity and sense of belonging. This very requirement presents a challenge for Baryalay. He is torn between his self-representation as a good Pashtun man and that of a good pacha man (for the concept of self-representation see Sandler and Rosenblatt 1962). The two attributions have several points of friction between them. Being a pacha for Baryalay means putting the tenets and principles derived from the Qur’an ahead of any other moral compass, customary or otherwise. Being a Pashtun for Baryalay entails upholding a series of norms and rules for appropriate public behavior that at times, even often, are in direct contrast with Qur’anic principles. This holds true, for example, for issues such as the use of bridewealth in marriage, as well as for cultural aspects strictly related to masculinity, such as the use of violence, the abuse of the institution of revenge, and the relations between genders. Baryalay sees himself as a good Pashtun, though one who is at odds with the way his peers are also good Pashtuns in their own minds. He strives to be as much an adequate Pashtun man as a pious pacha man. The cultural contradictions entailed by this attempt constitute the source of a deep psychological malaise and disorientation. All are compounded by the constant anxiety (and fear) of living in a milieu deeply affected by a rising militant insurgency. Baryalay sadly and bitterly expressed often his resentment at the kind of life his covillagers seemed almost to enjoy living, deeply marked as it was by interpersonal enmity, jealousy, and the increasingly normalized presence of violence. While refraining from participating in these dynamics, he suffers the consequences (both socially and psychologically) of refusing to conform to the general trend. Baryalay is a soft-spoken, gentle, and polite man, whose interactions with his peers always take place with politeness, respectfulness, and religious piety. His existential plight, when he talks about his life in the village, gets conveyed with even stronger tension because of his personal characteristics. One of the realms in which Baryalay perceives more painfully the gap between himself and his fellow villagers (though not all of them, by any means, as he often underlined), is his personal relationship with his own wife. I was unable to meet his wife (or even set foot in his village, for that matter, due to the security situation), but I had countless opportunities to witness telephone calls between them while we were together. By Pashtun standards, it was surpris-


Andrea Chiovenda

ing that I was allowed to be present for the calls at all, which in and of itself was a sign of both trust in me and an unusual relationship with his wife. Baryalay and his wife spoke often to each other. On some occasions, during a one- or two-hour lapse of time they would talk three or four times. Sometimes his wife would call only to know whether he was doing well. We used to meet in Jalalabad, where Baryalay worked, while he had to go back to the village every night after work. The road between the city and his village was extremely dangerous, and his position as an employee of a foreign-funded NGO made him a valuable target. Illegal checkpoints, where insurgents would check car passengers’ identification cards, were common, and it was not unheard of that someone who carried the “wrong” card or other pieces of “suspicious” documentation got pulled out of the car and either kidnapped or killed on the spot. Baryalay never carried his NGO identification card with him or any paperwork from his office but only his state-issued card. Baryalay’s wife’s anxiety was palpable on the phone when she called to hear his voice and seek reassurance that he had not incurred the same fate. Baryalay understood and tried to assuage his wife’s anxiety, even when he might have just told me that he passed by the wreckage of a gas tanker up in flames on the road to Jalalabad after a rocket attack by insurgent militias. His tone was soft and calming, and he never lost his temper with her on the phone. This is how Baryalay describes his marriage: Baryalay: My wife and I have been lucky, because we like each other, we get along together well. . . . Many others are not so lucky. . . . Relations between our families are good. She can go back to her parents’ house any time she wants. [Many Pashtun women are not permitted to visit their families, depending on the husband’s and his family’s attitudes toward his wife and her family.] We make decisions together in the house. I listen to what she says, and she listens to me, and then we make a decision together. Andrea: Do you think she is OK in your family’s village? [In Pashtun society, pacha families are patrilocal.] Baryalay: Well, I think she is OK; she adjusts well. . . . I mean, we are pachaiaan, and she is as well, and she understands that pachaiaan do things a little bit differently from other Pashtuns. I explained this to you. . . . She understands the importance of our traditions. Andrea: What do you mean?

Shaping a “Different” Masculinity

Baryalay: Well, you see, for pachaiaan it is customary [rawaji] to keep a stricter parda [female segregation] than other Pashtuns. . . . Pacha women do not run errands in the village. They stay in the house, go out less often than other women do . . . but when they go out, they do not wear a burqa inside the village, only a hijab [a head scarf]. Other women moving inside the village usually wear a burqa. . . . Andrea: Does she ever talk to you about her feelings, what she feels about living in the village? Baryalay: Yes, sometimes; when we are alone, she complains a little about our life. She says that she is tired of all the risks, the problems, that she would like to leave Afghanistan, go somewhere she could be more free [khoshi]. Andrea: Did she ever go anywhere else, like Peshawar or Kabul? Baryalay: No, she only lived in her village and my village. Andrea: So, how does she know that other places are more free, that she would feel better living somewhere else? Baryalay: Well, several members of her family left Afghanistan a long time ago, and now they live in Australia, and I think also Canada. They call her on the phone from time to time, and every once in a while they come back to Afghanistan to visit. So she talks to them a lot; they tell her about their lives, what they do, their jobs. . . . She listens as if she was listening to a tale [nukkal]. She also tells them about her own life; they discuss it. I guess that she realizes the difference . . . so she dreams of going away from here. Andrea: So your wife is not exactly happy. Baryalay: Well, she adjusts well to our situation, but she would like to live differently, I guess. Andrea: How does this make you feel? How do you feel about your wife being unhappy [khapa] in Afghanistan? Baryalay: I feel bad for her. . . . I understand why she does not like it here; I too wish we could live somewhere else. . . . I wish I could do something for her . . . but what could I do? It’s not my fault if we cannot leave, right? I have a job, but that’s not enough to give us the money to leave . . . and then I have responsibilities with my family. Andrea: But imagine you could leave, go to Canada, imagine, right [fars kra, ka na]? You know that in the West certain rules of behavior [barkhord] are different than in Afghanistan, no? For instance, women can leave the house as they please, and they often can find themselves a job. What would you do if your wife told you that she wanted to live like that?



Andrea Chiovenda

Baryalay: No, I know that in the West things are different. . . . I have no problems with my wife going out of the house, and even finding a job. . . . The issue would be with my family back in Afghanistan. If they knew that my wife was working out of the house, among strange men, without me to check on her, they would make problems for us. They would give us peghor [the act of vociferously chastising someone for contravening moral norms]. . . . That would make me and my family dishonorable [beghairata].

By claiming that he and his wife make decisions together, mutually, Baryalay is not just paying lip service here to the narrative that the Western researcher supposedly wants to hear. It is what I have witnessed during the phone conversations he had often with his wife. Beyond making sure that he was still alive, as I mentioned above, she also called to discuss household issues, from the course of action to take when their daughter fell ill to the plan to renovate the furniture in one of the rooms of their house. Never have I heard Baryalay treat his wife in a condescending way or try to cut short a conversation by imposing his view on the issue at hand. Their negotiations, which could go back and forth for a while, sounded always like they were between equal partners. This has not always been the case with other friends of mine, whose interaction by phone with their wives I could also at times witness. In these cases, more often than not conversations were brief, answers curt, and the general tone less amicable. One interesting aspect of Baryalay’s comments about his marriage is the feeling of longing for a different life for his wife. Often Baryalay confessed to dreaming about escaping their village and living differently. In this passage, however, his concerns are directed specifically to his wife’s feelings. Not only does he empathize with the sense of despair that his wife feels in living within the restricted boundaries of village life, but he considers her despair legitimate, as it derives from a plethora of social arrangements that he implicitly deems unfair to his wife and to Pashtun women in general. The freedom for which his wife longs is something that all Pashtun women should be able to attain, in his view. Baryalay talked about her freedom in even clearer terms in a different conversation we had, while discussing an incident of adultery in a neighboring village: Baryalay: You see, it is not too difficult to have an illicit sexual affair in the countryside. . . . You can meet in many places: in the fields, in a tractor along a small road. . . . People do it, but it’s wrong. I don’t like it.

Shaping a “Different” Masculinity


Andrea: Well, many of my [male] friends have confessed to having extramarital relationships. . . . It seems a pretty common thing. Baryalay: Yes, actually for men it is . . . but it’s really wrong. . . . I made a promise to my wife, and I will keep it. It is important to me, and it is against Islam to do otherwise. Andrea: So, you know that you will never cheat on your wife? Baryalay: No, I don’t want to cheat on my wife, no. . . . Only if I have to stay away from her for a very long time . . . say two years, without ever seeing her, then I think that I would do it, because certain natural things cannot be kept down for too long. Andrea: I understand . . . however, even in that case, your wife, being at home with someone from your family, will be controlled and will not be able to satisfy her own natural impulses. Baryalay: Yes, I know, you are right, it is not fair. . . . Women here live like in a prison; they cannot escape easily . . . but they too have their own natural impulses.

Women live in a prison, Baryalay says, and this is not fair. He manages to perform that work at mentalization (in psychoanalytic terms, see Fonagy and Target 1996, 1998) and empathy that allows him to break free from the habitus (the mechanism for the reproduction of cultural idioms and practices that some excessively rigid interpretations of Bourdieu’s practice theory in contemporary anthropological theory still view as an almost omnipotent dynamic within society; for example, see Mahmood 2005). For a criticism of the phenomenon in previous times, see Ortner 1984). Baryalay manages to put himself in the shoes of his wife, to fully step outside the persona that his social environment expects him to embody. In this sense, he is personifying cultural and social change. Furthermore, far from replicating the trite stereotypical image of the dangerous and seducing woman whose “wild” sensuality and sexuality needs to be kept under check and control (see Tapper 1991 on this), Baryalay accords full citizenship to the bodily and psychological need for sexual satisfaction that women harbor. Finally, in a social context in which the husband’s extramarital relations are often shrugged off as “boys will be boys” (while the wife’s, in theory, deserve capital punishment because of the shame they bring on the whole family), Baryalay’s position on faithfulness in marriage is also worth mentioning. Granted, he stops short of accepting that his wife might be justified in having extramarital relationships if he stayed away from home for years, as he thinks he himself would be, but he clearly feels the unfair double standard entailed by his very words.


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Conclusion Marcia Inhorn (2012) has beautifully uncovered unsuspected expressions of masculinity among her Arab (mostly) Shi’a informants, which she has termed “emergent.” She underlines her informants’ move away from the traditional strictures imposed on how “to be good at being a man” (Herzfeld 1985: 16) by patriarchal patterns of gender relations in Middle Eastern Arab settings. I paraphrase Inhorn’s concept and extend it with a rhetorical question: what if the dynamics of masculinity in this chapter were not truly emergent in this current period of Afghan history (subject as it is to strong socioeconomic pressures and disruption), but rather emergent only from the standpoint of a previous scholarship that might have failed to acknowledge their existence all along? Despite the undeniable power that strict cultural norms for appropriate masculine comportment exert on Pashtun men in Afghanistan (and despite the fame that such norms have acquired in the public imaginary, both academic and popular), we see that it is fallacious to presume and take for granted that these men’s behavior in daily life will be simply coterminous with the cultural idioms in which they are immersed. It is even more erroneous to attribute a pattern of emotions and affects coherent with the related cultural idioms even in the case that the outward behavior should be de facto in line with such idioms. We have discovered a side of my informants’ subjectivity (a loving, caring, compassionate side, committed to fatherhood and “husbandhood”) that mostly escapes the extant ethnographic literature and certainly the “common wisdom” about Pashtuns. There is much more to Pashtun men than the cultural norms and social arrangements that characterize their society. While this might sound like a truism, it must be firmly underscored because its profound, real-life implications often fall through the cracks of standard analyses. It is true that my informants at times consider themselves to be exceptions in the general trend of masculine behavior among Pashtuns. This might seem to detract from the relevance of their life stories and profiles to the overall Pashtun social context. Yet I do not believe this to be the case. For one, the in-depth, intimate ethnographic relationship that I had with many of their peers showed me that the inner conflicts and deviant behaviors that these men harbor and display may be more common than some of my informants believe. This, I think, is because it is not possible to enter the familial privacy of anybody other than one’s own blood relatives (the mah-

Shaping a “Different” Masculinity


ram). Even the closest friends are not allowed to meet each other’s wives. Yet men may open up somewhat within their innermost circle of friends and relatives about their take on, say, gender relations or marital dynamics. As to the rest of their acquaintances and peers, these men are likely only aware of the others’ outward, public behavior, which, as this chapter shows, may conform to the norms on the surface and yet conceal conflicting and contradictory aspects, often unspoken and unseen. Thus the small, but incremental contribution that these men make every day to social and cultural change are perceived and received possibly by a limited number of close relatives or friends. Still, these contributions remain significant and their reverberations far-reaching.

Andrea Chiovenda is a post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and an affiliated faculty member of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College, Boston. An anthropologist by training, Chiovenda carried out fieldwork research among Afghanistan with Pashtun men from 2009 to 2013. His ethnographic work makes use of a clinical approach to investigate the (conscious and unconscious) psychological dynamics of his informants, the way cultural idioms impact them, and the avenues they choose to navigate them in their social lives. He is currently working with Afghan refugees in Greece.

Notes 1. Without wishing here to advance any definition of “subjectivity” per se, I will say that I agree (as it soon becomes clear) with the interpersonal and intersubjective approach to experience and subjectivity that Arthur Kleinman and Erin Fitz-Henry have expressed recently (Kleinman and Fitz-Henry 2007). They write: “We are born into the flow of palpable experience, where our senses are first patterned by the symbols and social interactions of our social worlds. But our emergent subjectivities also return to those symbols and interactions, reconfiguring, repatterning and sometimes even completely reinterpreting them. Experience, then, has as much to do with collective realities as it does with individual translations and transformations of those realities” (ibid., 53, emphasis added). It is also useful to remember that the American psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan, in the 1920s and 1930s, had made a breakthrough into the empirical study of subjectivity with his interpersonal theory of the formation of the self and



3. 4.


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its developments. Only in the late 1960s and 1970s were Sullivan’s intuitions finally picked up by clinical and academic circles. The same epistemological approach has been reaffirmed more recently, for example by Robert LeVine (1982 [1973]), Douglas Hollan (1992, 2000), and, in terms strictly related to masculinity, Matthew Guttmann (2007 [1996]). Yet a constructivist approach that strongly stresses cultural idioms in the construction of the individual’s subjectivity and behavior is still powerful in anthropological theory, as indicated by authors like Michelle Rosaldo (1980) and Catherine Lutz (1988) alongside a new interpretation of Judith Butler’s views on performativity as the source for the creation of a culturally appropriate subjectivity (for example in Mahmood 2005). I agree with Judith Butler (1988) that there is never full duplication in repetition. My use of the term “fault line” here is not coincidental. In the past, David Edwards (1996, 2002) used the same concept to highlight the contradictory presence, within Afghan culture, of different moral planes, which are often at odds with each other. Edwards posited that the friction and, ultimately, the irreconcilability between these planes were a major component in the outbreak and development of a state of conflict and war that has lasted to this day since 1978. I use this metaphor to generate change, to which I attribute a “neutral” connotation. I leave aside whether positive or negative change is a judgment of merit. I limit myself to acknowledge the presence of, and describe, a psychological and social mechanism that, in my opinion, is among the major vectors for cultural transformation in a specific social environment. Benedicte Grima (1992) explains that badal exists in women’s practices and discourse, but it represents the reciprocation of visits that women pay to each other for joyous or sorrowful events (e.g., births and deaths).

References Ahmed, Akbar. 1976. Millennium and Charisma among Pathans: A Critical Essay in Social Anthropology. London: Routledge. ———. 1980. Pukhtun Economy and Society: Traditional Structure and Economic Development in a Tribal Society. London: Routledge. Anderson, Jon. 1975. “Tribe and Community among Ghilzai Pashtun.” Anthropos 70: 575–601. ———. 1978. “There Are No Khans Anymore: Economic Development and Social Change in Tribal Afghanistan.” Middle East Journal 32: 167–83. Barth, Fredrik. 1959. Political Leadership among Swat Pathans. London: Athlone. Boesen, Inger. 1980. “Women, Honor and Love: Some Aspects of the Pashtun Women’s Life in Eastern Afghanistan.” Folk 21–22: 229–40.

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Butler, Judith. 1988. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theater Journal 40: 519–31. Chiovenda, Melissa Kerr. 2012. “Agency through Ambiguity: Women NGO Workers in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.” Master’s thesis, University of Connecticut. Deeb, Lara. 2006. An Enchanted Modern: Gender and Public Piety in Shi’i Lebanon. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Edwards, David. 1996. Heroes of the Age: Moral Fault Lines on the Afghan Frontier. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 2002. Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad. Berkeley: University of California Press. Fonagy, Peter and Mary Target. 1996. “Playing with Reality, I: Theory of Mind and the Normal Development of Psychic Reality.” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 77: 217–33. ———. 1998. “Mentalization and the Changing Aims of Child Psychoanalysis.” Psychoanalytic Dialogues 8: 87–114. Grima, Benedicte. 1992. The Performance of Emotion among Paxtun Women: “The Misfortunes Which Have Befallen Me.” Austin: University of Texas Press. Guttmann, Matthew. 2007 (1996). The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City. Berkeley: University of California Press. Hallowell, Irving. 1955. Culture and Experience. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Herzfeld, Michael. 1985. The Poetics of Manhood: Contest and Identity in a Cretan Mountain Village. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Hollan, Douglas. 1992. “Cross-Cultural Differences in the Self.” Journal of Anthropological Research 48: 283–300. ———. 2000. “Constructivist Models of Mind, Contemporary Psychoanalysis, and the Development of Culture Theory.” American Anthropologist 102: 538–50. Inhorn, Marcia C. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Kleinman, Arthur and Erin Fitz-Henry. 2007. “The Experiential Basis of Subjectivity: How Individuals Change in the Context of Societal Transformation.” In Subjectivity: Ethnographical Investigations, ed. João Biehl, Byron Good, and Arthur Kleinman, 52–65. Berkeley: University of California Press. LeVine, Robert. 1982 (1973). Culture, Behavior, and Personality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Lindholm, Charles. 1981. “The Structure of Violence among Swat Pukhtun.” Ethnology 20: 147–156. ———. 1982. Generosity and Jealousy: The Swat Pukhtun of Northern Pakistan. New York: Columbia University Press. Lutz, Catherine. 1988. Unnatural Emotions: Everyday Sentiments on a Micronesian Atoll and Their Challenge to Western Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


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Mahmood, Saba. 2005. Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Obeyesekere, Gananath. 1981. Medusa’s Hair: An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Ortner, Sherry. 1984. “Theory in Anthropology since the Sixties.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 26: 126–66. ———. 1996. “Is Female to Male as Is Nature to Culture?” In Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics or Culture, ed. Sherry Ortner, 21–42. Boston: Beacon. Rosaldo, Michelle. 1980. Knowledge and Passion: Ilongot Notions of Self and Social Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rubin, Alissa. 2013a. “Painful Payment for Afghan Debt: Daughter, 6.” New York Times, 1 April. Retrieved 23 March 2016 from: http://www.nytimes .com/2013/04/01/world/asia/afghan-debts-painful-payment-a-daught er-6.html. ———. 2013b. “Scars Are an ‘Honor’ Victim’s Sole Testimony.” New York Times, 20 January. Retrieved 23 March 2016 from: http://www.nytimes .com/2013/01/20/world/asia/memory-gone-scars-are-an-honor-victi ms-sole-testimony.html. Sandler, Joseph and Bernard Rosenblatt. 1962. “The Concept of the Representational World.” The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 17: 128–45. Sapir, Edward. 2002. The Psychology of Culture: A Course of Lectures. New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Tapper, Nancy. 1991. Bartered Brides: Politics, Gender and Marriage in Afghan Tribal Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter 4



lthough gender has long been a topic of interest in studies of Southeast Asia, only recently has research begun to study men, specifically. As Michele Ford and Lenore Lyons (2012) point out in the introduction to their volume on men and masculinities in Southeast Asia, if men appeared in this earlier work, it was most often in the context of women’s interactions with fathers, husbands, and officials.1 In the case of Indonesia, a growing body of important and exciting research has emerged in recent years that focuses on nonnormative or subordinated masculinities—that is, homosexuality and transgenderism (Blackwood 2010; Boellstorff 2005, 2007; Peletz 2009).2 Other research has taken up male images in Indonesian films and the media, highlighting hypermasculinist models associated with violence (both real and symbolic) and linked to Indonesia’s recent unsettled history as well as to the rise of more conservative forms of Islam (Clark 2004a, 2004b, 2010; Myrttinen 2012; Wilson 2012). According to Ford and Lyons (2012), however, a gap remains in the study of heteronormative masculinities. They point in particular to the absence of in-depth analyses of the interaction between he-


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gemonic and nonhegemonic models of manhood in Southeast Asian contexts and the ways in which the performance of heterosexuality is linked to dominant constructions of masculinity (Ford and Lyons 2012: 2).3 This chapter begins to address that gap by exploring both normative (hegemonic) and alternate models of Indonesian masculinity among contemporary Javanese against the backdrop of rapid social and political change and the resurgence of interest in more normative forms of Islam. R. W. Connell (2005 [1995]) defines hegemonic masculinity as “the configuration of gender practice which embodies the currently accepted answer to the problem of legitimacy of patriarchy and which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women” (77). In other words, hegemonic masculinity is, in the Weberian sense of the term, an “ideal type,” one that does not necessarily correspond to the lives of actual men, but is nonetheless a model to which a majority of men refer or aspire. Because not all men have access to the same social and cultural resources (they lack social and cultural capital in Bourdieu’s sense), masculinities are necessarily multiple. Nonetheless men as a group derive a “patriarchal dividend” or masculine advantage from the hegemonic norm and the maintenance of an unequal gender order (Connell 2005 [1995]: 71). Connell describes the relations between various types of masculinity as hierarchical and competitive; hegemonic masculinity is hegemonic in relation to other masculine forms, which are either subordinated, complicit, or marginalized. Hegemonic and nonhegemonic models are thus best seen as mutually constituting processes, with both dominant and subaltern men appropriating elements from various masculinities through complex forms of negotiation (Ford and Lyons 2012: 6; see also Inhorn 2012: 44). Connell (2001) cautions, however, against the application of the concept of hegemonic masculinity to identify a singular and fixed character type associated with an assemblage of negative or “toxic traits,” as is seen, for example, in popular depictions of Middle Eastern masculinity (see also Connell and Messerschmidt 2005). Anthropologist Marcia C. Inhorn (2012) expresses a similar concern over portrayals of Arab masculinity in terms of an essentialized typology that includes features such as patriarchy, patrilineality, patrilocality, polygyny/hypervirility, tribalism, and militarism—features purportedly supported by Islam (51). In the face of such static depictions, Inhorn raises the important question of how hegemonic forms might shift or change in response

From Soft Patriarch to Companionate Partner


to new opportunities and changing circumstances. She borrows the concept of “emergence” from the Marxist literary critic Raymond Williams (1977), who emphasizes that all cultures, even the dominant, bourgeois culture found in capitalist systems, are subject to change. Inhorn (2012) writes, “‘Emergence’ speaks to these processes of social change, as men navigate and adapt to their changing social worlds. The term ‘emergent masculinities’—intentionally plural—embraces social history and new forms of manhood in a way that ‘hegemonic masculinity’ does not” (60). This chapter traces the changing contours and dynamics of hegemonic and emergent forms of masculinity among Muslim Javanese since the fall of Suharto’s New Order government in May of 1998. The military-dominated New Order regime came to power in the aftermath of a failed left-wing officers’ coup in September of 1965. The new regime outlawed and then destroyed the country’s Communist Party and changed Indonesia’s relations with the West by opening Indonesia to foreign investment and consumerism. In that process, it drew on and amplified masculinist precedents as the foundation for a new and significantly more patriarchal model of family and masculinity. At the same time, through its economic and educational programs it also inadvertently set in motion broader and far less conservative changes to gender relations and family as well. My data are drawn from some 250 in-depth interviews with Javanese Muslims conducted over a fifteen-year period in the southcentral Javanese city of Yogyakarta and through sustained participant observation. Indonesia has the distinction of being the largest Muslim country in the world by population.4 Muslim Javanese comprise approximately 40 percent of Indonesia’s 224 million Muslims. While Java itself has about 120 million residents, Yogyakarta has some 3,594,290 inhabitants, 400,000 of whom live in the city proper.5 The city is known as a kota pelajar or “city of students.” The area has some 120 state and private religious and secular tertiary educational institutions and over 100,000 university students in residence. My research focuses on Javanese Muslim university students who are currently attending or have recently graduated from one of Yogyakarta’s many institutes of higher education (Smith-Hefner 2005, 2006, 2007a, 2007b, 2009). The past fifteen years have seen extraordinary developments in the city: satellite dishes dot the city’s rooftops; internet cafés and cell phone kiosks crowd the streets next to modern-style restaurants and flashy multistory shopping malls with coffee shops and food courts. Today nearly everyone carries a cell phone—sometimes two—and


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most university students now have a laptop or notebook for classes, though the majority still does not have internet access in their homes or rented rooms.6 These changes have accompanied other more important social and economic developments, in particular the dramatic expansion and upgrading of the educational system, a result of initiatives put into place during Suharto’s authoritarian regime. The outcomes of New Order educational programs have been impressive. By 2008, 84 percent of Indonesian youth between the ages of thirteen and fifteen were enrolled in junior high school, 55 percent of those between the ages of sixteen and eighteen were enrolled in senior high school, and 17 percent of college-aged youth were enrolled in tertiary institutions (UNESCO 2009: 334, cited in Parker and Nilan 2013: 80–81). Equally important, beginning in the 1970s, New Order economic policies shifted emphasis from agriculture to a program of industrialization and light manufacturing, encouraging widespread urbanization. The new employment opportunities in factories, the greatly expanded civil service, and the service sector have served as an incentive for parents to keep their children in school with an eye to obtaining a well-paying job and a foothold in the emerging middle class. The expansion of educational opportunities in both urban and rural areas of the country along with an aggressive family planning program, which emphasized the benefits of “smaller high-quality families,” have had a profound effect on the shape of Indonesian family and gender relations. These developments have allowed girls and women to catch up with and, in some areas, even surpass male achievements (Jones 1994: 31; Parker and Nilan 2013: 82). An important index of the extended period of time young people spend in school has been a marked postponement of marriage and a corresponding prolongation of the period of unmarried singlehood (Jones 1994, 2005). Young people, most notably young women, are marrying at significantly older ages as they delay marriage until they have finished their schooling.7 This pattern of extended singlehood has had important implications for the shape of social and personal relationships as well as for understandings and practices of Javanese masculinity (see Smith-Hefner 2005, 2006). As in many other Muslim-majority countries, Indonesia has also undergone an Islamic revival (Ind., kebangkitan Islam) since the 1980s. That revival has deepened and intensified in the period of reformasi, or “democratic reform”—that is, the period of reform politics that

From Soft Patriarch to Companionate Partner


followed the fall of the highly centralized authoritarian regime of President Suharto in May of 1998 and the return to electoral democracy (Robinson 2015). The renewed interest in Islam is evidenced by the increasing number of veiled women visible on the streets; by the proliferation of mosques and prayer houses (langgar); and by the appearance of new Muslim clothing shops, bookstores, and markets throughout Yogyakarta and other Indonesian cities. More conservative groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood–inspired and Prosperous Justice Party–affiliated Indonesian Muslim University Student Action Union (locally known as Kesatuan Aksi Mahasiswa Muslim Indonesia, or KAMMI) and the Islamist Hizbut Tahrir8 are a visible presence on campuses and set the standard for modest dress and behavior. Their active involvement in campus politics and in student organizations has raised important questions about the place of Islam in public life and has led many young Muslims to seek to bring social and personal relations into a greater measure of conformity with norms and behaviors deemed “Islamic.” It is in this context of rapid socioeconomic, political, and religious change that new pressures have emerged for Javanese masculinity to assume more normatively Islamic forms while also—and this is the development at the center of this chapter—taking on a less distantly patriarchal and more affectively responsive companionate intimacy. This emergent masculinity is not by any means uncontested. On the contrary, the creative tension between hegemonic, alternative, and emergent masculinities has resulted in varied and contested styles of masculinity and male gender practices. The general trend is nonetheless strikingly clear: Muslim Javanese men today are on the whole far more religiously observant; at the same time, increasing numbers also articulate the desire for more open, “democratic,” and emotionally expressive marital partnerships and express strong support for their wives’ and daughters’ higher education and employment.

Gender Precedents: Soft Patriarchs The study of contemporary forms of Muslim Javanese masculinity builds on an earlier generation of ethnographic research conducted during Indonesia’s early post-Independence era (C. Geertz 1960; H. Geertz 1989 [1961]; Jay 1969; Koentjaraningrat 1957). This earlier


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research demonstrated that Javanese forms of masculinity as experienced within the family were marked by a soft form of patriarchy whose key affective dynamic was that a father was indulgent and loving with his offspring in their early childhood and became a distant, respected figure in the child’s adolescence. By the age of eight or ten, children were expected to maintain a deferential distance from their fathers as expressed through polite speech and demeanor. Boys often did so through a pattern of avoidance—by spending more time outside the home at the mosque or hanging around with their friends. Girls, who were required to stay nearer to home, remained under closer parental scrutiny. The distinctive nature of the distant but respected father was reinforced by the fact that Javanese kinship has long emphasized the importance of the autonomy of the family unit while downplaying extended family corporations and the codes of honor and purity to which they are often linked (Smith-Hefner 2016; see, by comparison, Abu-Lughod 1999). Unlike the pattern identified in many areas of the Middle East, Javanese kinship is cognatic or bilateral (H. Geertz 1989 [1961]; see also Jay 1969; Koentjaraningrat 1957). This means that both the mother’s and father’s sides of the family are given equal weight in determining relatedness and inheritance and that both male and female offspring are equally desired and equally cherished. In this bilateral model, the newlywed couple might live with the parents either of the bride or of the groom; nucleated, neolocal residence, however, is considered the ideal. More generally, although Javanese relations of sociability and intimacy often include kin and affines, the kinship system does not give rise to any counterpart to the extended lineage or descent groups found in many parts of South Asia and the Middle East. No less important, kinship and marriage in Java do not create male kin or patriarchs with a vested social interest in controlling the good name or sexuality of female kin beyond the family. According to this same model of cognatic kinship in Java, relations between husbands and wives are viewed as complementary (Brenner 1995; H. Geertz 1989 [1961]; Jay 1969; Keeler 1987). While the husband represents his family in the wider community and is identified as the family head, within the household, the wife/ mother effectively manages family relations and maintains important networks with female kin. Women also play a pivotal economic role in their families and households. They have the right to maintain their own property and to determine how it will be used even after marriage. Money the couple earns during their marriage is rec-

From Soft Patriarch to Companionate Partner


ognized as jointly owned and is divided equally between the spouses in the event of a divorce. The Malay anthropologist Wazir-Jahan Karim (1995) has argued that the “essential bilateralism” of Javanese kinship and culture is a key factor in protecting Javanese women against radical or permanent shifts toward gender inequality in the face of colonial occupation or patriarchal models imposed by the state or the proponents of conservative understandings of Islam. More recently, Kathryn Robinson made a related argument. She writes, “Bilateral systems as a framework for social relationships open up a space for social practices that allow agency to women, especially in comparison to societies practicing patrilineal descent and patrivirilocal residence” (Robinson 2009: 14). Perhaps most important for the present discussion, the flexibility and relativity inherent in this Javanese model of gender and relationality allow—under certain circumstances—for a measure of variation and even “play” in Javanese gender roles and family relations, and can act as a counterpoint to more hierarchical and patriarchal models of gender and masculinity (see also Beatty 2002). This traditional model of “soft patriarchy within complementarity” has long been especially prevalent in rural and non-santri (that is, nonreligiously observant) areas of Java; however, the model is not and never was the only ethical exemplar for masculinity among Muslim Javanese. An alternate but overlapping model of a more explicitly “Muslim” version of masculine patriarchy has an equally long history in Java and was found particularly in those areas known as strongholds of santri- or madrasa-oriented and fiqh-informed Islam. This model of manhood was embodied and enacted by religious scholars and teachers associated with Islamic schools and emulated by their students. In Indonesia, these religious schools are known as pesantren (Muslim boarding schools) and sekolah Islam (Muslim day schools) and are organized and run by powerful religious families and headed by male religious leaders known as kyai or ulama (Dhofier 1999). In these santri families, the father is more forcefully identified as the spiritual leader of his household, just as the religious teacher is the spiritual leader of his students and followers. In principle, he is to be offered obedience and deference because of his superior religious knowledge and God-given capacity to lead. In this religiously inflected version of Javanese masculinity, the father is a respected patriarch who leads by moral example, and Muslim masculinist excesses are muted by kinship and custom.


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New Order Hegemonies: State Fathers During Suharto’s New Order, the figure of the firm but loving patriarch became the hegemonic model of masculinity for the state but was given a significantly more authoritarian emphasis. Kathryn Robinson writes, “Suharto’s New Order exemplified Connell’s proposition that ‘state power is a resource for the struggle for hegemony in gender, and hegemonic masculinity is a resource for state power’” (Robinson 2015: 52). Under Suharto, Robinson (2015) writes, this was expressed as a violent militant masculinity and became an ideological foundation of the ideal of “familism” that naturalized the masculinist cast of government power. The familism adopted by the state identified men as the “natural” leaders of their families and women as their dependents. In a pattern of fractal recursivity (see Irvine and Gal 2009), President Suharto fashioned himself as father of the nation and benevolent patriarch, claiming the title of “father of [state] development”, or bapak pembangunan. Although for the first twenty years of his rule Suharto attempted to hold political Islam at arm’s length (Hefner 2000), this regime-linked model drew on the Muslim concept known as kodrat—in genealogical terms, an Islamic ideal9—to justify women’s relegation to the domestic sphere, on the grounds that domesticity was the result of and fitting with their biological nature. In other words, according to her kodrat, a woman’s most important responsibilities lie within the household as wife and mother. She is responsible for managing everything related to the domestic sphere and attends to the early socialization and education of her children. While women may work outside of the house, it is the husband who is first and foremost responsible for meeting the economic needs of the family, and any income his wife makes is viewed as merely supplementary. In any case, a wife may not ignore her primary duty, which is the care and management of the household, her husband, and children. Under the terms of this state-sanctioned gender ideology, women’s domestic roles—as household manager and family caretaker—were enshrined in the marriage law and reinforced through corporatist women’s organizations, membership in which was mandatory for female citizens. The two most important of these state-sponsored, corporatist women’s organizations were the PKK (Pembinaan Kesejahteraan Keluarga), or the “Family Welfare Movement,” and the Dharma Wanita, or “Women’s Good Work” (Blackburn 2004; Robinson 2009; see also Wieringa 2002). Through their programs, particularly those focusing on health and the family, the PKK and Dharma

From Soft Patriarch to Companionate Partner


Wanita played a key role in the propagation and socialization of the New Order’s gender ideology. Robinson cites Connell to argue that the hegemonic masculinity of the Indonesian state’s gender order delivered a “patriarchal dividend” to all men. “Husbands were effectively kings in their own domain,” she writes, “legally designated as heads of households, where they exercised power over their wives.” The dividend for men extended to the state’s legal tolerance of domestic violence and an equivocal position on polygyny (Robinson 2015: 52). The Dutch anthropologist and feminist Saskia Wieringa (2002) writes similarly, “The gender nature of the New Order state is best illustrated by the forcible return of women to an Indonesian model of meek womanhood contained within a hierarchical male order” (5). In May of 1998, in the aftermath of a huge mass-based movement for democratic reforms, Suharto was forced from office. The authoritarian model of authoritarian state masculinity, however, has not been completely displaced but remains a critical reference point not only for the generation that came of age under the New Order but also for Indonesian youth (see Nilan 2009: 333). The figure of the remote but powerful bapak (“father,” male leader) in the khaki civil servant’s uniform or expensive batik shirt and velvet Muslim cap appears in virtually every popular Indonesian film and prime time soap opera (sinetron). The same ideal-typical patriarch features regularly in advertisements for products that address masculine concerns, such as sexual potency and flagging physical strength, and in commercials promoting various brands of cigarettes and hot sauce (see Clark 2004b). While typically these depictions of the bapak take the form of the benign patriarch, in other film and media representations the narrative emphasis is placed on the negative masculinist features of violence and authoritarianism stereotypically associated with the hegemonic masculinity of the New Order state.10

Competing Masculinities: Conservative Muslim and Islamist Models The central gender irony of the New Order was that notwithstanding this official masculinist discourse, the economic and educational changes put in place by the state in practice initiated far-reaching changes in young people’s lives, not least in education, careers, and age at marriage. These developments provided the foundation for


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challenges—explicitly political at times, subtly social at other times— to the state’s normative model of masculinity. With Suharto’s fall from power came the opening up of the media and new possibilities for social and political debate. At the same time, the post-Suharto period of reformasi, or democratic reform, also created a space for the reassertion of political Islam. The more open environment and the growing force of the Islamic revival have led some conservative Muslims and Islamists to propose radically conservative models of masculinity. The result has been a new wave of contestation regarding masculinity in the post-Suharto era. The conservative Muslim and Islamist gender models that have proliferated in the post-Suharto period draw on the same kodrat ideology put forward by the New Order to emphasize men’s superior role in the household and women’s secondary position relative to men. These Islamist gender models differ from those of the New Order regime, however, in that they attempt to ground their normativities, not in the authority of the state but in a conservative reading of the Qur’an and Hadith. A key theme of such readings is that Islam’s message in general, and on gender in particular, is clear and consistent—and anyone who suggests otherwise is either a liberal obscurantist or an unbeliever. As Muslim activists explained to me in response to my questions about the debates over men’s and women’s proper roles in the family and in society: “Everything is there in the holy texts. Gender roles no longer need to be debated. They just need to be followed.” Particular emphasis in these textualist models as promoted by conservative groups like the moderately Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), its affiliated student organization, KAMMI, and the more radical Islamist Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia is placed on passages that point to fundamental differences between men and women and that support the idea of man’s “natural” role as the leader of his family and as household provider. These models assert in even stronger terms than New Order gender models that the biologically given kodrat that distinguishes males from females is divinely given and, therefore, unchallengeable. These same models emphasize that it is the husband’s right and duty to determine whether or not his wife should be allowed to work outside of the home. They also insist that this question can only be addressed after a woman has carried out her primary domestic responsibilities as wife and mother. In short, these neoconservative Islamic models of masculinity proclaim loudly and clearly

From Soft Patriarch to Companionate Partner


that it is the father and husband who is responsible for meeting the economic needs of the family. Beginning in 1999 and into the early 2000s, these conservative groups brought to the fore a variety of issues having to do with women’s increased and highly visible presence in the public sphere, not only in educational settings but in service industries and businesses, and even in politics. A major focus of the gender debates during this period had to do with “career women” (wanita karier)— that is, women who work outside of the household in the public sphere (see Yasin 1997). Muslim women’s magazines like UMMI and ANNIDA emphasized the importance of women taking a backseat to their husbands’ work and career goals for the good of the family and the nation. Women were urged to be mindful of the negative consequences that would ensue from working long hours away from their husbands, and particularly of the possibility that their lack of attention to their spouses might lead to husbands taking a second wife to service their sexual and domestic needs. Debates over “career women” were coupled with horror stories that appeared in newspapers and magazines about the negative effects on children from lack of maternal attention and warnings about the deleterious effects of leaving children with maids and servants. The controversies surrounding women’s employment are interesting, because as with the fury over Megawati Sukarnoputri’s presidential candidacy in 1999,11 the pushback over women’s working has been quietly ignored by most young Muslim couples—with women leading the way in arguing for the importance of making use of their hard-won diplomas. The female university students I have interviewed over the years have—with very few exceptions— expressed their clear intention to work after graduation and even after marriage.12 They report that young women who do not put their educations to work are laughed at by their peers for “losing out” on their investment (Smith-Hefner 2007a). This is quite different from the Egyptian situation as described by Farha Ghannam (2013) or that described for Jordan by Fida Adely (2012). Ghannam writes that many Egyptian women work outside the home before marriage simply to secure their share of the trousseau and then leave their jobs after engagement and upon marriage. This confirms that their husbands are good providers and do not need their wives to work (Ghannam 2013: 13).13 A similar pattern is described by Adely for Jordan. She states quite bluntly, “[Jordanian]


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women don’t use their education for work” (Adely 2012: 138). The paradox of Jordanian women, she writes, is that despite their educational achievements, they have not moved into the workforce and express ambivalence about doing so. The reasons parallel those cited by young Egyptians; that is, it is Jordanian men, not women, who are expected to be the primary breadwinners for their families (Adely 2012: 130). By contrast, citing their desire to make use of their educations and repay the considerable sacrifice of their parents and families, Indonesian women voice a common sentiment that to stay home and not work would be an incredible waste of their family’s investment. Moreover, women’s parents, particularly mothers, were reported as advising their daughters that working would offer them the possibility of a measure of autonomy and economic security should their marriages go wrong. That is, while the debate over working women was raging publicly, in families and in personal relationships similar negotiations were taking place. Notwithstanding certain neoconservative gender currents, a profound change in gender and masculinity was under way. A not uncommon story is that of Azi, whom I first interviewed in 2002 when he was still a college student finishing his degree in Islamic law at the State Islamic University. Azi was a scholar and a writer who had no problem, he said, marrying a woman who was educated and wanted to pursue a career; in fact, he had dated many of them during his years as a political activist. When it came time to marry, however, he decided to look for a more religiously conservative wife and turned to his religious teacher (ustad) to help him find someone. It was Azi’s mother who did not agree with his choice. It was not Azi’s fiancée’s religious conservatism that was the focus of his mother’s disapproval. The woman Azi chose with his teacher’s help did not meet his mother’s standards regarding education or career. Rather than an M.A. or a B.A., she had only a three-year diploma (a D3) and, at least in his mother’s eyes, her career possibilities were limited. Azi explained: My mom really opposed our marriage. There was maybe a class problem, but she really wanted me to marry a woman with a B.A. or preferably a Master’s degree and with clear career goals. She’s always worked in the jewelry trade and she wanted a daughter-in-law who would make a significant economic contribution to the family.

It was a point of considerable contention between Azi and his parents; however, Azi eventually married the woman of his choice.

From Soft Patriarch to Companionate Partner


When I visited the couple several years later, they already had two children and were living a comfortably middle-class lifestyle in a gated neighborhood on the outskirts of Yogyakarta. Azi’s wife was hardly “just a housewife,” however. She had established a successful religious school in their home and was looking for a more expansive space to rent so that she could accept a larger number of students. Other young men, like Andi, were more ambivalent about marrying someone with her own career, or were unwilling to adjust their own career plans to accommodate those of their future partner. In this regard, interestingly Andi cited keibuan, or “motherliness,” as one of the most important features of a desirable wife, an indication that the New Order ideal of a woman’s duty as being first and foremost to her husband and children has not disappeared. Andi’s story, like Azi’s, is interesting because it underscores how masculinity is an inherently relational phenomenon, one that is formed through not only interactions among men but also those between men and women. Andi and Inna had been dating for several years when I interviewed them in the summer of 2003. Both had recently graduated and were planning to marry the following summer. Andi was from west Sumatra and had majored in animal husbandry. Inna had majored in English and talked about becoming a teacher. After they married, they planned to move to Sumatra, where Andi would open a dairy farm on land owned by his parents. In Andi’s hometown, women wore the headscarf, and Andi had asked Inna to do so once they married. Inna reported that she was happy to agree to his request, explaining that she had intended to begin wearing a headscarf in the next few years anyway. She happily showed me the beautiful scarves she had begun to collect in anticipation of their marriage and the move to west Sumatra. When I met with Inna the following summer, however, Inna reported that the engagement was off. Inna explained that as the wedding plans progressed and after visiting her future in-laws in west Sumatra, she realized that she would have to give up her dream of becoming an English teacher. The area where Andi planned to establish his farm was too remote from any town or city center and there was no possibility of her teaching English in the rural countryside. Inna said: Really, I just couldn’t see moving there to live out in the countryside and with no possibility of finding a teaching job. The closest town is over an hour away by public transportation. It would be such a waste


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of the investment my family has made in my education. And it would mean giving up my dream of helping to support my parents in their retirement.

Andi was not willing to compromise, explaining that his wife would be busy working on the farm and caring for their family. Inna broke off the engagement with her parents’ approval. These and other examples highlight that, notwithstanding certain pious trends in Indonesian Muslim society, the facts on the ground today favor women’s increasing involvement in extrafamilial work and careers. Javanese women are largely unwilling to relinquish their hard-won accomplishments.

Emerging Muslim Masculinities: Companionate Partners What has gone unnoticed in the fury of public debates over women, men, and family is the quiet emergence of new alternative forms of Muslim masculinity that emphasize compromise and themes of complementarity long evident in Javanese gender roles, some hints of which we see in the stories above. In this process of negotiation, women—as girlfriends, mothers, wives, and daughters—have played and continue to play a critical role in shaping masculine constructs. As Inhorn (2012) and others (Ghannam 2013) argue, it is through interactions between men and women, not only those that take place between men, that masculine forms are recognized, reinforced, rewarded, or rejected. By 2005 the public debates in Indonesia over women and work had subsided considerably. These developments had captured much attention in the media and led many Indonesian observers to speak of a “conservative turn” in Indonesian Islam (see Van Bruinessen 2013). But in the end, Indonesia and Indonesian men (and women) have moved on. The basic trends supporting the emergence of a new masculinity—women’s education and career, smaller family size, and the continuing influence of cognatic patterns of kinship and marriage—have continued to exercise their influence, notwithstanding some conservative pushback. By 2005 most of the young men I interviewed, even while citing their desire to be the main economic support for their families, expressed the recognition that given the current economic situation, having two incomes was now “necessary in order to support a middle-class lifestyle.”

From Soft Patriarch to Companionate Partner


What is more, they, like their sisters, girlfriends, and female peers, expressed an increasing interest in a model of a romantic, companionate marriage—one that is focused on “shared vision and goals” and in which each partner completes the other (saling mengisi). This ideal of a companionate marriage with the nuclear family and conjugal couple at its center includes a new ideal of fatherhood that is more involved and expressively engaged. It is a model that eschews the hierarchical pattern of the distant and respected patriarch for one that is more “democratic” (demokratik) and communicative. This is, of course, an emergent phenomenon and is most apparent among more middle-class, educated youth, but it is nonetheless a pervasive model and one that is rapidly spreading. Ali was an eager proponent of this view. Although at the age of twenty-four he had never had a serious girlfriend, he told me he hoped to find someone with whom he could have a more open and equitable relationship than his parents had. He also wanted to be a different kind of father, one who was more involved in the education and emotional support of his children: My parents had nine kids and had to work really hard just to survive. My dad is a farmer and my mom runs a small store out of the front of the house. So we were all pretty much on our own, especially the boys. I left home when I was twelve to attend school in a pesantren [religious boarding school]. I supported myself by working for the kyai, who was my uncle. I studied religion in the morning and took general classes in the afternoons. I managed to do well enough that I eventually went on to a state school with my uncle’s help. My sisters all just stayed at home and attended a nearby pesantren, where they learned to memorize the Qur’an. When they graduated, they got married. I think my parents thought the girls would not be able to manage on their own and wanted them to stay close to home. I plan to have a smaller family, maybe just two or three, so that I can afford to send all of my kids—boys and girls—to school. And I want to be more involved in their lives [than my parents were in ours]. I want to discuss things with them and give them advice. Of course, it will depend on my wife and her personality. But I hope to find a partner who will share both the blessings and difficulties of life and work together to create an open, more democratic household.

Ali admitted that he would prefer that his wife not work so that she could devote her attention to their children, but he saw the decision as one of discussion and compromise: Of course if I could make sufficient money to support my family, I would like my wife to stay at home, but it’s up to her what she wants


Nancy J. Smith-Hefner

to do. Does she want to work? It’s her choice. And it depends on our financial situation. Nowadays it’s really hard to support a family and send your children to school with only one income. My hope is that we can discuss it together to come to a decision that is the best for our family.

Conclusion There are changes in gender and in masculinity, in particular, that are driven by actors and groupings committed to an explicit normative reform of masculinity or gender ideals; often in our studies of social movements related to gender and other ethicopolitical changes, we privilege these. However, there are other instances in which the changes to gender, or, as in this case, masculinity and family, are propelled by basic social forces that run ahead of explicit normative formulation in their relative detail and aspirational force. Much that has taken place regarding masculinity and family in post-Suharto Indonesia reflects this latter sort of gender change rather than the former, normatively driven sort. Notwithstanding an official state promoted ideology of patriarchal masculinism, basic changes in women’s education and employment have been rapidly and extensively embraced by the great majority of Indonesian women. These changes to women’s gender roles created a structural reality to which men, haphazardly, had to respond both practically and normatively. In the early years of the post-Suharto period, a conservative Muslim and Islamist alliance attempted to mount a conservative counterattack to the basic changes in women’s education, extrafamilial employment, and companionate desires. A small minority among the masculinist public rallied to these conservative proposals. However, the great many men regarded the changes to women’s education and employment as a basic and responsible instrument or vehicle for passage into the new Indonesian Muslim middle class. Faced with this economic and aspirational reality, many, albeit still a minority among the male public, rallied to new and alternative models of Muslim masculinity and family. One especially remarkable feature of this shift in masculinity is that the emergent companionate ideal has been given special sanction and normative force in the flagship universities of Indonesia’s state Islamic universities and colleges (the Universitas Islam Negeri [UIN] and the Institut Agama Islam Negeri [IAIN]). It is no coin-

From Soft Patriarch to Companionate Partner


cidence that it was from these same state Islamic universities that many of the most outspoken and normatively articulate proponents of Islamic feminism emerged in the late 1990s and 2000s (Syamsiyatun 2007, 2008), and it is from their ranks too that the most articulate critics of the more conservative Muslim masculinism of the early 2000s also emerged. The process of gender transformation is by no means simple or complete; Indonesian society in general and Muslim masculinity in particular are composed of diverse ethnic groups and varied Islamonormative streams. What is clear, however, is that in the Indonesian context, both the structural or organizational as well as the normative groundwork for a reformulated, modern, and companionateoriented masculinity has been established.

Nancy J. Smith-Hefner is associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at Boston University. She has written extensively on issues of language, gender, education, and sexuality in Southeast Asia. Her recent publications include “The New Muslim Romance: Changing Patterns of Courtship and Marriage among Educated Javanese Youth” in Islam in Southeast Asia, edited by Joseph Chinyong Liow and N. Hosen, “‘Hypersexed’ Youth and the New Muslim Sexology in Contemporary Java” in the Review of Indonesian and Malay Affairs, and “Women, Language Shift, and Ideologies of Self in Indonesia” in the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. Her forthcoming book, Islamizing Intimacies: Youth, Sexuality, and Gender in Contemporary Indonesia, will be published by the University of Hawaii Press (2019).

Notes 1. But see Atkinson and Errington (1990), Manderson and Jolly (1997), Ong and Peletz (1995), Peletz (1996). 2. Blackwood’s (2010) work is particularly interesting in that it considers the category of masculine females, in Indonesia known as tombois. 3. A recent exception is Nilan (2009). 4. Indonesians are Sunni Muslims, most of whom adhere to the moderate Shafi’i school of law (Howell 2001; Salim 2008). Shi’ism, the variety of Islam professed by some 14 percent of the world’s Muslims, has few adherents in Indonesia; the small number of exceptions are found among South Asians resident in big cities and among a handful of intellectuals and student activists drawn to Shi’a Islam in the years since the Iranian revolution.


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5. Statistics are based on estimates projected from 2010 Indonesian Population Census figures (retrieved August 28, 2015 from: 6. The majority of students use their phones to access the internet and use their computers mainly for writing papers and assignments. 7. In 1965 the mean age at first marriage for women in Indonesia as a whole was 18.6 years; in 1971 it was 19.2 (Smith 1982, cited in Wolf 1992: 80). By 1990 the average age of first marriage for women had climbed to 21.6 years (Jones 1994: 80). These statistics do not distinguish between urban and rural areas, but studies indicate that while urban centers like Yogyakarta—where the mean age at first marriage for women in 1990 was 24.1—have led the way in patterns of delayed marriage, in fact, when level of education is controlled for, there is little difference between cities and the countryside (Jones 1994: 80, 92–93). 8. In Indonesia, Muslim Brotherhood actors and influences are more pervasive than Salafi-Wahhabi influences; they exercise their influence through political parties like the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and school movements like the several thousand–strong association of “integrated Islamic schools” (sekolah Islam terpadu). See Hasan (2009) and Van Bruinessen (2013). 9. The term kodrat is related to the Arabic qadara/qadar/qudra, which means “(God’s) will or power” but also has connotations of “fate” or “ability” (Cowan 1994: 873–74). In its Indonesian usage kodrat has a somewhat different connotation and is used most commonly to provide a normative—and, in particular, patriarchal—reference point for gender and sexuality. The discourse of kodrat affirms that men are both divinely sanctioned religious leaders of women and proper heads of household. 10. A related model of Indonesian masculinity not taken up here is the violent hypermasculinity of the preman or jago “gangster, thug” identified by Ian Wilson (2012) as a “protest masculinity” embraced by some on the social and economic margins. 11. Megawati took up the presidency in 2001 after the impeachment of Abdurrahman Wahid and then won the 2002 presidential election. When faced with the reality of Megawati’s presidency, however, Indonesia Muslim organizations seemed to come to terms with the idea of a female leader by emphasizing that Megawati was not a religious leader but a secular leader and that, so long as she did not forget her family duties and her husband was in agreement, her presidency was acceptable under Islam (see Van Doorn-Harder 2002). 12. This is quite different from the Egyptian situation as described by Farha Ghannam (2013: 13), who writes that many women work outside the home before marriage in order to secure their share of the trousseau and then leave their jobs after engagement and upon marriage. This confirms that their husbands are good providers and therefore do not need their wives to work.

From Soft Patriarch to Companionate Partner


13. Ghannam (2013: 13) writes that women are also realistic about the job market, transportation, low pay, and the social expectation that they be the main caregivers for their families as well as the housekeepers.

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Ford, Michele and Lenore Lyons, eds. 2012. “Introduction.” In Men and Masculinities in Southeast Asia, ed. Michele Ford and Lenore Lyons, 1–19. New York: Routledge. Ghannam, Farha. 2013. Live and Die like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Geertz, Clifford. 1960. The Religion of Java. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Geertz, Hildred. 1989 (1961). The Javanese Family: A Study of Kinship and Socialization. New York: Free Press of Glencoe. Hasan, Noorhaidi. 2009. “Islamizing Formal Education: Integrated Islamic Schools and a New Trend in Formal Education Institution in Indonesia.” Working Paper No. 172. Singapore: Rajaratnam School of International Studies. Hefner, Robert W. 2000. Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Howell, Julia Day. 2001. “Sufism and the Indonesian Islamic Revival.” The Journal of Asian Studies 60(3): 701–29. Inhorn, Marcia C. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Irvine, Judith T. and Susan Gal. 2009. “Language Ideology and Linguistic Differentiation.” In Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader, ed. Alessandro Duranti, 402–34. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons. Jay, Robert R. 1969. Javanese Villagers Social Relations in Rural Modjokuto. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Jones, Gavin W. 1994. Marriage and Divorce in Islamic South-East Asia. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2005. “The ‘Flight from Marriage’ in South-East and East Asia.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 36(1): 93–119. Karim, Wazir-Jahan. 1995. ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ in Developing South-East Asia. Bloomsbury: Bloomsbury Academic. Keeler, Ward. 1987. Javanese Shadow Plays, Javanese Selves. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Koentjaraningrat, Raden Mas. 1957. A Preliminary Description of the Javanese Kinship System. Vol. 4. New Haven: Yale University, Southeast Asia Studies. Manderson, Lenore and Margaret Jolly. 1997. Sites of Desire/Economies of Pleasure: Sexualities in Asia and the Pacific. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Myrttinen, Henri. 2012. “Violence, Masculinities and Patriarchy in PostConflict Timor-Leste.” In Men and Masculinities in Southeast Asia, ed. Michele Ford and Lenore Lyons, 103–20. New York: Routledge. Nilan, Pam. 2009. “Contemporary Masculinities and Young Men in Indonesia.” Indonesia and the Malay World 37(109): 327–44. Ong, Aihwa and Michael G. Peletz, eds. 1995. Bewitching Women, Pious Men: Gender and Body Politics in Southeast Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Parker, Lyn and Pam Nilan. 2013. Adolescents in Contemporary Indonesia. New York: Routledge. Peletz, Michael G. 1996. Reason and Passion: Representations of Gender in a Malay Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 2009. Gender Pluralism: Southeast Asia since Early Modern Times. New York: Routledge. Robinson, Kathryn. 2009. Gender, Islam and Democracy in Indonesia. New York: Routledge. ———. 2015. “Masculinity, Sexuality, and Islam: The Gender Politics of Regime Change in Indonesia.” In Sex and Sexualities in Contemporary Indonesia: Sexual Politics, Health, Diversity and Representations, ed. Linda Rae Bennett and Sharyn Graham Davies, 51–68. New York: Routledge. Salim, Arskal. 2008. Challenging the Secular State: The Islamization of Law in Modern Indonesia. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Smith-Hefner, Nancy J. 2005. “The New Muslim Romance: Changing Patterns of Courtship and Marriage among Educated Javanese Youth.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 36: 441–59. ———. 2006. “Reproducing Respectability: Sex and Sexuality among Muslim Javanese Youth.” RIMA: Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs 40(1): 143. ———. 2007a. “Javanese Women and the Veil in Post-Soeharto Indonesia.” Journal of Asian Studies 66(2): 389–420. ———. 2007b. “Youth Language, Gaul Sociability, and the New Indonesian Middle Class.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 17(2): 184–203. ———. 2009. “‘Hypersexed’ Youth and the New Muslim Sexology in Java, Indonesia.” RIMA: Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs 43(1): 209. ———. 2016. “Gender and Religious Change in Muslim Southeast Asia,” In Religious Change and Gender Relations in Southeast Asia: What the Policy Community Needs to Know. Yogyakarta: CRCS-ICRS. Syamsiyatun, Siti. 2007. “A Daughter in the Indonesian Muhammadiyah: Nasyiatul Aisyiyah Negotiates a New Status and Image.” Journal of Islamic Studies 18(1): 69–94. ———. 2008. “Women Negotiating Feminism and Islamism: The Experiences of Nasyiatul Aisyiyah, 1985–2005.” In Indonesian Islam in a New Era: How Women Negotiate Their Muslim Identities, ed. Susan Blackburn, Bianca J. Smith, and Siti Syamsiyatun, 139–65. Clayton: Monash University Press. Van Bruinessen, Martin, ed. 2013. Contemporary Developments in Indonesian Islam: Explaining the “Conservative Turn.” Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Van Doorn-Harder, Nelly 2002. “The Indonesian Islamic Debate on a Woman President.” SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 17(2): 164–90. Wieringa, Saskia. 2002. Sexual Politics in Indonesia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


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Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and Literature. Oxford and London: Oxford Paperbacks. Wilson, Ian. 2012. “The Biggest Cock: Territoriality, Invulnerability and Honour amongst Jakarta’s Gangsters. In Men and Masculinities in Southeast Asia, ed. Michele Ford and Lenore Lyons. New York: Routledge. Wolf, Diane L. 1992. Factory Daughters: Gender, Household Dynamics, and Rural Industrialization in Java. Berkeley: University of California Press. Yasin, Maisar Binti. 1997. Wanita Karier dalam Perbincangan [Career Women: A Discussion]. Jakarta: Gema Insani.

Chapter 5



tudies of gender in India have been skewed toward women and women’s material and social conditions, particularly issues of social inequality and structural disempowerment. Within analyses of South Asian masculine formulations, the focus has tended toward responses to the colonial “feminization” of native masculinity (Alter 1992; Krishnaswamy 2002; Nandy 1988; Pandian 1996; Roselli 1980; Sinha 1995), anxieties surrounding semen loss (Alter 1992, 2000; Luhrmann 1996; Srivastava 2004), and masculinity in relation to representations in popular culture (Chakravarti 1998; Derné 2000; Dwyer and Pinney 2001; Gehlawat 2012; Sinha 2013). The recognition of this limited focus and the need for ethnographic attention to men-as-men in South Asia has seen an emerging body of work focusing on South Asian masculinities (Chopra, Osella, and Osella 2004; Osella and Osella 2006; Srivastava 2007). However, despite the criticism that the “middle classes” are overrepresented in the literature on posteconomic liberalization India, most of these studies have centered on rural, non–middle class, or subaltern masculinities (Chopra 2006, 2013; George 2006; Jeffrey 2010; Osella and Osella 2000; Rogers 2008; Srivastava 2007, 2010).


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Moreover, studies of masculinity in relation to childbearing and fertility, including women’s fertility, are conspicuously absent. This is a particularly glaring lack given that parenthood is part of a typical masculine trajectory, key to achieving a normative, mature gender status for both men and women, and seen as part of a natural progression after a couple of years of marriage (e.g., Inhorn and Bharadwaj 2007; Mehta and Kapadia 2008; Osella and Osella 2006; Riessman 2000). In India, childlessness is rarely socially sanctioned for either men or women, and it is associated with failures of masculinity related to male infertility and impotency. Often, there is an elision between impotency and childlessness, rendering it a particularly emasculating condition. However, a couple’s childlessness is usually blamed on the woman, and relatives tend to be more sympathetic toward men than women in childless couples (Dhaliwal, Khera, and Dhall 1990; Jindal and Gupta 1989; Jejeebhoy 1998; Mehta and Kapadia 2008; Mulgaonkar 2001; Singh, Dhaliwal, and Kaur 1997; Unisa 1999). Moreover, childless women often face marital abandonment, ill treatment from in-laws, and social isolation (Desai, Shrinivasan, and Hazra 1992; Gupta 2000; Jindal and Gupta 1989; Mulgaonkar 2001; Riessman 2000; Unisa 1999). Husbands, while dealing with their own perceived failures of masculinity related to childlessness, play crucial roles in exacerbating or mitigating the negative dimensions of childlessness or possible childlessness for their wives as well. Therefore, fertility issues, especially women’s fertility issues, form a critical space from which to investigate masculinities as they emerge in the relationships between men and their wives (e.g., Inhorn 2012). Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), as one of the leading causes of female infertility worldwide (Boomsma, Fauser, and Macklon 2008) and a condition that affects an increasing number of urban Indian middle-class women (Pathak and Nichter 2015), opens up such a space for investigation. In this chapter, I use PCOS as a lens to examine the gendered experiences and notions of masculinity that surface among the urban aspirational middle class in contemporary India, with a particular focus on Muslim men. I first chronicle some of the major sociocultural and political-economic shifts in India since the watershed economic reforms of 1991 and provide a brief introduction to PCOS and its association with contemporary India. I then briefly describe my methodology before examining the experiences of couples in which the woman has PCOS (especially in relation to issues of subfertility), women’s representations of their

“Supportive” Masculinities and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome


husbands, and husbands’ perspectives on living with their wives’ condition. Overall, I argue that the changing sociocultural landscape of globalizing India has resulted in the emergence of “supportive” masculinities among the urban aspirational middle-class that help support women’s resilience in the face of conditions such as PCOS.

Economic Liberalization and Social Transformations in India Prior to 1991, economic policy in India emphasized heavy business regulations, a large public sector, state-driven investment, and import restrictions. The result was a production-led economy with limited consumer choice that was largely closed off from the outside world. Starting in the middle of the 1980s, however, a series of economic reforms began ushering in a globalizing tide; in 1991, a balance-of-payments crisis forced the Indian government to hasten the opening up of the economy through a series of neoliberal reforms that initiated the economic liberalization (also termed “liberalization”) of India. With these reforms, the Indian economy has become increasingly integrated with that of the world, bringing intensified contact with globalizing processes and fast-paced economic growth. It has also seen India surface as one of the world’s ten largest economies, with new upper and middle classes and the creation and proliferation of new consumers, spaces of consumption, and consumer choices. The advent of satellite television, which coincided with liberalization, brought access to global media messages and new imaginary worlds. Combined with the changing material conditions and consumer choices in India, this has resulted in a rapidly shifting sociocultural landscape. Whereas before 1991, television had meant a single state-sponsored television channel centered on social education, the new satellite channels focused on a more consumerist dispensation and brought international programming to India (Agrawal 1997; Mankekar 2004). Representations in the media made a claim for a universal entitlement to aspiration while focusing on the lifestyle aspirations of the urban middle classes, portrayed as globally mobile, cosmopolitan consumers (Gillespie and Cheesman 2002; Mazzarella 2003; Munshi 2001). At the same time, national political discourse, which had been centered on development, shifted focus to a consumption-led path to prosperity, with an idealized middle class as the face of the


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nation (Deshpande 2003; Fernandes 2000b; Gillespie and Cheesman 2002). There has also been a shift toward consumer culture, with new lifestyle standards emerging, particularly among the middle classes (Mazzarella 2003; Van Wessel 2004). As households attempted to negotiate the increasing household costs brought by the new lifestyle standards, coping strategies included the increased acceptability of employment for middle-class women in urban centers. Smitha Radhakrishnan (2009: 196) notes the entrance of new discourses of respectable femininity in the mainstream that “center around a ‘new’ liberal Indian woman who embraces a high-tech education and stands up against such ‘traditional’ practices as dowry, conventionally accepted as an inevitable ill of Indian society.” In contemporary India, women working in jobs requiring educational achievement have come to occupy an important social, economic, and symbolic position. The public visibility of women is even considered a marker of a newly emerging middle-class identity and, among these middle classes, having a higher education improves both a woman’s career and her marriage prospects (Ganguly-Scrase 2003; Radhakrishnan 2009, 2011; Sharangpani 2010). This has, in turn, affected the domain of marriage. The overall age of marriage in India is still low, but it is changing among the urban middle classes, as women complete their degrees or work for a few years before getting married. Scholars of South Asia have documented how traditionally in India, the conjugal relationship was seen as subordinate to the larger joint family, with conjugal intimacy—which could lead to a woman seeking favoritism through her husband—actively discouraged as a threat to family and household dynamics (Jacobson 1982; Raheja and Gold 1994; Wadley 2002). Although educated wives, especially in urban areas, were sometimes able to challenge the containment of the pair bond, this was not typical, and higher education could negatively affect a woman’s marriage prospects (Seymour 1999: 265–92). Additionally, despite widespread celebrations of romantic love in Bollywood (the Indian film industry) and a rich romantic tradition in literature and folklore in India, in public discourse, “love” was seen as an unruly emotion that compromised objectivity, ignored family responsibilities, and compromised the long-term stability of a marriage (Pinto 2011; Sharangpani 2010). With economic liberalization, however, came a new focus on erotics in the media, and a correspondence was drawn between sexual desire and the desire for consumer products. Writing about televi-

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sion in India in the 1990s, Purnima Mankekar (2004: 418–19) observed, “In contrast to earlier television shows, the programs of the 1990s displayed an unprecedented fascination with intimate relationships—particularly marital, premarital, and extramarital relationships—and contained new and varied representations of erotics (explicit as well as implicit).” The “new” middle-class woman portrayed in the media expressed both sexual and consumer agency. Her desire was domesticated through an association with conjugality, and the conjugal couple was eroticized (see, for example, John and Nair 1998). William Mazzarella (2003) has, however, highlighted how this idealization of conjugality was a class-based phenomenon; whereas contraceptives were framed as representing aesthetic sexual experience for the educated middle classes, they represented fertility control for “others.” Among the middle classes, even within the domain of so-called arranged marriages1 there has been a turn toward a more companionate form of matrimony that takes into account individual consent and involves more private communication between the bride and bridegroom (Fuller and Narasimhan 2008; Gilbertson 2014; Sharangpani 2010). These shifts have influenced relations between daughters-in-law and the patrifocal family, particularly mothers-in-law. Mothers-in-law do not necessarily hold the same degree of power and authority over their daughters-in-law as before: The “sandwich generation,” in which the cohort of women informants were between the ages of fifty and seventy, bemoaned the changing domestic space in which they were now sandwiched between their domineering mothers-in-law and intolerant modern daughters-inlaw. The changing world of women, replete with new domestic violence laws and new notions of womanhood, had left them neither here nor there. As one informant said to me, her “time never came.” (Sharangpani 2010: 273)

PCOS and Contemporary India The sociocultural transformations and lifestyle changes brought on by economic liberalization have also been associated with an increase in the prevalence of PCOS among urban middle-class women. PCOS is an endocrine disorder associated with a range of symptoms such as irregular or absent menstruation, female subfertility, cystic acne, male-pattern hair loss, hirsutism (excessive male-pattern bodily hair growth), and insulin resistance (precursor to diabetes). Both


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genetic and lifestyle factors play a role in developing the condition, and there is an increasing recognition of the link between lifestyle, PCOS, and fertility issues among middle-class professionals (Inhorn 2015). The global prevalence of PCOS is placed at around 4–11 percent. Although there are no clear epidemiological studies of PCOS in India, estimates suggest that around one in four (or 25 percent) urban middle-class women have the condition. Moreover, the condition is linked to urban middle-class patterns of living. Thus, the condition is extremely common and openly talked about among the urban aspirational class in India (Pathak and Nichter 2015). There is no known cure for PCOS, and it can only be managed through lifestyle changes and medication. Such medication involves hormonal contraceptives to regulate menstruation, insulin sensitizers to address insulin resistance, and ovulation inducers and fertility treatments to combat subfertility. The focus of this chapter is on the fertilityrelated aspects of PCOS among married couples.

Methodology The data presented in this chapter are drawn from a larger study of PCOS in urban India that involved fieldwork in Mumbai from 2012 through 2015. The study involved 141 participants, including women with PCOS (n = 30; 10 single, 10 ever married without children, 10 married with children; however, given the extended time span of the research some interlocutors shifted categories and life stages, i.e., got married, gave birth, or got divorced). Although this chapter takes as its primary focus the experiences of five Muslim Indian couples with PCOS, it draws from in-depth interviews, illness narratives, informal conversations, and long-term observations in social settings of that sample of twenty ever-married women with PCOS based in Mumbai, as well as from supplementary in-depth interviews with ten husbands/couples in which the wife has PCOS. Besides this, it also draws from long-term observation of middle-class interactions, conversations, and practices in Mumbai.2 Interlocutors with PCOS were drawn from what can be termed the urban aspirational middle class. Middle classness is a notoriously difficult category to pin down in contemporary India, and South Asianists treat it less as an economic category than as a performative socioeconomic grouping (e.g., Fernandes 2006; Mazzarella 2005;

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McGuire 2011; Radhakrishnan 2011). Practices and norms vary markedly even within subsets of the middle class, and I have followed understandings gleaned from interactions in Mumbai in defining aspirational middle-class status as comprising comfort with English, knowledge of global (mostly American) popular culture, engagement with new practices of consumption, and potential for white-collar employment. Although this class could be seen to be a professional middle class, it includes members of “business” families (traders, entrepreneurs, small business owners), which in India are often seen as distinct from professionals. As a result of their engagement with global popular culture, patterns of consumption, and reflexive awareness of themselves in relation to the world, members of this class can also be thought of as displaying a “cosmopolitan disposition” in their conscious openness to the world and cultural differences (Skrbis, Kendall, and Woodward 2004: 117). Through my own social circles and through referrals from within my social networks, I identified women over the age of twenty-one who had received a medical diagnosis of PCOS from within this urban aspirational middle class. Recruiting this way enabled triangulation of data from interviews with data from observation regarding the practices of interlocutors in naturalistic settings. Women varied in their ages, life stages, PCOS symptoms, therapeutic itineraries, regional/community backgrounds, and household composition (joint, nuclear, or extended nuclear). Although all the women I identified had medical diagnoses of PCOS, not all of them were undergoing treatment. Some were on medication for various symptoms (as mentioned, there is no cure for PCOS), others had made lifestyle changes to manage the condition, and yet others had learned to live with their symptoms. Not all my women interlocutors worked outside the home; some identified as homemakers, some were professional women working full time, and others were freelancing, experimenting with entrepreneurial ventures, pursuing further educational qualifications, or taking a break (because of fertility treatments, to evaluate career plans, or after the birth of children). Many of the women and couples with PCOS were visited on several occasions, followed up by phone interviews, and observed during their day-to-day interactions across time points. In cases of couples, I spoke to the women prior to interviewing men. If comfortable, husbands were interviewed alone; otherwise, they were interviewed in the presence of their wives. Interviews


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were conducted primarily in English, as interlocutors from the aspirational middle class are comfortable with that language. Nevertheless, code switching between English, Hindi, and sometimes Marathi was common; only the English translations are provided. In this chapter, I focus on PCOS as a lens into notions of masculinity; I deal with women’s experiences and the insights they offer into changing notions of acceptable womanhood in a forthcoming companion piece.

Managing PCOS: Women’s Representations of Men When I talked to married female interlocutors with PCOS, their representations of their husbands in the context of their responses to PCOS were overwhelmingly positive. Women spoke of supportive husbands, having their “husband’s support,” or of PCOS “not being an issue” for their husbands; only one spoke of her husband not being supportive, and she had filed for divorce. Upon trying to unpack what being supportive meant, I soon came to realize that it involved two common themes. One aspect of support came up regarding how men dealt with inlaws’ and family members’ reactions to delayed childbirth and fertility issues. Negotiating boundaries with the larger family, regardless of whether women lived with their in-laws or not, and protecting conjugal privacy were key components of a husband’s supportiveness. This was the case even when women spoke with affection (rather than exasperation) of their affinal kin and family members. In India, childlessness is highly visible, as women are constantly scrutinized for signs of pregnancy upon getting married and throughout their reproductive lives (Inhorn and Bharadwaj 2007). Family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers ask personal questions about family dynamics and future plans. For women with PCOS, such surveillance presents both a deep source of distress and socially tricky terrain to navigate. For example, Mumtaz, married for five years, as yet childless, and undergoing fertility treatments, had a hard time keeping her treatments hidden and had spoken about them. This, however, created another complication; “Now since everybody is knowing that we are going through this treatment, people keep asking, ‘How is it working out?’ and all,” she told me. She used to be upset by such questioning, seeking ways to protect her privacy without offending people, but her husband’s help in evading extended discussions on sensitive is-

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sues proved to be significant. Asked about how she had learned to handle such inquisitiveness, Mumtaz laughed and told me, “Aamir [her husband] takes over.” Another element of the support provided by husbands was in managing the affective dimensions of PCOS-related fertility issues, including accompanying women to doctor’s visits, alleviating anxieties and distress related to possible childlessness, and pacifying the mood swings caused by ovulation inducers (part of fertility treatments). Mumtaz relied on Aamir to assuage her fears; when she needed someone to talk to about the stress of the fertility treatments she was undergoing, she preferred talking to Aamir over talking to her mother: I basically speak to him, because he’s, first of all, he is a very good friend of mine [they were friends before they decided to get married], and then he’s my husband. So I always discuss whatever problem I have with him only. And he’s like a very cool type of a person. Like “It’s not working out; it’s okay. Next, we’ll do the next trial.”

Fatima similarly spoke of the emotional steadiness of her husband, Irfan. Irfan was eleven years her senior; he had fallen in love with her at first sight before he realized that she was only fifteen years old. From then, he had courted her, waiting until they convinced both their families to approve the match and until she completed her bachelor’s degree. She was twenty-one years old when they married; he was thirty-two. They could not conceive until five years into the marriage. Recounting that time, Fatima spoke of her guilt that Irfan had had to wait so long to marry her only to go through another waiting game as they tried for a child. She told him to leave her and look for another wife, but he replied that she was crazy for thinking that way. He told her that he “was okay with kids or no kids”—he didn’t need kids as much as he needed her. Looking back on those years, Fatima smilingly recounted, He would tell me, “Go back to sleep; don’t use your brain so much.” I would always think these things at night—at night is when you really get time together to talk [they live in a joint family]. But he would just tell me not to think so much; he was always confident that it will happen when it is time.

Although Irfan saw in vitro fertilization (IVF) as an obvious next step, Fatima was uncomfortable with the idea, as she wanted a “natural” baby. Fed up with several cycles of unsuccessful intrauterine insemination, she had wanted to get away from all doctors and


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treatments. Irfan wanted to move on to IVF immediately, but seeing Fatima’s frustration, agreed that they should take a six-month break from medical intervention. Fatima described Irfan’s reaction: “He told me, ‘It’s okay, take your time.’” Ultimately, she conceived without assistance during that time off; it was a girl. Irfan was ecstatic, and the couple did not even contemplate trying to have another child.

Managing PCOS: Men’s Perspectives This theme of the husband’s calm and confidence in the face of the wife’s anxiety was common even in men’s descriptions of themselves in relation to their wives’ PCOS. Men were rarely as loquacious—or as reflective of their own strategies and behavior—regarding negotiating boundaries for the conjugal unit as their wives. Neither did men reference supportiveness or masculinity when talking about their roles in managing their wives’ PCOS; rather, they spoke of their individual dispositions or their concern for their wives. All my male interlocutors expressed confidence in modern technology. Their reliance on reproductive technologies—and openness in talking about it—was particularly striking given that extant literature has recorded wariness, stigma, and secrecy surrounding IVF and assisted reproductive technologies among both Indians and Muslims (Bharadwaj 2003; Inhorn 2007, 2015; Inhorn and Bharadwaj 2007). However, interlocutors’ attitudes reflected a new comfort with such medical technologies and a new reasoning of risk, wherein the consequences of PCOS are thought of in terms of probabilities. Since economic liberalization, India has seen the growth of profit-driven neoliberal healthcare as a result of policies allowing for easier bank loans and importation of medical technology (Nichter and Van Sickle 2002). This growth has included a boom in IVF, surrogacy services, and sperm donation centers, including medical tourism related to reproductive issues (Bharadwaj 2000; Gupta 2000; Unnithan 2010). The ubiquity of these services and the sheer pervasiveness of the PCOS diagnosis among the urban aspirational class have helped normalize both, making PCOS seem within the realms of medical intervention and rendering such intervention an accessible option. Nevertheless, among my interlocutors, this belief in medical technology was often combined with a belief in prayer, as Aamir demonstrated:

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Apart from medical technology, we are also continuously praying. You know, my mom, her mom, friends. Then we made a visit to this place, border of Maharashtra, there’s a dargah [shrine, usually of a Sufi saint] there—someone had suggested. So we are trying out both things. And I’m confident that it will work out, one way or the other.

In a similar vein, Irfan said both “Science has advanced so much” and “It is all God’s will.” It was also common to hear husbands talk of their “practical” nature, rationality, or their confidence compared to their wives. They spoke of a difference in temperament from their wives and a different affective relationship with temporality. Salman told me he didn’t “take things as seriously” as his wife, Razia. Where he was happygo-lucky and independent, she was a “serious, studious type.” Irfan said, “To be frank, I didn’t think that much far ahead [as Fatima did].” Farhan approached this difference more critically: Shahnaz [his wife], being a very emotional girl, she had started thinking that “things are not happening” [when they didn’t conceive after a few years of marriage]. Being a girl, there’s a lot of additional—I would say a lot of undue responsibility—that “I have to fulfill the expectations of the family, I have to start the family.”

The recognition that women bore the brunt of social curiosity and surveillance and the difference in temperament between men and women was often cited in shielding wives from the comments and questions of family members and others. Aamir’s attitude was typical: Lot of outsiders, like friends, or friend’s friends, they are more interested, “Kya ho gaya, kya ho gaya [What happened]?” See, for me, it doesn’t matter. Because my nature is not that. I am more chill, more calm. But for her, it really affects her. You have to know where to draw the line. There are some people who are more interested, you know, “Why it’s not happening?” blah blah blah. “It’s been so long since you are married.” These things are there. Plus, being from a Muslim family, people are more interested, outsiders. . . . It affects her a lot. She’s a very introvert person. . . . I have my own way of handling them. I tell them like, “It will happen; we’ll give you the good news soon.” Stuff like that. Just to change their focus. I’m more used to handling them.

Supportive Masculinities Literature on South Asia has documented the shifts in constellations of sexuality, family life, and marriage in India brought on by eco-


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nomic liberalization (Fernandes 2000a; Mankekar 1999; Mazzarella 2003; Srivastava 2007). One such shift displayed by my interlocutors was in their understanding of marriage. In the case of my male interlocutors, an understanding of marriage as a site of companionship, regardless of whether they termed their marriages “love” or “arranged,” was linked to the supportive masculinities they demonstrated. For example, when going through arranged marriage channels, Farhan actively sought a woman who worked outside the home, had an opinion, expressed her individuality, and acted like a professional. “I wanted a partner at par with me,” he stated, “I wanted to be able to converse with her.” He continued, “You are marrying a person, not a body.” This focus on companionship was also linked to the negotiation of boundaries with the nonconjugal unit, as couples tried to balance a desire for conjugal intimacy with their obligations to the larger family unit. They were involved in complex negotiations to attend to their responsibilities to the rest of the family and wider community while protecting their conjugal privacy; the new focus on companionate marriage did not imply cutting off other kin relations (and the material, social, and emotional resources that such networks bring). Supportive masculinity involved caring for conjugal intimacy along with diplomacy and attentiveness to family, and it depended upon men’s ability to buffer women from questions and commentary from wider kin and social networks while simultaneously preserving those networks. It also meant sheltering wives from the anxieties and fears that, as women, they had been socialized to take upon themselves. As interlocutors pointed out, women are subjected to more expectations, comments, and queries regarding their fertility, and the stigma of a couple’s childlessness falls disproportionately upon them. Even among the middle classes, women are tasked with balancing their cosmopolitanism and modernity with their familial and community obligations (Donner 2008; Radhakrishnan 2009); their ability to successfully navigate social expectations (including those involving their fertility) affects their social standing as well as that of their families (Dickey 2002). Men do not face the same pressures. The husbands with whom I spoke defined themselves in relation to their wives’ tendencies to worry and stress, reflecting a confidence in themselves literally engendered by their privileged class and male status. Moreover, although they exhibited new attitudes regarding what it means to be a man, they also echoed traditional gender norms in their beliefs about women’s sensitivity and their

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need to be shielded. In this, they were in a sense extending the notion of man as protector, reflected in several other chapters in this edited volume, to include exhibiting affective steadiness. Demonstrating calm and safeguarding their wives’ emotional well-being also became a form of care for their wives. Gender claims have always been used as markers of class distinction by the larger middle class in India, as the class actively distanced itself not just from the “corrupt” West but also the “uncivilized” lower classes (Deshpande 2003; Srivastava 2007). Nevertheless, Marcia C. Inhorn and Aditya Bharadwaj (2007) point out that elite class status by itself is not able to protect Indian couples from the social interference that inevitably accompanies childlessness, the stigma of infertility, and the “spoiling” of gender identity it implies. My interlocutors’ perspectives are therefore all the more interesting. They differentiated themselves not so much from the lower classes or the West, but rather from nonurban groups, their “parents’ generation,” “conservative” or “traditional” families, or “typical” members of communities. In doing so, they highlighted their own cosmopolitanism and modernity, bringing into focus not just class (as representing cultural capital) and rural-urban differences but also generational ones. Furthermore, as men of the aspirational middle class, male interlocutors possessed both the cultural and the economic capital to access the medical technology in which they placed their faith. In this, they also expressed a form of bourgeois Indian masculinity associated with rationalism and postcolonial modernity (Srivastava 2005), which did not preclude turning to religious idioms and practices such as prayer and pilgrimage (see also Bharadwaj 2006).

Companionate Marriages, Supportive Husbands, and PCOS On the basis of her ethnographic work on South India, Caroline Osella (2012) points out that in postliberalization India, love and companionship often function as adjuncts to more typical pragmaticeconomic considerations of marriage and are understood to require grounding in the stability of the wider family group. By negotiating boundaries within family and social circles, couples (especially husbands) were balancing a desire for conjugal privacy with wider family and community obligations. Moreover, in speaking of supportive husbands, women were acknowledging the power that men


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wielded over their lives, a power that could make their lives miserable just as much as it could become a source of empowerment (cf. Jeffery 1979). New realities of divorce and increasing employment opportunities for women among the urban aspirational middle class in India mitigate some of that power but cannot dissolve it entirely. Nevertheless, for women facing fertility issues and the possibility of childlessness, which have typically been highly distressing and stigmatized, the supportiveness of their husbands and the companionate marriages that they shared with them were experienced as sources of resilience and empowerment. Their experiences were in marked contrast to extant literature on childlessness and subfertility in India. They also offer a corrective to prevalent stereotypes of technophobic Muslim men or of misogynistic, violent, or uncaring Indian men suffusing the mediascape after the brutal gang rape in Delhi triggered a national conversation on gender relations. I do not wish to imply that the shifts I describe here apply across India—or even across urban middle-class India. Marcia C. Inhorn (2012), writing about masculinity in the Muslim Middle East, coined the term “emergent masculinities” to speak to new forms of manhood that exist alongside other dominant gender norms and emerge from processes of social change as men adapt to the new circumstances of their changing worlds. In particular, she uses the term to describe masculinities in the Muslim Middle East that focus on conjugal connection in the face of infertility. Emergent masculinity not only best describes the form of manhood associated with the urban aspirational middle class that my interlocutors were displaying but also shows how Inhorn’s observations regarding conjugal commitment have relevance beyond the Middle East and even beyond Muslim men. Although I have focused on Muslim couples in this chapter, their narratives and perspectives were similar to those of non-Muslim couples in this class. These couples inhabit the same sociocultural urban aspirational middle-class milieu and share lifestyles, practices, and tastes. The urban aspirational middle class embodies the modern and global yet Indian identities that represent the hegemonic ideal portrayed in the media in postliberalization India. This class displays an increasingly national character, in that caste and community are less important, experienced through the wider hierarchies of class and capital instead. This also manifests in more openness to cross-regional and cross-community marriages (Mazzarella 2005). Such openness was reflected in my larger sample of women with PCOS, in which sev-

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eral women were in unions across linguistic, regional, caste, and religious categories. Even among the five Muslim couples I focus on in this chapter, three were in cross-community (Shi’a-Sunni unions or unions across regional communities) marriages. Thus, the experiences and attitudes of my interlocutors reflect a new class-linked Indian cosmopolitanism that cuts across communities and regions. This cosmopolitanism includes Muslims, who, as a community, have tended to be portrayed as being parochial, regressive in their gender norms, and wary of technology. Nevertheless, their supportive masculinity has not displaced the forms dominant among other classes or regions. Instead, my interlocutors’ narratives and experiences record an emergent notion of manhood and the negotiations that such emergent gender relations involve in a society in transition. Although the supportive masculinities I chronicle here do not reflect changes in norms in all of India, the existence of these masculinities and hybrid forms of companionate intimacy among the urban aspirational middle class—the class that orients aspiration within the country—opens up the possibility of these shifts being reflected in other sections of Indian society as well (see also Singh 2016).

Gauri Pathak is an assistant professor in the Department of Global Studies (Indian and South Asian Studies) at Aarhus University, Denmark. A medical anthropologist, she received her Ph.D. from the School of Anthropology, University of Arizona. Pathak also holds a B.B.A. in management and an M.A. in South Asian studies, both from the National University of Singapore. Her research focuses on the body, consumption practices, and health in globalizing urban India, including the changing relationship between the body and middle-class subjectivity in India after economic liberalization.

Notes 1. Scholars of South Asia have critiqued the simplistic binary of love and arranged marriage, which in contemporary times has been further complicated by new formations such as the matrimonial website and by hybrid companionate forms (Donner 2002; Fuller and Narasimhan 2008; Gilbertson 2014; Palriwala and Kaur 2014; Sharangpani 2010).


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2. The institutional review board of the University of Arizona approved the research, and informed consent was obtained from all participants. The names of all interlocutors are pseudonyms.

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Deshpande, Satish. 2003. Contemporary India: A Sociological View. New Delhi: Penguin Books. Dhaliwal, L. K, K. R. Khera, and G. I. Dhall. 1990. “Evaluation and TwoYear Follow-Up of 455 Infertile Couples—Pregnancy Rate and Outcome.” International Journal of Fertility 36(4): 222–26. Dickey, Sara. 2002. “Anjali’s Prospects: Class Mobility in Urban India.” In Everyday Life in South Asia, ed. Diane Mines and Sarah Lamb, 214–26. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Donner, Henrike. 2002. “‘One’s Own Marriage’: Love Marriages in a Calcutta Neighbourhood.” South Asia Research 22: 79–94. ———. 2008. Domestic Goddesses: Maternity, Globalization, and Middle-Class Identity in Contemporary India. Burlington: Ashgate. Dwyer, Rachel and Chris Pinney. 2001. Pleasure and the Nation: The History, Politics and Consumption of Public Culture in India. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Fernandes, Leela. 2000a. “Nationalizing ‘the Global’: Media Images, Cultural Politics and the Middle Class in India.” Media, Culture & Society 22: 611–28. ———. 2000b. “Restructuring the New Middle Class in Liberalizing India.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 20(1==2): 88–111. ———. 2006. India’s New Middle Class: Democratic Politics in an Era of Reform. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Fuller, Christopher J. and Haripriya Narasimhan. 2008. “Companionate Marriage in India: The Changing Marriage System in a Middle-Class Brahman Subcaste.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 14: 736–54. Ganguly-Scrase, Ruchira. 2003. “Paradoxes of Globalization, Liberalization, and Gender Equality: The Worldviews of the Lower Middle Class in West Bengal, India.” Gender & Society 17(4): 544–66. Gehlawat, Ajay. 2012. “‘Aadat se Majboor’/‘Helpless by Habit’: Metrosexual Masculinity in Contemporary Bollywood.” Studies in South Asian Film & Media 4(1): 61–79. George, Annie. 2006. “Reinventing Honorable Masculinity. Discourses from a Working-Class Indian Community.” Men and Masculinities 9(1): 35–52. Gilbertson, Amanda. 2014. “From Respect to Friendship? Companionate Marriage and Conjugal Power Negotiation in Middle-Class Hyderabad.” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 37(2): 225–38. Gillespie, Marie and Tom Cheesman. 2002. “Media Cultures in India and the South Asian Diaspora.” Contemporary South Asia 11(2): 127–33. Gupta, Jyotsna Agnihotri. 2000. New Reproductive Technologies, Women’s Health and Autonomy: Freedom or Dependency? New Delhi: Sage Publications. Inhorn, Marcia C. 2007. “Masturbation, Semen Collection, and Men’s IVF Experiences: Anxieties in the Muslim World.” Body and Society 13: 37–53. ———. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


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———. 2015. Cosmopolitan Conceptions: IVF Sojourns in Global Dubai. Durham: Duke University Press. Inhorn, Marcia and Aditya Bharadwaj. 2007. “Reproductively Disabled Lives: Infertility, Stigma, and Suffering in Egypt and India.” In Disability in Local and Global Worlds, ed. Benedicte Ingstad and Susan R. Whyte, 78–106. Berkeley: University of California Press. Jacobson, Doranne. 1982. “Studying the Changing Roles of Women in Rural India.” Signs 8(1): 132–37. Jeffrey, Craig. 2010. “Timepass: Youth, Class, and Time among Unemployed Young Men in India.” American Ethnologist 37(3): 465–81. Jeffery, Patricia. 1979. Frogs in a Well: Indian Women in Purdah. London: Zed Press. Jejeebhoy, Shireen. 1998. “Infertility in India: Levels, Patterns and Consequences Priorities for Social Science Research.” Journal of Family Welfare 44: 15–24. Jindal, U. N. and A. N. Gupta. 1989. “Social Problems of Infertile Women in India.” International Journal of Fertility 34(1): 30–33. John, Mary and Janaki Nair, eds. 1998. A Question of Silence: The Sexual Economics of Modern India. New Delhi: Kali for Women. Krishnaswamy, Revathi. 2002. Effeminism: The Economy of Colonial Desire. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Luhrmann, Tanya M. 1996. The Good Parsi: The Fate of a Colonial Elite in a Post-Colonial Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Mankekar, Purnima. 1999. Screening Culture, Viewing Politics: An Ethnography of Television, Womanhood, and Nation in Postcolonial India. Durham and London: Duke University Press. ———. 2004. “Dangerous Desires: Television and Erotics in Late Twentieth-Century India.” Journal of Asian Studies 63(2): 403–31. Mazzarella, William. 2003. Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. ———. 2005. “Middle Class.” In South Asia Keywords, ed. Rachel Dwyer. London: School of Oriental and African Studies. McGuire, Meredith Lindsay. 2011. “‘How to Sit, How to Stand’: Bodily Practice and the New Urban Middle Class.” In A Companion to the Anthropology of India, ed. Isabelle Clark-Decès, 117–36. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell. Mehta, Bhamini and Shagufa Kapadia. 2008. “Experiences of Childlessness in an Indian Context: A Gender Perspective.” Indian Journal of Gender Studies 15(3): 437–60. Mulgaonkar, V. B. 2001. A Research and an Intervention Programme on Women’s Reproductive Health in Slums of Mumbai. Mumbai: Sujeevan Trust. Munshi, Shoma. 2001. “Marvellous Me: The Beauty Industry and the Construction of the ‘Modern’ Indian Woman.” In Images of the “Modern Woman” in Asia. Global Media, Local Meanings, ed. Shoma Munshi, 78–93. Richmond and Surrey: Curzon Press. Nandy, Ashish. 1998. The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of the Self under Colonialism. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

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Nichter, Mark and David Van Sickle. 2002. “The Challenges of India’s Health and Health Care Transitions.” In India Briefing: Quickening the Pace of Change, ed. Alissa Ayres and Philip Oldenburg, 159–96. Armonk: M. E. Sharpe. Osella, Caroline. 2012. “Desires under Reform: Contemporary Reconfigurations of Family, Marriage, Love and Gendering in a Transnational South Indian Matrilineal Muslim Community.” Culture and Religion 13(2): 241–64. Osella, Caroline and Filippo Osella. 2006. Men and Masculinities in South India. London: Anthem Press. Osella, Filippo and Caroline Osella. 2000. “Migration, Money and Masculinity in Kerala.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 6(1): 117–33. Palriwala, Rajni and Ravinder Kaur. 2014. Marrying in South Asia: Shifting Concepts, Changing Practices in a Globalising World. New Delhi: Orient BlackSwan. Pandian, M. S. S. 1996. “Gendered Negotiations: Hunting and Colonialism in the Late Nineteenth Century Nilgiris.” Contributions to Indian Sociology New Series 29(1–2): 239–63. Pathak, Gauri and Mark Nichter. 2015 “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Globalizing India: An Ecosocial Perspective on an Emerging Lifestyle Disease.” Social Science & Medicine 146: 21–28. Pinto, Sarah. 2011. “Rational Love, Relational Medicine: Psychiatry and the Accumulation of Precarious Kinship.” Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 35: 376–95. Radhakrishnan, Smitha. 2009. “Professional Women, Good Families: Respectable Femininity and the Cultural Politics of a ‘New’ India.” Qualitative Sociology 32: 195–212. ———. 2011. Appropriately Indian: Gender and Culture in a New Transnational Class. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Raheja, Gloria Goodwin and Ann Grodzins Gold. 1995. Listen to the Heron’s Words: Reimagining Gender and Kinship in North India. Berkeley: University of California Press. Riessman, Catherine Kohler. 2000. “Stigma and Everyday Resistance Practices: Childless Woman in South India.” Gender & Society 14(1): 111–35. Rogers, Martyn. 2008. “Modernity, ‘Authenticity’, and Ambivalence: Subaltern Masculinities on a South Indian College Campus.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 14(1): 79–95. Roselli, John. 1980. “The Self-Image of Effeteness: Physical Education and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Bengal.” Past & Present 86: 121–48. Seymour, Susan. 1999. Women, Family, and Child-Care in India: A World in Transition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sharangpani, Mukta. 2010. “Browsing for Bridegrooms: Matchmaking and Modernity in Mumbai.” Indian Journal of Gender Studies 17(2): 249–76. Singh, A., L. K. Dhaliwal, and A. Kaur. 1997. “Infertility in a Primary Health Centre of Northern India: A Follow Up Study.” Journal of Family Welfare 42(1): 51–56.


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Singh, Holly Donahue. 2017. “Fertility Control: Reproductive Desires, Kin Work, and Women’s Status in Contemporary India.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 31(1): 23–39. Sinha, Mrinalini. 1995. Colonial Masculinity: The “Manly Englishman” and the “Effeminate Bengali” in the Late Nineteenth Century. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Sinha, Suvadip. 2013. “Vernacular Masculinity and Politics of Space in Contemporary Bollywood Cinema.” Studies in South Asian Film & Media 5(2): 131–45. Skrbis, Zlatko, Gavin Kendall, and Ian Woodward. 2004. “Locating Cosmopolitanism between Humanist Ideal and Grounded Social Category.” Theory, Culture & Society 21(6): 115–36. Srivastava, Sanjay. 2005. Constructing Post-Colonial India: National Character and the Doon School. London: Routledge. ———. 2007. Passionate Modernity: Sexuality, Class and Consumption in India. New Delhi: Routledge. ———. 2010. “Fragmentary Pleasures: Masculinity, Urban Spaces, and Commodity Politics in Delhi.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 16: 835–52. Srivastava, Sanjay, ed. 2004. Sexual Sites, Seminal Attitudes: Sexualities, Masculinities and Culture in South Asia. New Delhi: Sage. Unisa, Sayeed. 1999. “Childlessness in Andhra Pradesh, India: Treatment Seeking and Consequences.” Reproductive Health Matters 7(13): 54–64. Unnithan, Maya. 2010. “Infertility and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) in a Globalising India: Ethics, Medicalisation, and Agency.” Asian Bioethics Review 2(1): 3–18. Van Wessel, Margit. 2004. “Talking about Consumption. How an Indian Middle Class Dissociates from Middle Class Life.” Cultural Dynamics 16(1): 93–116. Wadley, Susan. 2002. “One Straw from a Broom Cannot Sweep: The Ideology and Practice of the Joint Family in Rural North India.” In Everyday Life in South Asia, ed. Diane P. Mines and Sarah Lamb, 11–22. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Part II


Chapter 6



hen Ahmad turned twelve in 2013, like many of the boys in his neighborhood, he was eager to find a summer job. This is the age and time when boys try to find manual work that will allow them to begin training, hoping to master a trade by the end of their teen years. Up to this point, Ahmad spent his summers doing lots of chores for his family (such as buying bread and groceries), catching up on his studies, and playing with other children in the area. When possible, he helped his uncles in their nearby shops and work places. However, by the age of twelve, he was ready to try new experiences and frequent other spaces. His endeavor to find work brought him to different parts of his neighborhood. He first worked with a carpenter, then a tailor, and eventually in several stores helping to carry, load, and unload products and running errands (such as buying food and drinks) for the workers and the boss. The older he got, the farther he traveled for work. In the summer of 2015, Ahmad started working in a shop that sells cleaning supplies and accessories for cars in downtown Cairo. He returned to the same store in the summer of 2016. He usually left home between nine and ten o’clock in the morning and returned home at around nine o’clock at night. When he arrived,


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he cleaned the floor of the shop, created a display of merchandise in front of the store, and responded to any requests made by the owner. Throughout the day, he delivered orders or picked up products requested by his boss. In July 2016, if he worked six full days, Ahmad earned around $20 (180 Egyptian pounds) a week. Since Ahmad was a little boy, his mother, Hiba, was eager to see him learn a trade to combine with any other job his public education might afford him in the future. So, she was pleased that he showed an interest in working. Hiba encouraged him, frequently reminding him of the importance of work, and made sure that he did not miss work without good reason. Hiba actively instilled in him the importance of caring for others and the value that laboring and providing are key qualities of a proper man. She asked him every week to give part of his income to his little sister (around $1), his maternal grandmother (around $2), and her (around $3). Hiba explained that what he was giving them was so little that it did not make a real difference for her or her mother but that she wanted him to grow up aware of his obligations, especially to his close female relatives. Drawing on ethnographic research in al-Zawiya al-Hamra, a low-income neighborhood in northern Cairo (see Ghannam 2002 for more information about the neighborhood), this chapter shows that class and gender are interlinked and are reproduced simultaneously. Informed by feminist scholarship and the work of Pierre Bourdieu, I investigate how women like Hiba work to cultivate a gendered habitus in young children, which is expected to be part of their interaction with male and female relatives and community members. In a working-class context, I argue, labor is key to the making of gendered and classed subjects. Work for men is central to the accumulation of economic, cultural, social, and symbolic forms of capital. Rather than being motivated by an abstract sense of self-actualization or the desire for individual fulfillment, work (and therefore providing) is part of an ethics of care that is key to a proper working-class man. It is not only an economic activity but also an enactment of a set of values and a cultivation of multiple relationships that constitute a proper man. Through work, boys and men materialize the norms that link masculinity with productivity and providing. Work also helps them accumulate social capital that extends beyond their neighborhood and includes different networks in various parts of the city. At the same time, labor and providing deeply connect men and women. Men are socialized to provide and care for their female relatives. However, as this chapter shows, mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, and

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more also play key roles in encouraging, enabling, and even pressuring men to learn the importance of work and to materialize this value over time. Failure to do so is criticized and women, especially wives, are often held responsible when an able man does not consistently work. Similarly, mothers are blamed when their male children do not learn work during their teen years or are not encouraged to acquire the ethos and skills needed to succeed as workers.

Labor as a Form of Care “Ethics of care” is a notion rooted in the work of Carol Gilligan in social psychology and feminist “awareness of the enormous amount of overlooked but utterly necessary labor involved in bringing up children and caring for the ill” (Held 2013: 10). Over the past two decades, ethics of care has become the focus of a rich body of literature that is debated in different disciplines, including philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and political science. Unlike previous arguments, which invested men with higher moral reasoning, different studies have shown that the care-based perspective women tend to privilege is an important alternative to a liberal perspective that values autonomy and independence (Koggel and Orme 2013). There is a diverse body of literature that encompasses multiple conceptualizations of “care” and “ethics” but shares an interest in challenging the liberal emphasis on independent and autonomous notions of individuality and the universal concepts of rights and justice. This literature seeks to advance alternative ideas that stress interrelatedness and interdependence as crucial to understanding social life and gendered identifications (Barnes 2012; Held 2013; Hollway 2006; Koggel and Orme 2013; Noddings 2013; Robinson 2011). A main concept in this body of literature is relationality, which has also been central to the study of gender and family in Arab societies (Joseph 1999, 2001). In her pioneering work on the Arab family, Suad Joseph offered a powerful critique and an important correction to the “pathologizing” of “relational selfhood” (1999: 3). Unlike the tendency in Western psychological theory, Joseph argued that relationality “is not an explanation of dysfunctionality but rather a description of a process by which persons are socialized into social systems that value linkage, bonding, and sociability” (ibid.: 9). Her work moved us beyond the opposition between individualist and corporatist views and showed that persons in Arab societies are


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“embedded in relational matrices that shape their sense of self but do not deny them their distinctive initiative and agency” (ibid.: 11). She used the notion of “patriarchal connectivity” to describe “the production of selves with fluid boundaries organized for gendered and aged domination in a culture valorizing kin structures, morality, and idioms” (ibid.: 12). Seeking to demonstrate the complex realities that structure the struggles and aspirations of Muslim women, Lila Abu-Lughod (2013) challenged the use of the language of universal rights to understand and “save” them from their “oppressive” religion and culture. She showed the need to go beyond the “culture talk” to account for broader political and economic forces that shape women’s ethical engagement with their families and communities. Other scholars (Ghannam 2013; Inhorn 2012; Naguib 2015) shifted attention to the study of masculinity and aimed to question common stereotypes and simple assumptions about the “oppressive” and uncaring Arab man. Inhorn shows that “Middle Eastern masculinity is in a state of flux, with shifting praxis in the realms of reproduction, sexuality, marriage, and family life” (2012: 30), arguing that men are redefining patriarchal notions of masculinity and are seeking to cultivate loving and caring relations with their spouses. In her study of men and food in Egypt, Naguib challenges the view of the “undomesticated Arab Muslim man” (2015: 123) and the tendency to equate nurturance with female domesticity. Her ethnography shows how “food can communicate and assemble two elements: caregiving and masculinity” (ibid.: 34). These studies highlight the strong moral and material mutual support that bond men and women and show how such bonds contribute to their materialization as gendered subjects. This chapter supports the main argument of these studies. Similar to what is seen as key to the ethics of care more broadly, most men in Ahmad’s neighborhood tend to be attentive, responsive, responsible, respectful, and competent (for more on these aspects of care, see Hollway 2006 and Barnes 2012). In this chapter, I extend the notion of care to include men’s labor and work outside the home. It is important to discuss care always in the context of class hierarchies and account for the intersection between gender and class in how care is understood and practiced daily. Most existing studies of masculinity and care, including the “caring masculinity” literature (see Elliot 2015 for a discussion of this concept and its conceptual usefulness) tend to focus on specific classes, usually the middle class and

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dual-earning households, where care in the domestic sphere can be separated from work outside the house. In contrast, in a working-class context like Ahmad’s neighborhood, and with notions of connectivity and interdependence so key to the making of unbounded selves, care not only encompasses the work of women, who care for the young and the old, but also extends to include the paid work of men. Work here is not motivated mainly by the joy of its achievements or by an interest in cultivating an independent and autonomous individuality but by a desire to provide, support, and care for others. Because ethics of care are not based on abstract and universal principles but are strongly linked to relational and situated interactions, we need to investigate the “conditions under which relations can, and often do, become relations of domination, oppression, injustice, or paternalism” (Robinson 2011: 5). Thus, we must be attentive to how caring practices that are key to the survival and well-being of individuals and families not only reflect but also reconstitute gender and class inequalities.

Modalities of Care People in al-Zawiya differentiate between notions of care in terms of how they relate to broader projects of engendering. In general, care practices that enable men and women to materialize socially defined notions of femininity and masculinity are highly valued and encouraged. Caring for one’s parents, children, siblings, spouses, neighbors, and friends is highly regarded and considered part of the duties of good children, parents, and siblings. As I describe in Ghannam (2013), a proper and decent man ( gad’a) intervenes to break up a fight, prevent the mistreatment of vulnerable individuals, help extinguish a fire, or assist someone who is hurt in an accident. Such caring practices are particularly important in places like Cairo, where neoliberal policies coupled with ineffective and uncaring government institutions place more of a burden on citizens to provide not only economic sustenance but also child care, education, health care, and emergency aid when needed. These are values that Ahmad’s mother has worked hard to cultivate in him since he was a little boy. She often emphasized these qualities in his father, who literally sacrificed his health to provide for his family. Working in Saudi Arabia to provide enough money for his family, Ahmad’s father died at the age of thirty-eight, when his son was only five years old (see Ghannam 2013 for more about


Farha Ghannam

his life and death). Hiba aspired to raise Ahmad to be like his father: mindful of the needs of his family, compassionate about the suffering of others, and thoughtful about helping his relatives. Caring was particularly important in the relationship between Ahmad and his sister, Mona, who is four years his junior. They have only each other, Hiba would repeatedly emphasize. Mona is loved deeply not only because she is the youngest but also because she is deprived of her father and his love. When she was a toddler and a little girl, Mona was allowed to insult and make fun of her brother, hit him, or refuse to obey him. Ahmad was expected to tolerate his little sister because she was younger and did not know any better, as his mother would explain. However, when Mona grew older, she was subjected to increased pressure to show more respect for her older brother. Similar to what Joseph (2001) describes in the context of the working class in Lebanon, responding to the demands of an older brother and providing him with basic services became increasingly expected from Mona as a good sister. In particular, she was expected to show him respect by obeying him in front of other people. Ahmad in return was expected to love, protect, and offer his sister money when he was working. From an early age, Ahmad had to learn how to negotiate his own desires with the expectations and demands placed on him by his mother and other relatives. This process is becoming even more critical as he gets older. Last summer, Ahmad was trying to maintain a balance between his obligations to his mother, grandmother, and sister and his desire to engage in hobbies. Ahmad had developed a love for motorcycles and was excited to tell me about their detailed features. Over the past few years, shops that rent motorcycles to teens and young men have appeared in the area. Whenever possible, and often without his mother’s knowledge, Ahmad would rent one of them for a spin in the area. On a few occasions, he fell and damaged the motorcycle. He had to pay the owner an extra fee that consumed a substantial share of his wage. Ahmad also wanted to save some money to spend on a game or two of pool, another pastime that he is deeply passionate about and that also is popular among his peers. He was often faced with money shortages and had to find ways to negotiate with his mother to borrow money or draw from the little money his mother expected him to save for his school supplies. Work also helped transform the relationship between Ahmad and his mother. While still trying to control his whereabouts, Hiba became more flexible with him during the summer. She is not able to

Teaching Him to Care


impose her will on him as often as before and she is not able to use physical discipline as she did when he was younger. There is more give and take: he jokes with his mother much more than in the past and argues with her about different things. He shares with her his knowledge of new technologies (such as mobile phones and tablets) and social media (such as Facebook and WhatsApp). She advises him on how to handle emerging issues and questions linked to his work, the ethical use of technologies of communication, growing interests in girls, and much more. His mother also includes him in some of her activities and asks him to accompany her on special occasions and emergencies. For example, in the summer of 2015, when, very early one morning, she heard the news about the death of the husband of her sisterin-law (Ahmad’s paternal aunt), she asked her son to skip work and accompany her to his aunt’s house. He, at the age of fourteen, not only went with her but also participated in the funeral and the burial. He is now the one who accompanies her when she travels to visit her husband’s family in Upper Egypt. When he is with her, she explained to me, she does not worry about her reputation even if she comes back home late or ventures to distant places. Through his work, Ahmad is not only learning the value of hard work and the centrality of providing for his “masculine trajectory” (see Ghannam 2013 for more on this notion); he is also learning how to navigate the city and its different spaces and resources. Ahmad had to learn how to handle the transportation system (including the metro, the microbus network, and the unreliable public buses) and how to improvise and find solutions when his money was limited or short. For example, he not only learned how to use the metro but also how to ride it for free when he did not have the money. He describes how, when needed, he waits until he sees someone approaching who seemed to be walking slowly or absent-mindedly (bi birod) and then Ahmad walks behind him and very quickly squeezes in before the gate closes. Such practices, as I argue in Ghannam 2013, should not be viewed as morally suspect but should be seen as part of a broader set of strategies that allow urban life to be livable and that are key to the survival of certain social groups in Cairo. Ahmad also had to learn the responsibility that comes with moving about the city, such as how to keep track of time, appear when he is expected, and remain accessible by phone. His mother described to me an evening when Ahmad was late coming back home. She called his work, and the boss told her that Ahmad left at his


Farha Ghannam

regular time. Hiba got so worried, especially when Ahmad did not answer his phone, that she went to the bus station to look for him. She called her brothers and all of them started searching for her son. When he appeared a few hours later, it turned out that he went with one of his friends to another neighborhood to look for a better job. Although relieved to see him safe and to hear that he was out trying to improve his lot in life, Hiba was still upset and made it very clear that she expected him to return home promptly after work and that his mobile phone should be with him and on when he is away. She explained to him the worries he had caused his uncles and her and emphasized the importance of being responsible and thoughtful about managing time and staying in touch with her. In addition, Ahmad is learning how to handle different bosses and their styles. He learned that a caring boss gives you some extra money every once in a while, occasionally buys you some lunch, and understands when you have to miss a day of work for an emergency or a family obligation. When I talked to him in the summer of 2015, he complained bitterly about his boss. The man did not show any appreciation for Ahmad and his hard work. He did not understand when Ahmad had to miss a day of work to attend a relative’s funeral. Even though he sent the boss a text message informing him that he was not going to work on that day, the man claimed that he never received the message and, after soundly scolding the boy, refused to pay for the missed day. Ahmad is learning how to handle such “unjust” situations. He described how he retaliated against the owner by taking a long time returning from an errand, deliberately buying the wrong type of food, or walking with his dirty slippers on the wet floor, leaving visible dirt stains. His ultimate revenge was not showing up on Friday, the busiest day of the week. The owner was so enraged that he deducted two days from his wage, but Ahmad thought it was worth it. Through such experiences, Ahmad was learning about his status as a future working-class man in an urban context, where not all people are caring, not all jobs are pleasant, and not all desires can be fulfilled. I was intrigued to see how rapidly Ahmad was learning the art of managing others and to see his interest in cultivating enduring relationships. Despite the fact that he was unhappy with his boss in the summer of 2015 and wanted to quit his job, his mother discouraged him from doing so and emphasized the need for him to continue a bit longer until they had to travel to visit his paternal kin in Upper Egypt. This way he would have a good excuse to leave and not lose the connection that he started with his boss. In the summer of 2016,

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and since he could not find another job, he called the same store and the boss agreed to hire him again. Unlike the previous summer, Ahmad displayed a very different attitude toward his boss and spoke of him rather warmly. Even though he was planning to take a day off when I was there, he changed his plans when his boss called and asked him to come in because he needed his help and wanted the two of them to go together to attend the wedding of one of his co-workers. Ahmad was happy to oblige and was flattered by the fact that the boss wanted Ahmad to accompany him to a wedding. He also noted that his boss increased his weekly salary and was offering him 50 cents each day as a contribution to his lunch. His mother was proud of her son’s ability to successfully manage a relationship that could be useful for him in the future. His “social capital” (in Bourdieu’s sense) was expanding and thickening in a way that closely connected him with the working class. Like many men in his neighborhood, who work under difficult circumstances and often for little money, Ahmad does not find much satisfaction in his work. He immediately dismissed my rather “bizarre” question about what he enjoys most about his work. He made it clear that he now works because he needs to not because he wants to. His view of work has shifted drastically over the past few years. While at first he eagerly wanted to work to prove that he was maturing and was excited to do what his peers and male relatives were doing, he quickly learned the difficulties (from sleep deprivation and little leisure time to long hours under the hot sun and verbal abuse from other workers and supervisors) that come with work. He is fully aware that he needs to work because he needs the money and because he has to toughen up (yishid ‘adhmouh), learn a trade or a skill that could be helpful in the future, and show that he is on the right path to become a productive, caring, and assertive man. Like his uncles and other men in his neighborhood, Ahmad is under pressure, which will only intensify in the future when he gets married and has to work on a regular basis and make sure he earns enough to support himself and his loved ones. Through his summer work and from the many instructions he is getting from people around him, Ahmad is learning, internalizing, and embodying the important value that work both symbolizes and enacts his care for others as well as his standing as a future proper working-class man who must provide for his wife and children. Care and labor are strongly connected and continue to be central to a man’s standing after marriage, as will be clarified in the next case.


Farha Ghannam

Care to Labor Zaki, a shoemaker in his late thirties, was one of the funniest young men I met in al-Zawiya. He was only sixteen years old when I met him in 1993. As a teenager, he was sociable, outgoing, and amusing. He was skilled in telling stories and jokes and would keep his sisters and me awake until the early hours of the morning entertaining us. He would tell us all the new jokes and would describe the events of the day with an engaging style and vivid details. Although he was one of the smartest people I know, Zaki quit school after nine years (see Ghannam 2011 for more about this aspect of his life). Unhappy with the discipline that came with school and attracted to the benefits he got from working and earning money, he left school with very limited knowledge of reading and writing and started working full time in a shoe workshop (warsha). Despite his interest in trying to find another job that would enable him to earn higher income and provide him with more symbolic capital, a work-related hand injury as well as limited education made it hard for him to change jobs. These constraints profoundly shaped his opportunities and access to various resources. This section focuses on Zaki’s marriage and fatherhood to explore what care means in this context and how Zaki’s working-class background should be central to our conceptualization of the relationship between care, labor, and masculinity. Zaki was in his late twenties when he fell in love with a young woman, Fatma, who lived in the opposite building. After a couple of years of exchanging glances through the window and balcony, Zaki proposed to Fatma’s family and they accepted his proposal. Their engagement lasted for three years, a period that afforded them the chance to get to know each other and allowed them the time needed to find and furnish their future home. Fatma’s family bought part of the furniture, but Zaki and his family had the hard task of finding an acceptable apartment, a major challenge in Cairo due to high demand and short supply. Fatma hoped to stay as close to her family as possible, but the apartments around them were too expensive. Eventually, Zaki found an apartment in a nearby area but with a contract that limited their fixed rent to only ten years. The couple reluctantly accepted this arrangement and the insecurity that came with it but hoped they would be able to save enough money after marriage to find an alternative. When they started their life together, they were very happy and looked forward to a bright future.

Teaching Him to Care


Even before they got married, Fatma played a key role in Zaki’s work. When he did not work as hard as expected and did not save the expected amounts needed to buy different items, his sisters called upon Fatma to ask her to urge, encourage, and pressure him to work as hard as possible and on a regular basis. They worked together to get him out of the door as early as possible and kept track of his earnings. This task became more central to Fatma’s duties after marriage. Fully aware of their needs and knowing that socially a wife was expected to be a key motivator for her husband, Fatma showed her love and support for Zaki in multiple ways. First, like most wives, she gets up in the morning to make sure he is awake and prepares the sweet tea and milk that he drinks before going to work. She also makes sure his clothes are clean and ironed. She makes sure a hot meal is waiting for him when he returns home after a long day of work. Second, she verbally encourages him and compliments him in front of others when he does not miss any day of work or when he makes enough money to sustain them for the whole month. Third, she borrows money when needed to enable him to pay for transportation or to cover their urgent daily needs. Fourth, she exerts pressure on him when he does not work, goes to work late, or leaves work early. In addition to her verbal criticisms and complaining, she might threaten to leave their apartment and go to her family’s home or might stop talking to him. Things become particularly tense if he quits a job before finding another one or if he ends up with a job that pays less than the previous one. When needed, Fatma mobilizes her family and Zaki’s family to join her in pressuring him to do the “right thing.” Both their joy and apprehension about the future were intensified by the arrival of their first baby boy. Thrilled to become parents, they also felt the urge to think about the future of their beloved baby, who was joined three years later by a little sister. They are fully aware that in a neoliberal Cairo, affordable housing, good education, and adequate health care are the responsibilities of parents. The growing consumerism in the country and the need for many products (from diapers and clothes to baby formula and yogurt) place even more demands on parents. So making sure they had enough money to shelter, feed, educate, treat, and care for their children became Zaki and Fatma’s top priority. In 2012, things brightened up for the couple. Through the connections of his wife’s brother, Zaki managed to find a job in a leather factory owned by a Turkish company, another side of neoliberal


Farha Ghannam

Cairo. The company made different leather items, such as covers for iPads, guns, and chairs. Zaki and Fatma were thrilled with the new job. The pay was excellent compared to what he earned before, and he was able to earn extra for overtime work. In contrast to the unpredictable nature of his other options and the fluctuations of his income, the new monthly salary and the extras he got enabled him and his wife to plan for the whole month and, whenever possible, to put something aside for the future. He was also picked up by a company bus from a stop very close to his place of residence, so he did not have to worry about the hassle of public transportation. When I saw him in the summer of 2012, he was so “thankful to God” for granting him this job that gave him and his family a “sense of security and serenity [raaha nafsiyya].” He was particularly grateful to see his wife happy and worry-free. He complimented her skills and patience during the previous period, when their money was tight. Although she complained mildly that they hardly see him because he was either at work or sleeping, it was clear that she was thrilled that her husband had this secure job and income. Zaki’s dedication and hard work quickly earned him a promotion, and he became a respected supervisor in the factory in a few months. He even started recruiting young men from his neighborhood to work in the factory, which afforded him a type of symbolic capital that boosted his standing among his neighbors and relatives. In the summer of 2013, however, there was anxiety around his workplace. Tension was increasing between Egypt and Turkey and rumors started circulating that his company might have to leave Cairo. It took over a year for this to happen, and Zaki was devastated when the company decided to flee Egypt. His supervisors said that they hoped to return and promised to rehire him. This hope dwindled over time, and he knew that he needed a job to be able to provide for his family. He tried unsuccessfully to find a job in downtown Cairo, so he had to accept a job in a distant area (depending on the traffic, it took him almost two hours in each direction) for much less than what he got in the Turkish company. Last time I saw him in the summer of 2016, he was working in downtown Cairo, which was closer to his home, but earning less than in his previous job. It was clear that with his limited income, his little family was straining to survive. Zaki has been struggling with the changing demands of the market, which shaped his opportunities for good employment, and the growing needs of his family. I noticed his increasing physical exhaustion and emotional drain. No matter how hard he tried, he al-

Teaching Him to Care


ways fell short. I never heard anyone blame economic hardship on the market, his class position, or the neoliberal policies that have been transforming Cairo and the country at large. Rather, these setbacks were usually seen as the man’s own failure and inability to work harder or look deeper. In the summer of 2016, Zaki looked so anxious and seemed consumed with worry about his family and how to provide adequately for them. His vulnerability was rarely articulated verbally but was embodied in his untrimmed facial hair, the way he dragged his feet when he walked around, and his lack of jokes to tell or fun stories to share about adventures in the city. It was also embedded in the frustration I sensed in his wife’s voice and the sarcastic remarks she occasionally made. Yet, his eyes twinkled with delight when his children were around. He was so happy when they ran to meet him or when they clung to him when he was about to leave. He was also so proud of all the new activities they were learning. He loved it when his son imitated his ways of walking and talking or when he imitated the broadcaster heard on the American wrestling television shows that are popular in Egypt. He was thrilled when his little girl learned to dance, playing music for her on his mobile phone and encouraging her to dance for us. While he usually refused to do certain tasks, such as changing their diapers when they were little, he was always eager to feed, play, comfort, and spend time with them. He told me on several occasions that he had to restrain himself from waking one of them up when he came back from a long day of work and found them asleep. He missed them too much and sometimes he could not resist the temptation of waking them up before leaving for work just to see their happy faces and play with them a bit. He was also keen to protect them from their mother’s discipline, and they often ran to the protection of his lap when she threatened to beat them for misbehaving. While he and his wife still clearly loved each other, their financial troubles and uncertainty about the future were taxing their relationship.

Conclusion Most men in Zaki’s neighborhood work primarily because they love and care about their families. Labor for them is not a privilege or a way to achieve individual success but a burden and a struggle. The care both Hiba and Fatma emphasize and the care Ahmad and Zaki are taught is key to the production of a classed and gendered subject.


Farha Ghannam

Ahmad’s attention to work, the relationships he is developing, and the values he is learning by working have an important effect on his education and interest in schools. Unlike his mother’s aspiration for him to earn a high score in the middle school national exams and enroll in public high school (sanawiya ‘amma), his performance was so modest that they had to adjust their expectations accordingly. Despite investing a major part of Hiba’s limited income in private lessons, Ahmad was losing interest in his studies and it was hard for her to continue the type of policing she did earlier, when he was in elementary school. Like many young men in his neighborhood, his socialization unintentionally made him a working-class man and limited his options for accumulating cultural capital. While his mother is disappointed because she was hoping to see him go to college and earn a degree that would enhance his material, cultural, and symbolic capital, she was still proud of the sense of responsibility that he was developing through his summer work and saw in this a positive indicator of the type of man he would become. This chapter aimed to extend the ethics of care beyond the work usually done by women in the domestic sphere to include men’s labor and work outside the home. This move, I believe, helps give equal value to the work of Zaki and his wife. He shows his love and care through working for long hours under hard conditions, being tender and gentle with his children, and cherishing his wife and seeking to make her happy. Fatma shows her love and care by attending to their home, caring for the children, keeping the apartment clean, visiting his family, and offering him moral and material support. These practices highlight the relationality and mutual responsibility they feel toward each other and their children. While essential to daily urban life, care is often held in place by economic, social, and political structures that define femininity and masculinity. Men and women are expected to be caring, attentive, and responsible. Yet, the way they materialize notions of care is gendered and classed. Economic forces, cultural meanings, and social norms that define gendered identifications and class inequalities constitute and are being constituted by care practices. Therefore, close attention should be paid to the situated nature of care and how its meaning might shift from one context to another and from one group to the next.

Farha Ghannam is a professor of anthropology at Swarthmore College. Her work focuses on urban life, spatial practices, globalization,

Teaching Him to Care


gender, embodiment, food and taste, and class politics. Ghannam is the author of Live and Die like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt and Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation, and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo and the coeditor of Health and Identity in Egypt. Her work has been published in the American Ethnologist, Ethnos, Visual Anthropology, Jadaliyya, and the International Journal of Middle East Studies. Currently, she is completing a book manuscript titled The Gender of Class: Social Inequalities in Urban Egypt.

References Abu-Lughod, Lila. 2013. Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Barnes, Marian. 2012. Care in Everyday Life: An Ethic of Care in Practice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Elliot, Karla. 2015. “Caring Masculinities: Theorizing and Emerging Concept.” Men and Masculinities 19(3): 240–59. Ghannam, Farha. 2002. Remaking the Modern: Space, Relocation, and the Politics of Identity in a Global Cairo. Berkeley: University of California Press. ———. 2011 “Mobility, Liminality, and Embodiment in Urban Egypt.” American Ethnologist 38(4): 790–800. ———. 2013. Live and Die like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Held, Virginia. 2013. “Can the Ethics of Care Handle Violence?” In Care Ethics: New Theories and Applications, ed. Christine Koggel and Joan Orme, 8–22. London: Routledge. Hollway, Wendy. 2006. The Capacity to Care: Gender and Ethical Subjectivity. London: Routledge. Inhorn, Marcia. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Joseph, Suad. 2001. “Brother/Sister Relationships: Connectivity, Love, and Power in the Reproduction of Patriarchy in Lebanon.” In Arab Society: Class, Gender, Power, and Development, ed. Nicholas Hopkins and Saad Eddin Ibrahim, 227–62. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. Joseph, Suad, ed. 1999. Intimate Selving in Arab Families: Gender, Self, and Identity. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. Koggel, Christine and Joan Orme, eds. 2013. Care Ethics: New Theories and Applications. London: Routledge. Naguib, Nefissa. 2015. Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food, and Family in Contemporary Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press. Noddings, Nel. 2013. Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. Berkeley: University of California Press. Robinson, Fiona. 2011. The Ethics of Care: A Feminist Approach to Human Security. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Chapter 7



n this chapter, I contextualize portrayals and questions about Kurdish masculinity within the idea of patrilineal descent and the way it can shape gender relations, the formation of bodies politic, and other aspects of social life. This chapter offers a perspective on Muslim men in the Middle East rooted in anthropological kinship studies and analysis of the state as a political form. Following a century of vigorous scholarship on kinship and descent, beginning in the Middle East and North Africa with Robertson Smith (1885), David Schneider (1984) questioned whether “kinship” was a useful category of analysis. Schneider wrote that researchers had failed to answer the question: “What value does biological relatedness have for the particular people concerned?” (1984: 123). This chapter addresses Schneider’s question in the setting of Kurdistan. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), people are accountable to a legal system and a set of moral conventions that privilege male descent. The KRI has existed with state recognition since the successor government to the Saddam Hussein regime recognized it in 2005, but it owes its existence to decades of struggle by Kurds and their allies since Iraq was created as an Arab-majority state following World War I. In 1991, following decades of conflict and mass attacks by the government that have been labeled “genocide,” the Iraqi Kurd-

The New Kurdish Man


ish rebel movement carved out an enclave in Iraq that encompassed much of the Kurdish-majority area that lies in Iraq.1 KRI Iraqis are still Iraqi citizens, even though their regional administration controls most aspects of governance. Iraqis can be born only to male Iraqis; a child born in Iraq to a non-Iraqi man or a woman who cannot or will not identify her child’s father are not Iraqis.3 The same membership principle applies to smaller groups such as tribes, which are meaningful social groups for many, and patrilineages, to which every citizen (except wives naturalized by their husbands) belongs. Unilineal descent privileges only one parent in the bequeathing of identity and, in many cases, goods. It offers a way of defining and interpreting social relationships, especially reproductive and kin relationships, that has a host of ramifications for social and political organization. Patriliny, the most common kind of unilineal descent, offers a lens for looking at the production of the social order in states. Patrilineal ideas and practices are invoked in, speak to, and help produce state practices. Patriliny is found in diverse parts of the globe (e.g., Harrell 2001; Shapiro 1987), and wherever it is found, it has a strong bearing on social outcomes. Because patrilineal descent is the only way to enter into a “legitimate” life in Kurdistan, men and women alike may work to ensure paternity by controlling female autonomy promoting a dominant masculinity. In my observation during ethnographic research stints since 1995, men are expected to support the cloistering of women and sometimes encouraged to overlook their abuse as well as to demonstrate through stoicism or other forms of social distance that they do not “fear” their wives or other female relatives. However, many men depart from these expectations, expressing masculinity in new ways.2 Patriliny and its attendant idea, patrogenesis, the assertion that the male parent is the primary or only contributor to the infant’s physical substance and ontology, may have played a key role in the rise of urban civilization and the state. Middle Eastern cases of early states have given rise to several theories of the inception of the state as a political form, such as Marx’s (1986) idea of an Asiatic mode of production and Wittfogel’s (1963) hydraulic theory. These were grand theories. But theories about the state writ large must necessarily also deal with everyday social relations. “Classness is involved with stateness . . . the development of classes implies a movement toward some kind of center that could control this relationship,” said Eric Wolf in an interview in which he shared his views on the rise of the state as a political form (Ghani 1987: 361).


Diane E. King

Sherry Ortner (1978), in a review of the literature on female virginity and purity that follows the same theoretical tradition, posits that strict control of female sexuality is concomitant with the rise of state societies. In her schema, the state is a “totality,” and the answer to the question of the origin of virginity requirements for unmarried females is to be found in “the dynamics of the process in the interaction between elites and the lower strata” (31). In state societies, marriage is no longer “an essentially lateral transaction, between essentially equal groups” but “at least a potentially vertical transaction, where one’s sister or daughter is potentially a wife or consort of a king or nobleman” (31). My work (King 2010, 2014) further develops the idea that in patriliny as a society-wide system of thought, female autonomy must be limited so that everyone knows to which man each infant was born. Ortner’s schema seems to apply well to contemporary Kurdistan, a heavily stratified society that has long been a part of state-level societies, even if it has also long had a contentious relationship with representatives of state power centers. Stratification in Kurdistan can be readily observed at the individual level. In order to learn how people rank each other, one time I asked to serve the tea to about fifteen female guests sitting on floor cushions against the walls in the guest room of a home to which all of us had come to celebrate a wedding. As I entered the room with a tray heavy with steaming glasses of tea, I tried to guess which woman should be served first. Everyone looked up at me, smiling with anticipation. Since the middle of the room is the place for those of higher status, I headed there. I started to hand the tea to an older woman who seemed to give off an air of importance, and everyone nodded in affirmation. The next one was more difficult. There were two women who appeared to be about the same age. I looked around for hints, and people subtly nodded at the right one. I handed her the tea and continued around the room, receiving little prompts along the way whenever I appeared stumped. In the minds of the women sitting in that room, all fifteen individuals could be rank ordered. The factors affecting the rankings of a particular woman, from my discussion with them after the tea was served, had to do with the woman’s patrilineage and its associations such as tribe or political party, her age, and whether she is a mother—particularly of sons and thus an extender of her husband’s patriline. Achieved status, such as through education, also mattered, but most of what the women mentioned to me had to do with lineage. Brinkley Messick writes that polity in the modern Middle East is changing from kinship based to that of a national citizenry, in which

The New Kurdish Man


“recent histories of the ‘people’ mark the birth of a new ‘descending’ individualism” (Messick 1993: 254). Messick captures the irony of a shift from a lineage-based society to one based on a more generic “citizenship”; the latter has long been called “collectivist.” But modern Middle Eastern citizenship has been patrilineal for nearly a century. Moreover, a lineage-based society can be better at highlighting certain individuals. Once everyone is an equal citizen, the primacy of individuals in lineages, whether biological or symbolic or both, “descends.” Enter masculinity, or what Linda Stone and I have called “lineal masculinity” (King and Stone 2010). This is masculine expression that takes place with reference to patrilineal forbears and (real or hoped for) descendants. Middle Eastern men and men in Kurdistan live their lives accountable to a kinship and descent system that calls not only on them to uphold patriliny but on everyone, even women serving and consuming tea with no men present. This chapter highlights new ways of being masculine in Kurdistan. Some of these new expressions seem to challenge patriliny. Whither patriliny in the long term? I think it is not possible at this juncture to say. What I hope to portray here, rather, is that men in Kurdistan are actively experimenting with new ways of being men despite the persistence of many expectations that can be linked to patriliny. This experimentation may involve simple chafing, as in the case of some young men, or it may involve more open challenges mounted by powerful local leaders. In any case, these experimentations seem to be increasing in number and in visibility, and I anticipate they will have increasing influence and perhaps produce significant social and political change.

Refuge Granters Despite pressures exerted on men and women alike to ensure paternity even to the extent of killing a female of childbearing age if she is suspected of sexual impropriety, men sometimes resist social pressure from other men to uphold patrilineal ideals. In so doing, a man in a leadership role can increase his own status while simultaneously decreasing that of another man. For example, some men challenge other men who seek to limit the autonomy of women in their households, most dramatically by harboring women who have fled them. Lineages are social categories that help individuals to quickly identify other individuals. In an introductory conversation, a person needs only to mention the name of his or her lineage founder and the place from which he came (and where many of the lineage members are


Diane E. King

likely to still live), and this would probably be enough for the hearer to position the lineage in historical and reputational context, and the individual within that lineage. The lineage’s identity would already be familiar, even though the individual himself or herself may be a stranger. Often a tribe, a collection of lineages with a history of shared space and loyalty to each other would be a part of the conversation. Although tribal structures are historically contingent and highly variable, the ideal-type Kurdish tribe has one paramount agha, an individual who is recognized as the leader and who is the son or agnate (member of the same patrilineage, usually a patrilineal nephew) of the previous paramount agha. An agha is, with very few exceptions, male (and if female, would have great difficulty passing on the role to her child). In the vast majority of cases he is a Muslim. He is locally powerful, wielding political, economic, religious, and social influence. He serves as a broker between tribal clients below him in social status and with state and/or international patrons above, and he may serve in an official role in the state such as a member of Parliament or other government functionary. He is respected by the members of his own tribe as well as by other aghas, among whom he likely has enemies. He has ‘esil, patrilineal pedigree. His tribe is linked to a particular territory; especially if that territory is on the plains where farmland is abundant, he and his lineage mates are landlords. An agha is a man’s man in Kurdistan. He connects his tribe to the state and to other tribes. An agha’s guest room, diwan, is typically a place of tremendous social energy, in which guests spend the evening hours visiting with each other and the agha. Aghas solve disputes and weigh in on big decisions. They grant refuge to individuals or groups fleeing threats of violence. They still carry out feuds, although not as often as in the past. An agha, or someone playing the role, is a tremendously important bridge between people in Kurdistan, just as he can be elsewhere in the Middle East. Mary Hegland describes competition between kinship-based factions, called taifeh (as they also are in Kurdistan), that she observed during her work in an Iranian village in the 1970s, noting that “informants presented taifeh as the most significant political unit” (Hegland 2013: 6). I have observed and heard about many instances of aghas granting refuge. In the early 2000s, one man I know who is descended from a line of prominent aghas granted refuge to a teenage girl who fled to his house after her family suspected her of having a boyfriend and threatened to kill her. She stayed for several weeks, spending her time with his wife, children, and sisters. His sister told me that he took her in because he had compassion for her. I asked about the

The New Kurdish Man


political implications at the other end. Did she belong to a powerful lineage or one that had a history of conflict with this one? What I understood from her answer was that this was simply an act of mercy and that her brother was much more concerned about saving the young girl’s life than the reaction of her family to his harboring her. Eventually, he was able to extract a pledge from them to refrain from harming her, and she went home. In March 2016, I returned to the area. I found that this man and his brothers had extended mercy on a much grander scale: they had allowed a camp for hundreds of people who were fleeing the Islamic State to be constructed in 2014 by the Kurdistan Regional Government on their village lands. The government paid a small amount of rent the first year, I was told, but it had then stopped paying. They were losing agricultural income, but hundreds of Yezidis, who the Islamic State had attacked, killed, and enslaved, lived in safety. I spoke with several members of the lineage, and each of them emphasized that they were glad to be able to help the Yezidis. No one mentioned the lost income or considerable inconvenience from having their village transformed from a pastoral setting to an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp. Especially in Europe, Kurdish men are sometimes portrayed in the media and in social media as being perpetrators, especially in sexual attacks against “local” women and in “honor killings.” Kurdish male refuge granters in the KRI offer a contrasting example of Kurdish masculine expression, but often without attracting much attention.4

Doting Family Members I have seen Kurdish men openly show affection toward and care for their wives, sisters, and daughters, even as they or their observers commented on how their actions were risky or “modern.” As is often repeated in Kurdistan, a “real man” does not “fear” his wife. While there is widespread idealization of romantic overtures by men toward women, at the same time, a husband is pressured to signal that he is in control. He may do this in a variety of ways. He may come home late each night, consuming his evening meal at a restaurant or the home of a male friend and spending the main bulk of time with his wife in bed. As one unmarried woman described to me, “If I marry this type of man, I will only be his wife at night. I will not see him otherwise.” Such a man must not be seen to be dominated by his wife, such as by taking directions from her in the


Diane E. King

car. Instead, if the family is lost as he is driving (and if husband and wife are in the car, he is very likely driving), he must pull up to some boys playing in the street and ask for directions. Each time I visit Kurdistan, however, I see men resisting. A man I first met in the 1990s is an English speaker and had worked for an international relief organization from the United States. Thousands of such people had been evacuated to the United States in 1996, when the Clinton administration’s intelligence effort against the Saddam Hussein regime suffered a setback and the regime threatened people in Kurdistan who had worked for American organizations. My friend was one of the few who had been eligible to go and to bring his family with him, but he had instead opted to stay. I asked why. “My daughter is very clever in school,” he answered. “I knew that if we went she would fall behind, and maybe not reach her goal of being a doctor.” As an afterthought he added, “My sons are also very smart.” As I got to know him, I learned that his friends referred to him as “Babi Daliye,”5 father of his daughter Daliye, rather than using his oldest son’s name as is the local custom. I learned that he had insisted on this, even when pressured by male friends to switch to a male name after his sons were born. I heard him dote on all of his children, but the way he referred to, made decisions about, and expressed love for his daughter was striking. Much doting between Kurdish daughters and their fathers now happens on Facebook. In fact, a number of my Kurdish friends who are daughters have a headshot of their father as their main profile picture. I do not know any Westerners whose fathers stand in for them in this way. These same women are effusive about their love for their fathers, and their fathers return the love for all to see. Facebook now fosters very public patrilineal expression.

Romantics Finally, many men in Kurdistan are hopeless romantics, which is of course a path to being a doting family member. Their romanticism may push them to tear at a patrilineal category that is at the heart of the modern Middle Eastern state: ethnicity. Ethnicity, “perceived common ancestry, the perception of a shared history of some sort, and shared symbols of peoplehood” (Cornell and Hartmann 2007: 33), is important to many people in Iraq. Iraq’s ethnicities include Arab, Kurdish, Turcoman, Chaldean, Assyrian, and other categories. To make an ethnic claim involves

The New Kurdish Man


not only claiming a particular ethnolinguistic identity but at least implicitly making a territorial claim, a claim of patrilineal origin in a particular location. Sectarianism functions in the same way, while also containing a religious element. At the moment, Iraq is the scene of conflict over which members of which ethnic groups can and should live in a set of officially identified “disputed” territories. Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution calls for a referendum to determine their futures, but it is currently in a state of suspension. Iraqi citizenship is tied to territory through the official residence card. In order to obtain a change in the residence card and thus change one’s official residence, it is necessary to present both the original card as well as one’s father’s original card (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada 2013).6 Many people go for years or decades living in one location while being accountable to the state for living in another. In his book Sectarianism in Iraq, Fanar Haddad notes against a backdrop of the torturous sectarian violence of the past several years that sectarianism “does not allow for significant plurality within any one group” (Haddad 2011: 8). When patriliny provides the main architecture of sectarianism, it denies the basic fact that people vary. It declares them to constitute a monolithic whole even though they do not. Patriliny offers a set of ideas that can deny variability, especially when the modern state uses its power to make categories more fixed through law and policy. People may resist reduction; patriliny makes reductionistic arguments. Plurality within a group is denied by patriliny, which insists on oneness because it takes descent to be the main creator of identity categories, and it allows only one parent to pass on those categories. The patrilineal conferral of identity categories and the ways in which such conferral is invoked, manipulated, and used within the modern state are at the heart of some of the issues being vigorously debated in the contemporary Middle East. Embedded as they are in a larger set of moral and legal codes and behavioral expectations, masculine innovators seem to be in the process of bringing significant change to the Kurdistani political order of things.

Conclusion: Unfinished Stories To that end, I close with the story of a young man I met in 2016 in the capital of the Kurdistan Region. His story is unfinished, as are many stories in Iraq and Kurdistan. But it highlights young men’s


Diane E. King

desires for romance, love, and connection within a larger field of conflicted ethnic belonging. Field Note, 10 March 2016 At the front desk of the hotel, I got into an extended conversation with one of the two people working the desk, Hisham, that must have gone for at least half an hour. “I want to go to America. Do you know how I can go?” asked Hisham, the twenty-something-looking man behind the hotel reception desk. I had already identified myself as being from the United States. Trying to sound empathetic, I said, “Well, I hear it’s difficult now to get a visa if you are Iraqi. Probably the easiest way is for education.” “I do want to go for education,” beamed Hisham. “I have a bachelor’s degree from Mosul University in business. I want to study for an MBA in America.” Things sounded a bit promising for him, I thought. “Well,” I said, “I am a professor in the United States so I can probably give you some advice.” When he indicated he was eager to hear it, we spoke about how to look for programs, the application process, and other aspects of higher education in America. This went on for perhaps twenty minutes. But then the conversation took a new turn: “See, I can’t go this year because of my girl.” “Oh, there’s a girl? Tell me more,” I said, smiling. He beamed in reply. “I love her so much. I think about her all the time. She loves me so much and thinks about me all the time! The problem is, we are not together.” “What?” I said in a shocked tone, pained for him. “She is in Kirkuk, and I am here in Erbil,” he said. “Well, that’s not too far, so I imagine you get to see her pretty often,” I replied. “No, actually, I don’t. I have not seen her since a year and a half ago, when her parents forbade her to see me again.” “Oh, how awful for you,” I said, adding, “How old is she?” “She’s twenty-three. I am twenty-five. We met at university. We spent time together for six months there. Everyone knew we loved each other and wanted to get married! But her parents were opposed. A year and a half ago, when she was back living with them, they took her phone away from her. They wanted that to be the end of our relationship. But we loved each other then, and we love each other now, and all we can think about is each other!” There was obvious passion in his voice, as well as a deep sadness. “So, you can see that I must wait for her.” “I can see that,” I said. But I did not quite understand. “What is the problem?” I asked. “Is she from a different religion?”

The New Kurdish Man


“No, we are the same religion,” he said with a look as though he wanted me to keep probing. “Ok, so you’re a Sunni, and she’s a Sunni?” I asked, making the safest guess given that they had met in Mosul. “Yes.” The look was still on his face. “Ok, if it’s not religion, is it ethnicity?” He nodded. “Ok, let me guess. You’re Arab and she’s Kurdish.” “Aha, right!” he said with great emphasis, and then his face fell to illustrate his sadness at the thought. “But what’s the problem?” I said. “You seem like a really great guy. You have a job. You have a bachelor’s in business. Your future is bright.” “It’s because I am Arab,” he said in a heavy tone. I remembered that we had first spoken in Kurdish before switching to English. “Yes, but you speak Kurdish! That should make them very happy.” “No, it is not enough. I can never be from them.” “You mean it is impossible to become a Kurd?” I asked. “Yes, exactly. That’s it. I can never become a Kurd. They want their daughter to marry a Kurd, I can never satisfy them.” His face was downcast as he spoke. “But she is the only one I love. I see a thousand girls and I don’t care about any of them. I only care about her. I will wait for her for ten years if I have to. . . . I think about her all the time; that is all I do. She is also in her house not sleeping, not eating.” “Wait,” I asked. “If she is in Kirkuk and you are here, how do you know that?” He brightened a little. “She has several friends, close friends, and they call me and tell me about her. They tell me, ‘She is sad, she loves you, she is not sleeping because of you, she is not eating because of you, she is waiting for you. . . . ’” “Good,” I said. “I am glad you have them.” “Yes, I am very grateful that I have them telling me this, but it is not enough,” he said, in such a romantic tone that he might as well have been narrating a romance novel: “There are times when you just need to touch the one you love. I need to hold her against me, to feel her hand in mine. For months we had that and now it is taken away from us. But I am waiting for her. I will not give up. So, now you see why I cannot go to America right now. Actually, I had the chance! I had an invitation to a European country, but I refused because of her. How can I go anywhere when I am waiting for her? No, I must stay here until I can be together with her.”

As the conversation waned, I wished him the best. It did not sound hopeful, but perhaps his persistence would pay off.


Diane E. King

Diane E. King is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Kentucky. Her research explores kinship, gender, the state, migration, and religion, and she has particular interest in how patriliny is reflected on and reshaped in a global context. King is one of few anthropologists in the past century to do residential participant observation research in Kurdistan. She is the author of Kurdistan on the Global Stage: Kinship, Land, and Community in Iraq, among other academic publications.

Notes 1. The Kurdish homeland spans four countries: Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria. In each state, the Kurds are an ethnic minority. Like Iraqi Kurds, Syrian Kurds now have functional autonomy in much of the Kurdish-majority area of Syria. Their area is relatively peaceful and stable compared to the rest of the country, which is currently wracked with conflict. 2. This chapter follows Marcia Inhorn’s (2012) and Nicholas Hopkins’s (2003) work on the “new Arab man” and the “new Arab family,” respectively. 3. Recent changes in Iraqi law make it technically possible for a woman to pass on her Iraqi citizenship. However, my impression is that application of the new law has been very limited, even in those areas where the Iraqi state has influence or control. The government does not control some parts of Iraq, such as those areas where the Islamic State still has control. 4. Kurdistan is also a site for experimenting with the feminine. Mostly in Syria, and thus not in the immediate area covered by this chapter, Kurdish women fighters have played an important role in the conflict with the Islamic State. Female combatants are rare worldwide, but they are especially rare in the Middle East. 5. All names of individuals are pseudonyms. 6. Patriarchy, generalized male dominance, is upheld in addition to patriliny. The same report notes, and in my fieldwork in Iraq I have heard women complain about, the fact that a woman can only receive a new card and thus officially change her place of residence if a male relative vouches for her.

References Ahmed, Huda. 2010. “Iraq.” In Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance, ed. Sanja Kelly and Julia Breslin, 157–92. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Cornell, Stephen Ellicott and Douglas Hartmann. 2007. Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

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Ghani, Ashraf. 1987. “A Conversation with Eric Wolf.” American Ethnologist 14(2): 346–66. Haddad, Fanar. 2011. Sectarianism in Iraq: Antagonistic Visions of Unity. London: C. Hurst. Harrell, Stevan. 2001. Ways of Being Ethnic in Southwest China. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Hegland, Mary Elaine. 2013. Days of Revolution: Political Unrest in an Iranian Village. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Hopkins, Nicholas S. 2003. The New Arab Family. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 2013. Iraq: Residence Card and Public Distribution System (PDS) ration card . . . (1991–November 2013). Toronto: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. Inhorn, Marcia C. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. King, Diane E. 2010. “The Personal is Patrilineal: Namus as Sovereignty.” In Middle Eastern Belongings, ed. Diane E. King, 59–84. London: Routledge. ———. 2014. Kurdistan on the Global Stage: Kinship, Land, and Community in Iraq. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. King, Diane E. and Linda Stone. 2010. “Lineal Masculinity: Gendered Memory within Patriliny.” American Ethnologist 37(2): 323–36. Marx, Karl. 1986. “Historical Materialism.” In Karl Marx: A Reader, ed. Jon Elster, 169–222. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Messick, Brinkley. 1993. The Calligraphic State: Textual Domination and History in a Muslim Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. Ortner, Sherry B. 1978. “The Virgin and the State.” Feminist Studies 4(3): 19–35. Schneider, David M. 1984. A Critique of the Study of Kinship. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Shapiro, Judith. 1987. “Men in Groups: A Reexamination of Patriliny in Lowland South America.” In Gender and Kinship: Essays toward a Unified Analysis, ed. Jane Fishburne Collier and Sylvia Junko Yanagisako, 301– 23. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Smith, William Robertson. 1885. Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wittfogel, Karl A. 1963. Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Chapter 8



rman, a single heterosexual Kazakh man in his late forties, has spent his entire life in Aktobe, a city of 400,000 people in western Kazakhstan. Situated in the heart of the Eurasian continent, Kazakhstan is the most prosperous state in post-Soviet Central Asia thanks to an abundance of natural resources. Arman grew up under socialism and received his university degree in Russian language and literature. He was twenty-three years old when the Soviet Union disintegrated. In the 1990s, he worked for the information bureau of the local government. Dissatisfied with the low salaries and pervasive nepotism at the bureau, Arman decided to quit his job and try his hand at biznes (business). Arman joined the private sector in the late 1990s. He first worked for his friend’s construction company and later started his own business. Arman specialized in interior design and remodeling. Thanks to Kazakhstan’s oil-fueled economy, he had no trouble finding work. One of the four largest cities in oil-rich western Kazakhstan, Aktobe developed rapidly in the 2000s. In an interview conducted in the fall of 2015, Arman characterized the decade as the “golden years for Kazakhstan”: In the 2000s people lived well. Kazakhstan was swimming in money. Oil money funded everything—banks, construction, all spheres of

Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh?


business. People were intoxicated with oil money. Everyone thought that it would always be like this. Banks were giving out loans to everyone and construction companies were building nonstop.

In construction, Arman earned on average of $2,000 per month, ten times more than he did in his previous job. With the money he earned he bought a small two-room apartment and a car. A few years later he purchased a bigger apartment near his parents’ place. Though he had many girlfriends over the years, he never married, citing his inability to find the “right person” and his “old bachelor’s” preference for living alone. With no children of his own, Arman generously covered educational expenses for his nieces and nephews. He financed his parents’ trip to London and the remodeling of their apartment. He paid for family feasts and festivities (toi) associated with lifecycle rituals. He supplemented his parents’ income and gave them extra money for sadaka¹ and sogym (traditional stocking away of meat for winter). He did not save much, thinking the economic boom would continue. When the real estate and banking crises struck in 2007, construction and renovation projects dried up. Arman lost a quarter of his savings in 2009 in the devaluation of the local currency. He was no longer in a position to finance trips abroad or lavish tois, but he continued to support his parents financially as best as he could. Arman self-identifies as an atheist but argues that, as a Kazakh, he is Muslim by birth. In Central Asia, Muslimness is considered to be a part of the national and ethnic identity (Louw 2006, 2013; McBrien 2006, 2009; McBrien and Pelkmans 2008; Privratsky 2001; Ro’i and Wainer 2009; Schwab 2011, 2012; Werner, Barcus, and Brede 2013). Kazakhs argue that they are born Muslim, though for the majority, Islam is not the organizing principle of their everyday lives. For example, Arman does not pray or visit the mosque. He drinks alcohol and eats pork on occasion (though he never cooks it or keeps it at home). He participates in Kazakh Muslim life-cycle rituals but claims to be not religious. According to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life (2012) report, an overwhelming majority of ethnic Kazakhs self-identify as Muslim, but few observe the Five Pillars of the Islamic faith: the profession of faith (shahadah), daily prayer (salat), fasting during the holy month of Ramadan (sawm), annual almsgiving to assist the poor or needy (zakat), and participation in the annual pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during one’s lifetime (hajj).


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Four percent of Kazakhs perform daily prayer and 10 percent attend the mosque once a week or more. Thirty percent of Kazakhs fast during Ramadan and 36 percent give alms annually. The Pew Research Center’s Forum found that only 3 percent of Central Asians in their study completed the hajj. “The low levels of religious commitment and practice” among Central Asians were found to be similar to the attitudes of Muslims in Southern and Eastern Europe. Kazakhs were reported to be the least observant Muslims in Central Asia. Only 18 percent of Kazakhstanis reported that religion was “very important in their lives” as compared to 50 percent in Tajikistan, 49 percent in Kyrgyzstan, and 30 percent in Uzbekistan. Drawing on my research, I make two arguments in this chapter. First, I argue that the majority of Kazakhs approach Islam not as a religious ideology but as an important part of national tradition and culture. Many Kazakhstanis treat followers of scripturalist Islam with caution, criticizing their practices and dress code as “foreign” and “Arab.” To be a good Muslim in Kazakhstan, they argue, is not about wearing a particular garment or engaging in daily religious practice. It is about living an ethical life, offering hospitality, and respecting elders and ancestors. Second, I examine what it means to be a Kazakh Muslim by focusing on urban Kazakh men. I argue that caring and providing for one’s family and helping relatives and extended kin is one of the main ways in which Kazakh men assert and perform their masculinity and religion. I analyze these performances of masculinity in the context of Kazakhstan’s oil boom, which, on one hand, created fabulous wealth and seemingly endless entrepreneurial opportunities but, on the other hand, produced high economic inequality and left hundreds of thousands of men unemployed and unable to provide and care for their families. I conclude the chapter by reflecting on changing masculine identities and practices that are emerging in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. New forms of embodied masculine practice encompass the ability to ensure one’s family’s financial well-being as well as provide care and moral support. The material for this chapter was collected in western Kazakhstan between 2012 and 2013 as part of my dissertation research and a follow-up fieldwork visit in August 2014. Data collection involved a combination of ethnographic methods, such as participant observation in private homes, semistructured and unstructured interviews, taking work and job histories, conducting focus groups, library research, and media analyses. I conducted additional interviews with key informants in the fall and winter of 2015 and summer of 2016

Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh?


over Skype and phone. The interviews were mostly conducted in Russian and occasionally in Kazakh.

Islam in Kazakhstan Kazakhstan is geographically the largest country in Central Asia and the ninth largest country in the world, with eighteen million people. Around 60% of the population is composed of ethnic Kazakhs. The rest are ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Belarussians, Koreans, and Germans. During the late socialist period, Kazakhs constituted 39.3 percent of the population and Russians made up 37.5 percent of the population (Montgomery 2013). Kazakhs became the majority population in Kazakhstan following the collapse of the Soviet Union and massive emigration of the non-Kazakh population in the 1990s. Since the nontitular nationalities are largely concentrated in large cities and northern regions of Kazakhstan, there are significant regional differences and a large urban/rural divide (Yessenova 2005). The two cities in northwestern Kazakhstan, Aktobe and Uralsk, where I conducted the bulk of my research for this chapter, are located alongside the Russian border. These two cities, especially Aktobe, were central to Kazakhstan’s industrial production under socialism, attracting workers from different parts of the former Soviet Union. Despite the large-scale emigration in the 1990s, nontitular nationalities, especially Russians, continue to make up a significant portion of the urban population. Many ethnic Kazakhs of Aktobe and Uralsk, especially those who were born and raised under socialism, speak Russian better than they speak Kazakh. In conversations, my informants referred to themselves ironically as “asphalt Kazakhs.” Fifty-year-old Zhanibek, a lifelong resident of Uralsk, explained it thus: “Asphalt Kazakhs are those who grew up in cities. They are removed from traditional Kazakh ways. The grass does not grow underneath asphalt; asphalt kills what’s underneath. The same way with religion and tradition: they fare much better in rural areas than in urban settings.” The majority of my informants were urban Kazakhs from northwestern Kazakhstan who self-identified as asphalt Kazakhs. By writing about their approaches and experiences with Islam, I wish to illuminate a perspective that receives little attention in the anthropology of religion. Most of the anthropological work on religion


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in Central Asia, with the notable exception of Privratsky (2001),² is focused on observant Muslims and followers of transnational and indigenous Islamic movements (Jessa 2006a, 2006b; Louw 2006; McBrien 2006, 2009; McBrien and Pelkmans 2008; Rasanayagam 2006a; Schwab 2011, 2012, 2015). Ethnographic work on “mainstream” Muslims in Central Asia—women and men for whom religion is not the organizing principle of their lives—is largely based on research in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the ethnographic contexts for the majority of anthropological output on religion in Central Asia (Fathi 2006; Hann 2006; Hilgers 2009; Kehl-Bodrogi 2008; Khalid 2007; Louw 2007, 2011, 2013; Rasanayagam 2010; Zanca 2008). Certainly, there are striking similarities across urban contexts in Central Asia, which make these ethnographies relevant for the Kazakh case. Nevertheless, Kazakhstan’s physical proximity to and close economic and cultural bonds with Russia, coupled with a significantly different economic and political situation compared to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, have important implications for how urbanites in Kazakhstan relate to Islam and conceptualize their Muslimness. As I demonstrate in this chapter, for many city-based Kazakhs, questions of religion and authentic religious practice are closely linked to their search for ancestral roots beneath the symbolic asphalt and understanding of what it means to be Kazakh. By analyzing how urban Kazakh men, raised under and after socialism, understand their Muslimness, I shed light on the complexity and messiness of making sense of one’s religious, cultural, and ethnic identity and demonstrate the diversity of Muslim beliefs and practices in Eurasia. Islam under Socialism Central Asia is one of the least familiar places in the Muslim world to the Western public. It was once one of the most important centers of Islam outside of the Arabian Peninsula, but the expansion of the Russian Empire into Central Asia in the nineteenth century, followed by seventy years of socialism, reshaped how Islam is understood and practiced in Central Asia (Khalid 2007; Rasanayagam 2006a, 2010). The Soviet Union sought to institute secularism by dismantling existing religious institutions and controlling the small number of religious training institutions and mosques (Khalid 2007; Louw 2011; Montgomery 2013; Montgomery and Heathershaw 2014). The Soviet Union’s four regional spiritual boards oversaw religious institutions, appointed imams, and otherwise monitored religious activity (Rasanayagam 2006b). Average citizens were dis-

Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh?


couraged from attending mosque and seeking religious education (Louw 2011; Montgomery 2013). These antireligious campaigns did not erase Muslim practices but rather relegated them to the private sphere (McBrien 2006). The Muslim rituals related to home and life-cycle events and the veneration of saints and ancestors remained an important, albeit private, part of everyday life in Soviet Central Asia. The Soviet ideologues regarded home and life-cycle rituals as “traditionalism” and “popular practice” and therefore as different from “official” and “pure” Islam, conceptualized as existing only within the state-regulated system of official imams and religious institutions (Rasanayagam 2006b). As McBrien (2006) notes, the Soviet distinction between “official” and “unofficial” Islam decoupled private worship and life-cycle rituals from the study of religious texts, veiling, and mosque attendance. By the late Soviet period, Muslim identity alongside national dress, dishes, holidays, and stories became an inherent part of the national identity of Central Asian titular nationalities (Hann and Pelkmans 2009; McBrien 2006, 2012; McBrien and Pelkmans 2008; Privratsky 2001; Rasanayagam 2006b). Islam after Socialism The fall of the Soviet Union opened the region to the rest of the world and led to a resurgent interest in Islam among the Muslim populations of the former Soviet Union (Rasanayagam 2006b). Central Asia became a destination for missionaries, including those from Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who built new mosques, started Islamic study groups, provided funds for Central Asians to study at religious institutions abroad, sponsored Islamic publications, and otherwise promoted Islam in the postsocialist region (Louw 2011; McBrien and Pelkmans 2008; Montgomery and Heathershaw 2014; Rasanayagam 2010; Schwab 2011, 2012). Recognizing the importance of the Islamic faith in the history and culture of the region, ruling elites in Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Central Asia sought to incorporate Islam into state-building projects (Omelicheva 2011; Yemelianova 2014). Islam is frequently invoked in the context of Central Asian ancestor states, such as the Golden Horde, and the achievements of Islamic heroes (Rasanayagam 2010). At the same time, Central Asian governments sought to control the reemergence of Islam in the public sphere by endorsing a particular version of Islam, that of the Hanafi legal school, and denouncing other interpretations of Islam as foreign (Montgomery 2013). Many Central Asian governments retained the spiritual boards, which are


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formally nongovernment institutions but are effectively under the state’s control (Montgomery 2013; Rasanayagam 2006b). Religious expression is monitored for signs of extremism and radicalism, and various humanitarian and missionary groups are suspected of being cover-ups for radical Islamic groups (Lillis 2011). The socialist dichotomy between tradition and religion also informs how citizens understand their Muslimness. They regard lifecycle rituals, utterance of blessings and simple prayers, communication with God and saints via dreams, and visiting shrines as the realm of tradition. Islam as religion is largely conceptualized as the “idealized Islamic canon” associated with Islamic countries in the Middle East (Louw 2006: 321). The story Kazakhs and Kyrgyz tell about themselves is that Islam never had a strong hold over nomadic people of Central Asia. Since nomadic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz moved from one place to another in search of good pastures, they were unable to regularly attend mosques or study at madrasas (educational religious institutions) and therefore were never as religious as their sedentary neighbors, the Uzbeks.³ While anthropologists are cautious to accept these stories at face value, their explanations are helpful in understanding how Kazakhs and Kyrgyz conceptualize their heterodox Islamic practices in opposition to foreign Islam. Since most citizens are not aware of the differences between different Islamic religious groups and movements, all interpretations of Islam that stress regular prayer and covered forms of dress are categorized as “foreign Islam.” In Kazakhstan, as in other Central Asian countries, religious piety is often conflated with extremism and thus treated with caution (Louw 2011, 2013; McBrien and Pelkmans 2008). Many of my informants claimed that there was a big divide between average Kazakh Muslims and followers of foreign Islam. Arman expressed it thus: They [pious Muslims] do not let us into their social circle. They consider us dirty because we smoke and drink beer and we do not go to the mosque. I have no idea what is in their heads. Islam in Kazakhstan is one big messy confusion [meshanina]. I tell you, there are urban Kazakhs—that’s one thing—then there are rural Kazakhs. Their Islam is traditional and intuitive. They grew up with grandmothers and grandfathers who followed Kazakh Muslim traditions. Then there are radicals. They are something else. They wear strange pants and shirts; they force women to wear niqabs, which has nothing to do with Kazakhs. That is artificial. And when you ask them, “Do you know that your ancestors never wore that?” That’s pure Iranian or Arab stuff . . . that’s all for show.

Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh?


Arman conceived of Kazakh Muslims as belonging to one of three groups. He claimed membership in the first group—urban Kazakhs— who in his own words were “Muslims in name only.” He argued that the second group—rural Kazakhs—are more religious than urban Kazakhs, but their kind of Islam is traditional and therefore distinct from the third group: converts to foreign Islam. This typology was not invented by Arman but is rather a common way of thinking about religion in Kazakhstan. The three groups are ideal types based on prevailing stereotypes. While these categories are simplifications, they are nonetheless helpful in delineating how Kazakhstanis conceive of the differences between tradition and religion and rural and urban Kazakhs. In interviews, urbanites like Arman invoked romantic visions of the countryside as a stronghold of tradition. The perceptions of new converts to Islam were less sympathetic. Arman’s assertion that “it is all for show” is part of a common narrative that pious Muslims in Kazakhstan are disingenuous and that their religiosity is a means of covering up their morally dubious activities. For their part, followers of foreign Islam often find it difficult to socialize with Kazakhs like Arman, due to their different worldviews and pressure to present a particularly pious face to less pious Kazakhs (Schwab 2015). This common narrative of religious hypocrisy and the artificiality of foreign Islam in Kazakhstan echoes the findings of other scholars of Islam in Central Asia. Writing about Kyrgyzstan, Louw (2011, 2013) notes that her informants regarded the religiosity of new converts to scripturalist Islam as “excessive.” They argued that religion had to be based on morality rather than strict religious practices; they sought “a balanced existence—between the two excesses of blind belief and cynical pragmatism” (2013: 522). My informants— urban Kazakhs who did not consider religion to be central to their lives—espouse a similar approach to Islam. Many follow Kazakh Muslim home and life-cycle rituals, engage in sadaka, and utter simple Muslim prayers and sayings like bismillah, aumin, and Kudaigha (Allah) shukir. At the same time, they distinguish between the Kazakh practice of Islam, which they define as “light,” “not fundamental,” and “open,” and the idealized scripturalist Islam practiced in other Muslim countries. As Zhanibek put it, “I believe Allah is with me. I never tire of thanking Allah. I say, ‘Kudaigha shukir [thanks be to God], Kudaigha rakhmet [thank you to God].’ I address Allah, ‘O Allah, help me please, tell me.’ But not so that I lose my head.” Like Louw’s informants, Zhanibek seeks to avoid excess and strives for a balanced approach to religion.


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To be a Muslim in Kazakhstan, one does not need to believe in God. Arman, for example, considers himself both an atheist and a Muslim. Kazakhs, including those who identify as atheists, approach Muslimness as an important part of their culture and seek to preserve what they see as authentic ways of being a Kazakh and, therefore, Muslim. Concerned about the radicalism of foreign Islam, my informants argue that being Muslim the Kazakh way is about leading a purposeful and morally righteous life in the context of high economic and political uncertainty. It is about helping others, especially kin, without expecting them to return the favor. Many Kazakh Muslims place an emphasis not on religious practices, such as praying five times a day, but on personal ethics. Being a Muslim in Kazakhstan is to be respectful of the elderly and one’s own culture and traditions, act generously, and care for others, especially one’s parents and children. In short, being a good Muslim in Kazakhstan dovetails with being a good Kazakh and upholding Kazakh values, such as generosity, hospitality, and respect for the elderly. In the following sections I explore what it means to be Kazakh Muslim. I use care as a lens through which to analyze how my informants navigate postsocialist transformations in the spheres of public religion and economy. I first examine how they relate to different interpretations of Islam and how these interpretations fit into their understanding of what it means to be Kazakh. I focus on the experiences of two men—Arman and Aidar—as they navigate the illness and death of close kin, care for loved ones, and reflect on their identities as Kazakh Muslims. I then analyze how Kazakh men enact care in the context of everyday life. I argue that caring for one’s family, financially and otherwise, is one of the main ways in which Kazakh men assert and perform their masculinity and religion.

Search for Authenticity, Meaningful Practice, and Roots Arman’s father Nurbulat, a staunch communist, passed away in 2010. He was buried two days after his death in accordance with Kazakh Muslim tradition. On the morning of the day of the funeral, seven men—distant kin—performed the Muslim ritual of washing and shrouding the body. In accordance with tradition, the widow and other women did not go to the cemetery for the burial. Nurbulat was buried in a Muslim cemetery outside of Aktobe. Arman, along with his relatives and friends, oversaw the construction of an elaborate tomb (mazar) with a crescent on top. Arman was initially

Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh?


against attaching a portrait of Nurbulat to the tombstone, concerned that “it was not Muslim,” but yielded to his mother’s wishes. The widow wanted her grandchildren to see the face of their grandfather when they visited his grave. Following the burial, the memorial feast was held in the dining hall of the city hall to accommodate two hundred people. The family also hosted memorial meals on the seventh and fortieth days following the burial as well as one year after the funeral. Kanat Tasibekov (2012), the author of “Situational Kazakh,” a Kazakh-language instruction manual for ethnically Kazakh Russian speakers that doubles as a guide to Kazakh culture, writes that a Kazakh funeral is “an important test of solidarity, organizational skills, and knowledge of traditions” (142). A Kazakh funeral is not organized by the immediate family of the deceased but by members of the extended family. Arman said, “I oversaw everything, but my relatives did all the work.” Nurbulat’s cousins, nephews, nieces, and friends collected money that people brought to the funeral, bought food supplies and cooked meals, purchased gifts for the seven men who participated in the washing of the body, and arranged a space for the grave at the cemetery. Older relatives advised the widow, Arman, and his sisters on the proper conduct of funerary rituals. There was no point at which they felt alone or helpless; the collective wisdom of their extended family ensured that Nurbulat’s funeral was conducted in accordance with Kazakh Muslim traditions. When I asked Arman if he thought of the funeral as a religious ceremony, he replied that he was not thinking about religion during the three days of funerary rites: “The most important thing was to send off my father with dignity.” To Arman, burying Nurbulat with dignity encompassed many aspects: following meaningful Kazakh Muslim traditions, bringing together extended family, reinforcing ties between their family unit and other kin, and honoring Nurbulat’s memory. Nurbulat’s funeral was a celebration of his life; it was also an extension of kinship solidarity into the future. Since the funeral is organized largely by relatives, a dignified funeral is a sign of respect for the family of the deceased and a testament to the unity and cohesion (splochennost) of the extended family and kin. The funeral of Arman’s father illustrates the syncretism of religious practices in Kazakhstan. While there is a general script that most Kazakh Muslim funerals follow, there are significant regional differences and clan- or family-specific burial traditions and preferences, which typically encompass Muslim practices, Kazakh traditions, and Soviet interventions. While Islamic texts discourage


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pictorial depictions of the deceased, it is relatively common to see portraits of the deceased on tombstones and ornate domes and minarets built around Kazakh graves (Morton 2014). The portraits of the deceased—an Eastern European tradition— were integrated into Soviet Central Asian funerary practices in the twentieth century (Köchümkulova 2014). Urban Kazakh families like Arman’s, who are not especially devout in their everyday life, are more concerned about authenticity and dignity than religious purity. Since a funeral is a communal event, what makes a funeral ceremony authentic and dignified is at once a personal and a community-wide matter. In planning a funeral, families consider the wishes of the deceased, obligations to the kin, burial traditions, laws, and social norms. As the vignette suggests, care is central to understanding Kazakh Muslim death rituals and traditions. The extended family cares for the immediate family of the deceased. Children honor their deceased parent and care for the living one. Though Arman was not religious and self-identified as an atheist, he demonstrated his care by organizing a dignified Kazakh Muslim funeral. Not to show respect for Kazakh Muslim traditions, especially in the context of a funeral, is to disrespect not only his kin but also Kazakh culture. He honored the memory of his father by creating a meaningful ceremony, not overtly religious but inclusive of important Kazakh Muslim death rituals. Arman cared for his mother by arranging the burial and building the tombstone the way she envisioned it, assuming responsibility for financial matters, and overseeing the organization of the funeral. He demonstrated his care for his sisters and nieces and nephews by advocating burying his father near where they lived instead of his natal village to enable frequent visits to the grave. David Montgomery (2007), a scholar of Islam in Central Asia, writes, “As individuals [in Central Asia] interpret their practice of religion traditionally and within a contemporary broader faith community, the level of syncretism and diversity of religious practice remain significant and meaningful to those who try to make sense of their place in the world” (367). Arman and his immediate family did not think twice about how to bury their father. They followed the Kazakh Muslim tradition because that is what Kazakhs do, they explained. Arman’s main objectives were to ensure dignity for the deceased and provide care for the immediate family. In the context of a funeral, being a good Kazakh meant being a good Kazakh Muslim, a doting son, and a caring relative.

Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh?


The gathering of his kin to celebrate the life of his father made Arman more curious about his ancestral roots. Following the funeral, Arman became very interested in improving his Kazakh-language skills and learning about Kazakh customs and traditions. He said: I am an urban Russian-speaking Kazakh. I want to soak up all that is Kazakh. I don’t want to be like a Russian or European. I am Kazakh. I try to speak Kazakh though I only learned it in my thirties. I visit my relatives when I visit Almaty or Astana, and I try to attend events and festivities hosted by my extended kin here. I want to strengthen my roots. We—urban Kazakhs—are torn away from our roots; I am trying to undo it. I wish to strengthen my bond with my kin and with my people.

Following the funeral, Arman shared long conversations with his mother and his father’s brother about his ancestral roots. He became interested in shezhire, which is the oral tradition of genealogical reckoning. He has since learned his zheti-ata, the names of his seven patrilineal ancestors. The knowledge and ability to recite one’s zheti-ata is commonly viewed as a marker of true Kazakhness (Yessenova 2005). People who know their zheti-ata are praised for honoring their forefathers and not forgetting their history and culture (Genina 2015; cf. Dubuisson and Genina 2011). Arman began to read books in Kazakh to further improve his language skills and encouraged his nieces and nephews to learn and improve their knowledge of Kazakh. Arman’s interest in his Kazakh heritage, expressed in his wish to improve his Kazakh and learn more about his ancestral roots and genealogy as well as Kazakh customs and traditions, is not unique. Many of Arman’s friends and acquaintances are doing the same. The act of locating oneself in the long line of ancestors has become an important way of asserting Kazakhness. If Arman and his friends are rediscovering their roots, others are trying to maintain existing ties to forefathers. Yessenova (2005) found that many rural migrants in Almaty taught their children their zheti-ata and shared stories about ancestors to ensure that their urban offspring, who grew up away from the extended family, remained connected to their roots. These two concepts—“ancestral roots” and “forefathers”—figure prominently in the debate over what it means to be Muslim in Kazakhstan. Those who critique foreign Islam and advocate the preservation of local Muslim practices argue that worship of ancestors along with home rituals and life-cycle celebrations constitute


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the core of the Kazakh practice of Islam (Schwab 2012). This understanding of Kazakh Islam is widely shared among many urban Kazakhs for whom religion is not a central element of their lives. The focus on remaining close to one’s ancestral roots dovetails with core Kazakh values of respecting the elderly, supporting kin, and upholding Kazakh traditions. Many urban Kazakhs wrestle with the question of whether scripturalist forms of Islam are compatible with the Kazakh values and lifestyles of intense sociality and close kin relations. The case of Aidar illustrates the complexity of navigating the realms of tradition and religion. Twenty-one-year-old Aidar is the only child of Gulmira, a single mother and the owner of a small grocery store in Uralsk. Aidar, who has a high school diploma, helps his mother run the store. Both Aidar and Gulmira self-identify as Muslims and consider themselves “somewhat religious.” Gulmira confided in me that Aidar used to be very religious. Gulmira said: When Aidar was twelve years old, I got into a bad car accident. That is when my son began to believe in Allah, go to the mosque, and wear long clothing. I thought that it was normal for my mother, who was in her sixties, to fast during Ramadan, but for a twelve-year-old boy. . . . I told him, “At your age you should go to the movies and dance parties and chase after girls.” He replied, “No, I cannot. One needs to limit oneself. To look at girls is a sin.” I initially supported his interest in religion. It was better than drinking, smoking, and swearing.

By the time Aidar turned fourteen, he was praying five times a day, or “reading namaz,” as they say in Kazakhstan. He grew out a beard and began to dress “like an Arab.” He also began to criticize his mother for not reading namaz and for observing local Muslim traditions like frying dough (shelpek) and sharing it with neighbors and the needy (as part of sadaka, a voluntary distribution of food or other resources). “I told him, ‘I will follow Kazakh Muslim traditions as I know them. We, Kazakhs, make shelpek for sadaka on Fridays, that is our holy day,’” Gulmira said. She grew increasingly wary of his religiosity and tried to persuade him to follow what she called “a normal way of life.” When Aidar was sixteen, his mother’s father became very sick. For six months Aidar helped his mother care for his ailing grandfather, feeding and washing him. Soon after his grandfather’s death, Aidar’s grandmother became ill. She was bedridden for three years, and Aidar and Gulmira were her main caretakers; Gulmira was also the breadwinner of the family. Aidar said:

Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh?


I saw how my mother took care of her parents, and I will do the same for her. We have to care for our parents. . . . I want my mother to rest more, to vacation annually. She needs to invest in her health. She spent much of her health taking care of her parents.

Aidar said that the experience of caring for his grandparents changed him. While nursing his mother’s parents, he got to know them better and learned more about his great-grandparents, close and distant ancestors, family traditions, and Muslim Kazakh rituals, an experience that Schwab (2012) would call a “domestic apprenticeship.” The experience brought him closer to his mother. Aidar said that the time he spent with his grandparents and the months of reflection following his grandmother’s death helped him realize what was most important to him—his mother, his family, his roots, and, by extension, the culture and traditions of his ancestors. He stopped reading namaz and now goes to the mosque only on Fridays. Aidar considers himself Muslim and maintains that religion is important to him, but it no longer plays a central role in his life. He feels a strong sense of obligation to his family and wishes to maintain the Kazakh Muslim traditions of his grandparents and ancestors. Arman and Aidar belong to different generations. Arman is a middle-class university-educated entrepreneur who grew up in the city and speaks Russian as his first language. Aidar speaks Kazakh as his first language, strongly identifies with his natal village, and has a lower level of education and income than Arman. Despite their differences, the two men share a deep interest in their Kazakh heritage, which they developed while caring for their loved ones. Both men regard Kazakh traditions and language as a way to stay close to their roots: honor their grandparents and parents, living and dead, and maintain a strong connection to their forefathers. The experience of these two men suggests that there are many ways to be Muslim in Kazakhstan and Central Asia more broadly. There is Arman, who does not believe in God but respects Kazakh Muslim traditions. There is Aidar, who believes in God, attends the mosque on Fridays, but describes his religious practices as “Kazakh Muslim” and thus “light” compared to the scripturalist interpretation of Islam he used to follow. There is Arman’s mother, who believes in God and goes to the mosque on Muslim holidays but also visits a Muslim healer on occasion. Her healer, in turn, combines divination with reading the Qu’ran. Their practices and beliefs cannot easily be reduced to simplistic characterizations like “light” and “strict” Islam. Rasanayagam


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(2006a) writes, “In constructing themselves as Muslims both men and women combine multiple ideas of Muslim selfhood and practice” (390). He argues that scripturalist interpretations of Islam play an increasingly important role in this process, and people combine ideas they borrowed from Islamic texts and learned from religious authorities with practices and beliefs of their loved ones and friends. The construction of proper Muslim conduct is a highly individual amalgamation of ideas and practices. The conversations with both Aidar and Arman suggest that what they call “Islam” is in fact a multiple and shifting set of ideas. They may invoke reductionist qualifiers like “light Islam” or “radical Islam,” but their substantive answers reveal that they carefully differentiate between different interpretations and practices of Islam at home and abroad. They see the global Muslim community as highly diverse and are keenly aware of differences that exist within this community. Moreover, these men see their identity as Kazakh Muslim as ever shifting and context driven. For example, when in the company of more religious friends or relatives, Arman brushes his face when he is done with the meal, something he does not usually do at home. This gesture, Islamic in origin, is a way of honoring the souls of the ancestors among Kazakh Muslims (Montgomery 2007). Arman sees this expression as Muslim but acknowledges that it is also quintessentially Kazakh. By brushing his face, Arman says he is showing respect for his friends and honoring his ancestors. Making sense of one’s identity as a Kazakh Muslim is a dynamic process. Muslim practice is not developed in vacuum but through personal experiences and encounters with others (Rasanayagam 2006a). Men like Arman and Aidar are constantly reflecting on what constitutes proper Muslim conduct and what it means to be a good Kazakh man. Their ideas shift and change as they interact with others, travel abroad and within Kazakhstan, learn about religious practices and traditions, and reflect on their experiences and those of others. The events in and outside of Kazakhstan influence their views of Islam. For example, the growing instability in Turkey proved to be a thorny subject for Aidar and his friends. Aidar believes that recent events in Turkey, such as the attempted coup in July 2016, serve as proof that states like Turkey and Kazakhstan must remain secular and that religion must be restricted to the private domain. His friends vehemently disagree, accusing Aidar of being anti-Islamic. As scripturalist interpretations of Islam are becoming more widespread, Kazakhs are confronted with multiple interpretations of

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what it means to be Muslim. In conversations, my informants— women and men—stressed the importance of meaningful practice and authenticity. What is meaningful and authentic is highly individual and subject to reevaluation, reflection, and transformation. These deliberations are not conducted in a vacuum but are embedded within broader conversations about what makes one Kazakh and what it means to be a good Kazakh, a proper relative, and a decent person.

Politics of Care and Performance of Masculinity In the previous section I considered how caregiving at critical junctures in life—a grandmother’s illness and the death of a parent— figure in the ongoing search for authenticity and meaning in religious practice and ethnic and religious identity formation. In this section, I examine care in the context of everyday life. In writing about mundane acts of care, I place identity formation in the context of broader postsocialist economic and political transformations. I demonstrate that care practices are intimately tied to ever-shifting notions of masculinity, which in turn are closely connected to the question of what it means to be a good Kazakh man. I argue that caring for one’s family, financially and otherwise, is one of the main ways in which Kazakh men assert and perform their religion and masculinity and socially achieve manhood. Drawing on Gramsci’s notion of “hegemony,” R. W. Connell (1995) developed a notion of “hegemonic masculinity” to analyze inequality between women and men and among men. Hegemonic masculinity is an ideal type, associated with prized male attributes, such as good looks, physical strength, material wealth, virility, and popularity with women. Connell argues that relationships between and within genders are hierarchical and further posits that hegemonic masculinity is a strategy that legitimates this hierarchy. Building on Connell’s concept of hegemonic masculinity and Raymond William’s notion of “emergence,” Inhorn (2012) developed a notion of “emergent masculinities” to emphasize fluidity in conceptions and practices of masculinity and their potential to change and transform over time. Inhorn and Wentzell (2011) write, “To wit, manly selfhood is not a thing or a constant; rather, it is an act that is ever in progress. Men must act as men in different ways from moment to moment in different contexts” (803). The concept of emergent masculinities captures the importance of social history and the


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broader economic, political, and cultural shifts for understanding and performing masculinity, which makes it especially relevant for the postsocialist context. Following Inhorn and Wentzell (2011) and Inhorn (2012), I examine emergent masculinities in Kazakhstan and explore how urban men perform masculinity and achieve manhood in the context of rapid change in economic and political spheres. Before we proceed to the postsocialist period, it is important to examine masculinity under socialism. In the Soviet Union, the figure of an industrial worker was an ideal of hegemonic masculinity and embodied in the figure of Alexey Stakhanov (Ashwin 2000; Gal and Kligman 2000). A coal miner, he was celebrated for his work ethic and exceptional work output. The Communist Party encouraged Soviet citizens to break Stakhanov’s productivity record and thus contribute to the country’s industrial development and building of socialism (Ashwin 2000). The Soviet economy depended heavily on industrial production, and industrial workers were valued and celebrated (Ghodsee 2010). Within the Soviet trade system, Kazakhstan was the supplier of raw materials: agricultural, mineral (crude oil, chrome, and gas), and industrial (metallurgy, heavy machinery, and petrochemicals; Hoffman et al. 2001). Northwestern Kazakhstan, especially Aktobe, was an important node of Kazakhstan’s industrial production. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, state-owned industrial enterprises in Aktobe and Uralsk were privatized. Cut off from the Soviet trade routes and centralized allocation of resources, the majority of the newly privatized enterprises went bankrupt and unemployment skyrocketed. The unemployed turned to informal economic activities as a way to make ends meet. Many became shuttle traders, traveling to China to buy cheap goods and then reselling them in their hometowns (Karrar 2013). Public sector workers—schoolteachers, doctors, and administrators—were forced to leave their low-paying jobs to sell goods at ubiquitous bazaars and kiosks (Rivkin-Fish 2005; Shevchenko 2009). The collapse of the Soviet Union unraveled everyday life as people knew it, plunging the region and newly postsocialist citizens into a state of economic and existential crisis. The welfare system in most postsocialist countries was severely curtailed. The loss of guaranteed employment and generous social benefits transformed gender relations and interfamily dynamics. Sarah Ashwin (2000), Katerina Clark (1977), and others have argued that the Soviet welfare state performed the traditional role of a father, providing citizens with jobs, affordable childcare, healthcare, and other benefits. Following

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the collapse of the Soviet Union, men had to reassume their “male responsibility” as household providers, while childrearing and running a household became redefined as a private domain and “female responsibility” (Ashwin 2000). It was in this context of the withering of the welfare state, increased informal economic activity, and growing precarity that a new occupational category arose: that of a businessman (biznesman). The world of business (biznes) encompassed a variety of private business activities, formal and informal, from consumer and retail to private protection and security services (Volkov 2002; Yurchak 2002, 2003, 2006). The vague term biznesmeny (plural of biznesman) included owners of small and medium-sized businesses, entrepreneurs, bankers, corporate managers, financial brokers, and traders. Postsocialist citizens associated the sphere of business with affluence, prestige, and masculinity. Businessmen were imagined as smart, shrewd young men who wore professional foreign clothes and drove nice cars. They were always in a hurry and often on the phone discussing important business deals. Biznesman, at once vague and respectful, became a common way for Kazakh men to describe themselves, as it embodied different kinds of enterprise making ranging from owning a convenience store to owning a bank. There were women running their own businesses, but it was the figure of an astute, pragmatic, and tough man that became the archetype of a biznesman. In the context of the state’s loss of control over the means of violence, many businessmen relied on private protection agencies, which were often affiliated with criminal groups, to protect themselves and their businesses against other criminal organizations (Volkov 2002). For many, owning and operating a business meant engaging with criminal groups, which contributed to the perception of business making as a male activity. In postsocialist Kazakhstan, as in other parts of the former Soviet Union, the figure of a businessman replaced that of an industrial worker as the ideal of masculinity. Young men strove to become businessmen, which they came to associate with money, power, and prestige, and thus the ability to secure and enhance their family’s social status and financial well-being. Arman shared with me that it was not just the promise of a larger income that attracted him to biznes; he was also attracted to the idea of becoming a biznesman, a proper postsocialist man who is able to provide for his family and protect his loved ones from economic insecurity. Arman got into biznes at the right time. The new millennium brought greater economic stability to Kazakhstan. Rising oil prices


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and increased interest from foreign investors helped jumpstart the economy (Pomfret 2005). Kazakhstan enjoyed double-digit growth in 2000 and 2001 and 8.5 percent or more per year in 2002 and 2007 (CIA World Factbook 2013). Private enterprise flourished but was largely restricted to the oil and gas industry and sectors like construction, consumer, and financial services (mostly banks), which were built around an extractive industry. The oil boom, however, also undermined other productive sectors, especially agriculture, and led to rapid urbanization as rural Kazakhstanis flocked to cities, abandoning the dying agro-dependent countryside. As in other postsocialist and postcolonial contexts, the oil boom engendered economic and social inequality and produced a system of haves and have-nots. While highly educated urban men like Arman were able to capitalize on the oil boom and were successful in improving their material well-being, rural residents and young men with no higher education, who typically lacked social and economic capital, struggled to find decent work. Unemployed and underemployed men found themselves increasingly unable to conform to gendered expectations. Despite the economic and social inequality produced by the oil boom, most Kazakhstanis would agree with Arman that the 2000s were the “golden” or “fat” years of Kazakhstan. The oil-driven economy boomed; it seemed nothing could impede the spectacular economic rise of the country. Kazakhstan experienced a construction boom, and real estate became a central arena for investment and speculation (Bissenova 2009). The indiscriminate lending practices of commercial banks coupled with the bursting of the real estate bubble resulted in an increase of nonperforming loans on commercial banks’ balance sheets, leading to a full-blown banking crisis in 2008 (Laruelle 2009). The real estate and banking crises were a rude awakening to Arman and other businessmen in the construction sector. Arman shivered as he recalled how an acquaintance who also worked in the construction business committed suicide after falling behind on mortgage payments on his lavish apartment, which the bank sought to reclaim. Three months after he was buried, his wife and children lost their home. Arman characterized the years of 2008 and 2009 as a “sobering period” for Kazakh businessmen. It became increasingly difficult to find work, as many building and real estate companies went bankrupt and construction projects were suspended or cancelled. In the years that followed the financial crisis, Arman never managed to recapture his precrisis profits. In the early or mid-2000s

Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh?


there were many big construction projects, and he could pick and choose which ones to be part of. These days he accepts any work and typically has to manage multiple small projects in construction and other sectors to make a living. His earnings are sufficient to cover his expenses and supplement his mother’s pension, but Arman is no longer in a position to save. He still lives in the same apartment and drives the car he purchased in the early 2000s. The experience of living through the recent crisis made Arman at once more cautious and more appreciative of what he has: The age of big money is over, the important thing today is to stay afloat, not to get burned [by taking on debt or engaging in risky activity], maintain a certain level, not tap into savings. I need to maintain my car, which takes time and money, but I need it. I need it for business and to drive my family. My father is no longer alive, and I must do everything I can to ensure my mother lives long and her life is comfortable, and to help my sister [who is a single mother] with her children.

Arman is grateful for his flexible schedule, which allows him to drop off his sister’s children at school and pick them up, drive his mother to doctor’s appointments and social gatherings, and help his sister renovate her new apartment. Though he is no longer able to sponsor big tois or send his nieces and nephews to study abroad, he derives meaning in supporting his family in these other nonmaterial ways. Alibek, a history teacher at a secondary school in Aktobe, expressed similar sentiments. Alibek regarded his handyman skills as an important contribution to his family. He talked proudly about fixing up his apartment and his woodworking projects: a table for his son and a bench for his parents. While his earnings are modest, he asserts his masculinity by engaging in traditional masculine activities, such as carpentry and woodwork. Seemingly mundane activities, such as driving a car and fixing up a home, enable men like Arman and Alibek to contribute to their households’ well-being and reaffirmed their sense of manhood and status as a family pillar. Kazakh men like Arman and Alibek seek to live moral and purposeful lives by acting generously toward others, taking care of their families, and respecting the elderly. Through everyday acts of care and kindness, they are moving the conception of masculinity in postsocialist Kazakhstan away from the image of a busy self-important businessman toward a figure of a caring son, doting uncle, devoted father, and supportive brother. If in the 1990s money making was


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central to achieving the idealized norm of manhood, in the 2000s, especially in the aftermath of the financial crisis, emergent masculinities are no longer so closely tied to earnings. These changes in masculine practices and identities cannot be divorced from broader economic and social developments. While Kazakhstan is not exactly a model welfare state, the government provides modest welfare benefits to new mothers, the elderly, the disabled, and other vulnerable groups. In the 2000s, the state invested in improving the ailing public health system; many health services, including primary healthcare, emergency care, and many specialist services are funded by the state (Katsaga et al. 2012). Despite the recent economic crises, quality of life and average incomes are substantially higher than they used to be at the turn of the century. “In the 1990s we had to survive; today we can live,” explained Alibek. In the context where survival is no longer the modus operandi, earnings, while important to masculine practice and identity, do not define manhood.

Conclusion Care practices are increasingly important to new forms of masculine practice as men and women search for authentic ways to be Kazakh and embody Kazakh values of respecting the elderly, prioritizing children and their needs, and supporting kin. These values dovetail with caregiving, expanding definitions of manhood and enabling men to express masculinity in multiple ways, including through child and elder care. As in questions of religion, emergent masculinities are reformulated within broader conversations about what it means to be a good Kazakh and a proper person. As urban Kazakh men pursue religious practices that are compatible with Kazakh values of close family ties and mutual aid, they increasingly choose care-centered masculine practices over the self-focused biznesman masculinity because the former resonate more closely with their beliefs than the latter at this particular historical moment. The same intentions—to search for authenticity and meaning in everyday life—motivate Kazakh men to enact care-centered masculinity and follow religious practices that reflect their Kazakh identities. Kazakh men’s conceptions of masculinity and its performance inform and are informed by their understandings of what it means to be a Kazakh. In constructing selves, Kazakh men combine different ideas and ideals of

Am I Muslim or Just Kazakh?


masculinity and Kazakhness, ultimately striving to lead meaningful lives, form authentic relationships with others, and remain true to their roots.

Ainur Begim is a postdoctoral fellow at the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo. She is a sociocultural anthropologist with research and teaching interests in economic and political anthropology, natural resources, finance, entrepreneurship, gender, Norway, and Soviet and post-Soviet Eurasia. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from Yale University.

Notes 1. Sadaka is a voluntary contribution or act of charity. It is similar to zakat, which is an obligatory annual almsgiving to help the poor. Sadaka, the way it is practiced in Kazakhstan, encompasses a broad range of activities, including donating clothing, sharing traditional fried dough on Fridays with neighbors, giving money to charity, etc. Any act of giving out of compassion can be described as sadaka in the Kazakh Muslim tradition. 2. It must be noted that Privratsky (2001) conducted his research in the historical city of Turkestan in southern Kazakhstan, which is a very particular ethnographic setting. The shrine of the twelfth-century Sufi master, Ahmet Yasawi, is located in Turkestan, marking the city as one of the most important centers of Islam in Central Asia. The importance of Turkestan for Muslims in Central Asia and beyond makes it a substantially different ethnographic setting than Aktobe or Uralsk, the two cities that were largely built by Soviets. 3. Louw (2006) argues that the difference in religiosity between Uzbeks and Kazakhs and Kyrgyz is overstated.

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Kandiyoti, Deniz. 1999. “Poverty in Transition: An Ethnographic Critique of Household Surveys in Post-Soviet Central Asia.” Development and Change 30: 499–524. Karrar, Hasan H. 2013. “Merchants, Markets, and the State.” Critical Asian Studies 45(3): 459–80. Katsaga, Alexandr, Maksut Kulzhanov, Marina Karanikolos, and Bernd Rechel. 2012. “Health Systems in Transition.” Health 14(4): 1–154. Kehl-Bodrogi, Krisztina. 2008. “Religion Is Not So Strong Here”: Muslim Religious Life in Khorezm after Socialism. Munster: LIT Verlag. Khalid, Adeeb. 2007. Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia. Berkeley: University of California Press. Köchümkulova, Elmira. 2014. “Introduction.” In Cities of the Dead: The Ancestral Cemeteries of Kyrgyzstan, ed. Margaret Morton, 3–9. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Laruelle, Marlene. 2009. “The Inconsistencies of Russian Migration Policy: Political Risks and Social Challenges.” The Central Asia-Caucus Analyst 11(12): 12–14. Lillis, Joanna. 2011. “Kazakhstan: Astana Jolted by Terror Incidents.” EurasiaNet. Retrieved 16 November from: node/64529. Louw, Maria. 2006. Pursuing ‘Muslimness’: shrines as sites for moralities in the making in post-Soviet Bukhara. Central Asian Survey 25(3): 319–39. ———. 2007. Everyday Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia. New York: Routledge. ———. 2011. “Being Muslim the Ironic Way: Secularism, Religion and Irony in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.” In Varieties of Secularism in Asia: Anthropological Explorations of Religion, Politics, and the Spiritual, ed. Nils Bubandt and Martijn van Beek, 143–61. London and New York: Routledge. ———. 2013. “Even Honey May Become Bitter When There Is Too Much of It: Islam and the Struggle for a Balanced Existence in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.” Central Asian Survey 32(4): 514–26. McBrien, Julie. 2006. “Listening to the Wedding Speaker: Discussing Religion and Culture in Southern Kyrgyzstan.” Central Asian Survey 25: 341–57. ———. 2009. “Mukadas’s Struggle: Veils and Modernity in Kyrgyzstan.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15: S127–44. ———. 2012. “Watching Clone: Brazilian Soap Operas and Muslimness in Kyrgyzstan.” Material Religion 8(3): 374–96. McBrien, Julie and Mathijs Pelkmans. 2008. “Turning Marx on His Head: Missionaries, ‘Extremists,’ and Archaic Secularists in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan.” Critique of Anthropology 28(1): 87–103. Montgomery, David W. 2007. “Namaz, Wishing Trees, and Vodka: The Diversity of Everyday Religious.” In Everyday Life in Central Asia: Past and Present, ed. Jeff Sahadeo and Russell Zanca, 355–70. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ———. 2013. “Negotiating Well-Being in Central Asia.” Central Asian Survey 32(4): 423–31.


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———. 2015. “On Muslims and the Navigation of Religiosity: Notes on the Anthropology of Islam.” In The Ashgate Research Companion to Anthropology, ed. Andrew Strathern and Pamela Stewart, 227–54. London: Ashgate Publishing. Montgomery, David W. and John Heathershaw. 2014. The Myth of Muslim Post-Soviet Radicalization in the Central Asian Republics. London: Chatham House. Morton, Margaret. 2014. Cities of the Dead: The Ancestral Cemeteries of Kyrgyzstan. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Omelicheva, Mariya. 2011. “Islam in Kazakhstan: A Survey of Contemporary Trends and Sources of Secularization.” Central Asian Survey 30(2): 243–56. Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life. 2012. The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Forum. Privratsky, Bruce. 2001. Muslim Turkistan: Kazak Religion and Collective Memory. Richmond and Surrey: Curzon Press. Pomfret, Richard. 2005. “Kazakhstan’s Economy since Independence: Does the Oil Boom Offer a Second Chance for Sustainable Development?” Europe-Asia Studies 57(6): 859–76. Rasanayagam, Johan. 2006a. “Healing with Spirits and the Formation of Muslim Selfhood in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 12(2): 377–93. ———. 2006b. “Introduction.” Central Asian Survey 25(3): 219–33. ———. 2010. Islam in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan: The Morality of Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rivkin-Fish, Michele. 2005. Women’s Health in Post-Soviet Russia: The Politics of Intervention. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Ro’i, Yaacov and Alon Wainer. 2009. “Muslim Identity and Islamic Practice in Post-Soviet Central Asia.” Central Asian Survey 28(3): 303–22. Schwab, Wendell. 2011. “Establishing an Islamic Niche in Kazakhstan: Musylman Publishing House and Its Publications.” Central Asian Survey 30(2): 227–42. ———. 2012. “Traditions and Texts: How Two Young Women Learned to Interpret the Qur’an and Hadiths in Kazakhstan.” Contemporary Islam 6(2): 173–97. ———. 2015. “Islam, Fun, and Social Capital in Kazakhstan.” Central Asian Affairs 2(1): 51–70. Shevchenko, Olga. 2009. Crisis and the Everyday in Postsocialist Moscow. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Tasibekov, Kanat. 2012. Sitautivnyj Kazahskyj (Mir Kazahov) [Situational Kazakh (World of Kazakhs)]. Takeev: A. B. Publishers. Volkov, Vadim. 2002. Violent Entrepreneurs: The Use of Force in the Making of Russian Capitalism. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. Werner, Cynthia, Holly Barcus, and Namara Brede. 2013. “Discovering a Sense of Well-Being Through the Revival of Islam: Profiles of Kazakh Imams in Western Mongolia.” Central Asian Survey 32(4): 527–41.

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Yemelianova, Galina. 2014. “Islam, National Identity and Politics in Contemporary Kazakhstan.” Asian Ethnicity 15(3): 286–301. Yessenova, Saulesh. 2005. “‘Routes and Roots’ of Kazakh Identity: Urban Migration in Postsocialist Kazakhstan.” Russian Review 64(4): 661–79. Yurchak, Alexei. 2002. “Entrepreneurial Governmentality in Postsocialist Russia.” In The New Entrepreneurs of Europe and Asia: Patterns of Business Development in Russia, Eastern Europe, and China, ed. Victoria E. Bonnell and Thomas B. Gold, 278—324. London and New York: Routledge. ———. 2003. “Russian Neoliberal: The Entrepreneurial Ethic and the Spirit of ‘True Careerism.’” Russian Review 62(1): 72–90. ———. 2006. Everything Was Forever until It Was No More. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Zanca, Russell. 2008. “Fearing Islam in Uzbekistan: Islamic Tendencies, Extremist Violence, and Authoritarian Secularism.” In Religion, Morality, and Community in Post-Soviet Societies, ed. Mark D. Steinberg and Catherine Wanner, 247–80. Washington, D.C. and Bloomington: Woodrow Wilson Center and Indiana University Press.

Chapter 9



his chapter explores the intersection between Islam and gender by focusing on the ways in which Muslim men enact their male identities and collective belongings in Brazil. Although a flourishing anthropological literature approaches the various historical, social, and cultural elements that frame Muslim identities and experiences in the Brazilian context, studies concerning a gendered perspective on Muslim men are scant or enmeshed in immigrant narratives. This chapter approaches the issue by looking at how practicing, mosque-going Muslim men produce and perform their manhood in the local arenas of everyday life. To do so, this ethnographic study intends to show how “care” is a central point for the Muslim men with whom I worked. For them, it achieves maleness by condensing ideas, emotions, and actions through which they engage with their families, friends, and religious community. In this sense, care is a relational category used by local Muslim men to express connected values and practices in their interpersonal and communitarian relationships. As a contextualized notion and practice, care is discussed here in two different, albeit complementary, dimensions: the first is related to the religious community as a whole, in which mosques play a special role; the second centers on the processes of self-care.

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This study relies on ethnographic fieldwork I have been conducting in Muslim communities in Brazil, mainly in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba in different periods between 2005 and 2015. It is better considered a work in progress, since the core of my own research on Muslims in Brazil focuses on the processes of construction and transmission of Islamic religious knowledge and authorities, as well as on the plurality of Muslim women’s lives and the “hijab question” in the local public sphere. In this way, I was not surprised when my Muslim friend José exclaimed joyfully to me during a conversation we had about my research on Muslim masculinities: “Finally, it is my turn! No one asked me before to talk about myself as a Muslim man!” The tone of his comment, however, reminds us that, as pointed out by Nefissa Naguib (2015: 52), “Men’s stories are never only about men.” It is important to highlight that the relational aspect pointed out above also matters for methodological purposes. As a female non-Muslim ethnographer doing fieldwork in different Muslim communities in Brazil, my first access to their religious worlds was through Muslim women. Except for the communities’ religious and bureaucratic male authorities with whom I had direct contact, because of moral codes on gender separation inside mosques, I had no access to men during the religious activities I attended. Thus, in the beginning of my fieldwork in Muslim communities in Brazil, it was through my female friends that I had access to the “male side” of the mosque, that is, to the their husbands and brothers. For my more recent ethnographic work, however, I had no difficulty accessing male interlocutors, since I have known many of them for several years already. All the Muslims with whom I worked are Brazilian men, both with or without Arab ancestry, and most of them are converts. The research was conducted in Portuguese, the language spoken in Brazil. The names used in the text are pseudonyms, and all of my ethnographic research for this study occurred inside mosques and musallas (prayer rooms).

Muslims in Brazil According to the 2010 Brazilian national census on religious affiliation, there are 35,167 Muslims in the country. This number, however, is contested by many local Muslim leaders and institutions, who estimate that there are around 1,000,000 Muslims living currently


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in the main Brazilian cities. Aside from this numerical dispute, it is important to highlight that Muslim communities in Brazil have plural configurations, ranging from the various Islamic branches with which they are aligned and their different ethnic belongings to how they shape their public visibility on local, national, and transnational levels. Historically, the Islamic presence in Brazil has been associated with distinct moments, dating back to the arrival of the Moriscos from Portugal in the sixteenth century, the African Muslim slaves in the eighteenth century, and the various waves of Arab migration from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the first half of the twentieth century, Muslims constituted around 15 percent of the Arab immigrants, who were mostly Christians (Maronite, Melkite, Orthodox). The number of Muslim Arab immigrants to the country increased after the 1970s, followed by the decline of the Christian Arab immigration. Both Christian and Muslim Arab immigrants mobilized their religious affiliations to build communities, institutions, and networks of solidarity in Brazilian society (Pinto 2015b: 30–31). In the 1920s and 1930s, the first Islamic institutions in Brazil were built in cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where the Arabic-speaking immigrants’ communities were more expressive. These institutions were named “charitable societies” and their main goal was to gather the community to perform religious rituals and celebrations, as well as to serve as “ethnic spaces” for socialization. In 1960, after almost two decades of construction work, the first mosque in Brazil was ready. Located in São Paulo, it was named the Brazil Mosque (Mesquita Brasil). Charitable societies and mosques connected to the Arab immigrant communities were also built in Curitiba, Foz do Iguaçu, Belo Horizonte, and Brasília, among other cities. These institutions were created according to their members’ distinct belonging to the Islamic tradition—Sunni, Shi’a, and their internal branches. And many of them remained Arab spaces, where Islam is lived as part of Arab identity and cultural heritage. In these majority Arabic-speaking immigrant communities, transnational connections to the Middle East are very present through a constant flux of people, objects, and ideas. The construction of mosques in Brazilian cities, following an Islamic architecture style close to that of the Middle East, was possible from the 1980s through external funding from Saudi Arabia, Iran, other Gulf countries, and Jordan. Most Islamic institutions in Brazil belong to the Sunni branch of Islam. However, there are

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some Shi’a mosques, musallas, and hussainiyas connected to the Arab immigrants and their descendants as well as to Brazilian converts (Pinto 2015a: 107–14). Although most Muslim communities in Brazil are composed of Arabic-speaking immigrants and their descendants, there is a growing number of Brazilians without Arab backgrounds who convert to Islam through diverse paths, such as personal relationships with a Muslim (friendship or marriage), discreet missionary work (da’wa) by some local Muslim institutions, or one’s own initiative, interest, and research. Most Brazilian converts are from the middle and lower classes and work as public servants, businessmen, and shopkeepers, among other vocations. In addition, Sunni African Muslim immigrants have arrived in Brazil in recent years, as has a small group of Shi’a Iranians and a group of Sunni Turkish connected to the Hizmet Movement. Besides ethnicity, other social markers, such as gender, social class, generation, and sectarian religious affiliations, create distinct understandings and practices of Islam in Brazil. Conversion to Islam in the Brazilian context increased after 9/11. Religious authorities with whom I spoke assert that those events attracted Brazilian men and women to local Islamic institutions in order to learn more about Islam, resulting in conversions. Though the 9/11 attacks shed negative light on Muslims around the world and, of course, in Brazil, those visions of violent and militant Islam spread by the global media encountered a counterdiscourse in the local context. In October 2001, the soap opera The Clone (O Clone) was screened on a Brazilian television channel, which promoted an interest in Islam and in local everyday Muslim life (Pinto 2015a: 110–11). The Clone’s central plot was the forbidden love story between a Moroccan Muslim woman and a nonreligious Brazilian man. The show introduced a large audience to basic Islamic principles on marriage, family, and social life. The female Muslim characters wore hijabs and colorful and flowing clothes. Muslim male characters were portrayed as religiously and morally strict but also friendly, loving, and gentle to their families and neighbors. All of the characters enjoyed home gatherings with belly dancing. Belly dancing and expressions such as “inshallah” or “inshallah, lots of gold” pronounced by many of the characters became very popular in Brazilian society at that time. While the soap opera helped shape a positive popular view of Arabic culture and Islam, it was criticized by local Muslims, who felt caricatured and stereotyped. Many of my Muslim inter-


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locutors, especially the Brazilian converted ones, considered the soap opera a “mistake,” since it “mixed” Islamic values with “Arab culture.” The phenomenon of conversion altered the internal dynamics of some Muslim communities in Brazil. The incorporation of nonArab Brazilian converts in some established communities of Arabicspeaking immigrants and their descendants was not without conflict, since questions involving Arabic language and culture in rituals and daily activities inside mosques elicited internal disputes for power positions and for religious interpretation. The history of the Sunni Muslim community in Rio de Janeiro provides an example of this tension. The community’s early formation is connected to the immigrant families from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine who created the Muslim Charitable Society of Rio de Janeiro (Sociedade Beneficente Muçulmana do Rio de Janeiro) in 1951. It worked in a downtown commercial building, and its space was used mainly as a place for their members to socialize rather than worship. In the 1970s it became a mussala where religious rituals, such as Friday prayer, were collectively performed. Until the 1990s, the religious activities at the Muslim Charitable Society of Rio de Janeiro were oriented toward transmitting Islamic principles as part of the cultural heritage of the Muslim Arab immigrants to their descendants. The Arabic language was the linguistic context of those activities. However, after 1997, a new Sudanese imam (prayer leader) and a group of Arab descendants changed its “ethnic profile,” transforming it into a space to spread Islam in Rio de Janeiro’s religious landscape. This brought the Portuguese language to the scene. This missionary effort aimed to provide pedagogical activities such as religious classes on Islamic doctrines and ritual practices, which were open to a non-Muslim audience and attracted new converts. As a result of the growing number of converts, the community built a mosque in Tijuca in 2007. Today, the Sunni community in Rio de Janeiro has a plural constituency, which includes Arabic-speaking immigrants and their descendants, non-Arab African immigrants, and non-Arab Brazilian converts to Islam (Chagas 2012); the last group comprises their majority. Unlike Muslim communities elsewhere in Brazil, the Muslim community in Rio de Janeiro does not have an overwhelming Arabic cultural and linguistic character. Nevertheless, while non-Arab Brazilian converts constituted the majority audience in all religious and pedagogical activities, positions of power were occupied by Arabic-speaking members, who tried to produce, teach, and control

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a Salafiyya-inspired version of Islam in the mosque. This ethnic and hierarchical tension caused a split in the community (Chagas 2012). As a result, a group of discontented male Brazilian converts left the Tijuca mosque and created their own musalla downtown. Indeed, there are quite a few new musallas dispersed in many Brazilian cities, mostly composed of Brazilian converts without Arab backgrounds. In this sense, mosques and other Islamic institutions play an important role in the processes through which local Muslims define not only their religious belongings and modes of interpreting and practicing Islam but also how they create a sense of spaceoriented community and grant Islam local public visibility. This chapter further explores how this dynamic configuration of Islam in Brazil is enmeshed in the process of local Muslim men enacting caregiving as part of their maleness. It points to the particular ways local mosques effect this, since they are important spaces where notions and practices of care are constructed, enhanced, and challenged by members in everyday interactions.

Muslim Men in Brazil: “We Have to Take Care of Each Other” After the ascension of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the Charlie Hebdo episode, and the November 2015 attacks in Paris, the stigmatized portrayals associating Islam with terrorism and violence were updated and spread by global media discourses and political views. This development negatively affected the lives of Muslims across the world, including in Brazil. In 2015 the Paris office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo was invaded by gunmen, who killed twelve employees and injured twelve others. A few days later, mosques and prayer rooms were invaded and vandalized in different Brazilian cities, such as São Paulo, Ponta Grossa, and Brasília. Likewise, my interlocutors reported cases of harassment in the streets and physical aggression against Muslims in Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, and São Paulo. Hijabi women were the main victims of this harassment, since their religious identities are explicitly visible. Two hijabi women were slapped, one was stoned, and many others were the targets of verbal insults, such as “Bin Laden’s spouse,” “ISIS’s bride,” “back to your country,” and “woman suicide bomber.” This religious intolerance against Muslims in Brazil was publicized not only by Muslims in their online social networks and official statements from their institutions, but also in the na-


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tional media. Muslim religious authorities and scholars were invited to speak on television about Islam and the intolerance cases. Ahmed, a forty-year-old Brazilian with Lebanese Shi’a parents, is engaged with public discourses and policies against religious intolerance crimes. He is one of the leaders of the Muslim Charitable Society of Paraná, which was created in 1957. Located in Curitiba, the capital of the state of Paraná, the Muslim Charitable Society of Paraná is attached to the Imam Ali Talib Mosque, built in 1972. These institutions represent the local Muslim community, which includes both Sunni and Shi’a members in their social activities and religious rituals. The community’s members are predominantly of Arab origin, with a few non-Arab Brazilian converts. Following the November attacks in Paris and the harassment cases in Brazil, Ahmed invited the local press to the mosque. In the name of his religious institution, he delivered a public speech on Islam, condemned the international episodes, and offered solidarity to the victims’ families. He explained that Islam had nothing to do with violence and terrorism and said, “Muslims in Brazil should not be punished for what happened on the other side of the ocean.” Some Muslim women in the community related how they were harassed in the streets of Curitiba. According to Ahmed, this was an important activity because it expressed his community’s repudiation of violence and allowed him to explain some Islamic values, such as the use of the hijab by Muslim women. In a conversation with me about the topic, he pointed out: If a man does not care about himself, his family, community, and society, he is not a man. As a Muslim man, I have to be aware that I am part of a whole. So, if any injury against our brothers or sisters in Islam occurs, I have to act. All of us must. If my non-Muslim neighbor is in a bad financial situation and does not have food to eat, for example, I have to act. We have to take care of each other. It is our religious duty.

Ahmed’s commitment to protecting his brothers and sisters in Islam against the backdrop of bigotry was an incentive to become a spokesperson for his religious community. He participates in the civil society’s local committees, which are organized to discuss cases of religious intolerance and to call for governmental action against perpetrators. The mosque of Curitiba is open on Sunday mornings for the public to visit, an effort made by Ahmed and other community mem-

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bers to create channels of dialogue with non-Muslim Brazilians. Ahmed personally receives national and international visitors and tourists at the mosque, explaining to them the history of the building and basic Islamic principles. He also receives students, teachers, researches, and journalists. In 2015 a Museum of Islamic Art and Culture was opened in a room attached to the mosque. In March 2016, the mosque and the museum were included in the official tourist route of Curitiba. In Ahmad’s view, the positive visibility of these institutions in Curitiba is important because they present an Islamic presence on the local religious landscape and help foster a “good memory” of the community’s history. As a cultural broker connecting Islam, his religious community, and broader Brazilian society, Ahmad sees protecting his religious community’s public reputation as a way of caring and being a “real Muslim man.” Moreover, Ahmad’s public engagement on behalf of his religious community is endorsed by many of my interlocutors, all religiously observant men from different Muslim communities who spend their free time at mosques and in community activities alongside their families and “brothers in Islam.” However, caring for their religious communities is not without tension and ambiguity for some of my interlocutors. Hassan, a 45-year-old Shi’a Lebanese man raised in Brazil, explained to me that his involvement in activities concerning his religious community and Muslim fellows complicated his relationship with his exwife. He was married to a Brazilian woman convert for five years. According to him, his wife often complained about his active engagement with the “community’s questions” because many of his mosque’s brothers and sisters sought his advice on personal problems (related to money, marriage, family, etc.). She complained that he dedicated little time to her. Embarrassed, Hassan added: I am a good man. I cannot say no to my fellows. How can I? I am a Muslim; to care for the needy is a religious duty. But I understand; it was too much for her. We also had many other problems, so we got a divorce. God knows better.

Hassan told me he was educated by his father to be righteous and helpful to his family and society. He put an emphasis on the fact that he has always acted as a supportive person since childhood. In his narrative, Hassan presents himself as a Muslim committed to his religious community, doing “what a man has to do,” that is, caring for others. However, this is always an ambiguous task, since one does not have control over others’ judgments. In his opinion,


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although his ex-wife recognized his efforts in caring for the community’s needy, she did not recognize his efforts as a husband. Thus, Hassan’s story shed light on how masculinities and ideas about being a good man are enacted in different ways and are enmeshed in various discourses and negotiations, which includes success and failure as distinct aspects of a man’s trajectory in asserting his maleness (Ghannam 2013). As showed in the ethnographic examples above, my interlocutors emphasized the importance of being committed to their religious communities’ problems, mainly by making what they considered to be an appropriate public presentation of Islam in broader society. During my fieldwork, I saw other instances of my interlocutors’ caregiving, such as donating food, clothes, school supplies, and other equipment to local orphanages, nursing homes, and health clinics as well as poor members of their own religious communities. Providing financial support for and engaging in these activities are locally perceived as part of a truly faithful man’s responsibility. My interlocutors consider the mosques to be like home, and members as family. Like a home, the mosque is considered a place where they are socialized in Islamic values and morals and surrounded by an emotional atmosphere of intimacy and trust. The community, in this sense, is an idealized family in which the older members should care for the newer ones. Also, like a home, the mosque is a disciplinary space where members become enmeshed in power relations, hierarchies, and, sometimes, conflicts. Despite their ambiguity, these metaphors of home and family help explain the dynamics through which Muslim men care for each other and fashion their masculinities. José, who was friendly and receptive to my research project, told me his story. The son of Brazilian Christian parents, he received a Catholic education but seldom went to church. As a teenager, he listened to pop music and went to parties and nightclubs. This routine continued through his time at university, where he went to an engineering school. By this time, he had girlfriends and drank alcohol. He felt happy but spiritually empty, and this feeling pushed him to read more about different religions, Islam not among them. José’s first contact with Islam happened through a television series with Muslim characters. He was interested in the Islamic ideas presented by the characters and decided to learn more. In 2000, José went to the Sunni Mosque of Rio de Janeiro, where he was instructed in the main Islamic principles. After observing the mosque’s rituals and pedagogical activities for a few months, he did his sha-

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hada (the Muslim profession of faith, which marks one’s conversion to Islam). By this time, he was twenty-four years old. In his words: The shahada was only the beginning. To be a committed Muslim is like being immersed in a constant process of self-development. It never stops because Islam is a way of life, and not just a religion with dos and don’ts. It teaches you how to behave all the time, how to be a better human being. I have to remember that all the time, even when I am inside my car at the heavy traffic jam in Rio de Janeiro’s summer. You know, some men shout abusive words through their car’s windows. I try to control myself and my mouth, so I hear my anasheeds (Islamic religious songs) CDs.

I met José in 2001, when I first visited Rio de Janeiro’s musalla. There, I enrolled in courses offered to a Muslim and non-Muslim public, such as Arabic Language and Introduction to Islam. At that time, José and I studied in the same class, but we did not have personal conversations. He sat with his Brazilian Muslim men friends, who also participated in those activities. After class, the convert students would stay in the room to pray together. They taught each other how to perform the ablutions and how to move the body appropriately, as required by the Islamic prayer ritual. Later, José married a converted woman, whom I also had met at the musalla. His wife is a historian and has been one of my interlocutors since the beginning of my research on Islam in Brazil. She facilitated my access to José for my fieldwork. When I informally interviewed José, I told him about our Arabic classes in 2001 and how he seemed devoted to learning the language. He answered that it is a religious obligation, to read and understand the Qur’anic messages. However, he was critical of himself at that time: I was newly converted at that time. I wanted to do everything in the right way. I wanted to have my Islamic “to do” and “not to do” list in order to change myself once and forever. I used to mix very different things such as Arab culture and Islam. I used to avoid talking to women inside the mosque, even trivialities. Oh, how I was wrong! Islam requires time. You have to be tolerant with yourself and others. Everything depends on your heart and intentions. It’s a constant process of self-improvement, of self-care. As time goes by, we become more mature and aware of life’s difficulties. As soon as I converted to Islam, I stopped drinking alcohol, dating, and going out with non-Muslim friends who used to do those things. I did it quickly. I was convinced that those practices were not good to me. I felt better.


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I felt my body was better. A few non-Muslim friends understood my religious choices, but some did not. They used to tell me that Islamic rules are based on the Middle Ages and [reminded me of] all those stereotypes surrounding Muslim men (as sexist, terrorist, violent oppressors of women). All I know about Islam is the opposite of it. You know, Brazilian culture is machista [sexist]. Here, men can explore woman’s sexuality freely through consuming pornography, dating without any commitment to the girl, cheating their wives and family without any charge. . . . So, who is the oppressor? The Muslim man? Me?

José continued. Some of his work colleagues do not know that he is Muslim. Unlike that of newly converted Muslim women, his dress remained the same. He grew his beard, but in Brazil this is not culturally perceived as religiously diacritical. Some of his male colleagues use cellphone apps to share female pornographic jokes and images. Once, he asked one of them to stop sending him that kind of thing. It was a sensitive task because, according to him, in the “manly Brazilian ethos, if you do not like women pornography, you are probably a homosexual.” He told me that sometimes it is hard for a Muslim man in Brazil to deal with this “male cultural pressure” where “sexual relationships with as many women as possible is seen as a sign of a manly man.” José met his wife at Rio de Janeiro’s mosque. Besides being places for worship and socialization, mosques in the Brazilian context play an important role in marital arrangements, mainly for converted members. As such, the ways in which Muslim men and women present themselves in these sacred spaces are part of their daily lives, since their conduct can be judged by others members. Once, I heard a group of young women chatting about a converted man. They were discouraging one woman in the group from becoming engaged to him. According to them, he was not a “truly Muslim man because he did not go frequently to the mosque nor was he committed to the community.” One of them told her that the man had “bad morals,” since he used to stare at women in the mosque’s social areas. About this, José explained to me that a mosque is also a school, since it is the place in which a Muslim learns how to behave as a Muslim, although it teaches only people committed to the religion. José’s story brings what has been considered here as an alternative, emergent form for living out manhood (Inhorn 2012). For him, Islam offers a sense of moral correctness and coherence through which he orients and disciplines his attitudes. He emphasizes the centrality of Islamic religious duties in his daily life and in relation to

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his family by providing for them, supporting his wife’s professional career, and sharing the domestic work and childcare with her. Therefore, his Muslim male identity is constructed in practice, suggesting a new way of living as a man by disavowing what he considers to be the “oppressive and permissive Brazilian manliness culture” in which he was raised. Issues involving the Brazilian cultural background are very present in my male interlocutors’ practices and ideas, especially that of the converts. These concerns emerge in many contexts, be it when they receive non-Muslim friends or family at home or when they go out to eat or do any leisure activity. The ethnographic accounts below are an attempt to show how Islamic ideas and beliefs are practiced by my interlocutors, shaping how they embody their Muslim masculinities in the arenas of everyday life. Hassan told me that he had been looking for a new spouse but had not found a “special one” in his community or mosque. As such, his mother was pressing him to travel to Lebanon to marry a Lebanese Shi’a woman. In the meantime, he met a Brazilian Christian woman, and she “caught” his heart, according to him. They started to talk by telephone almost every day in order to know each other better. He fell in love with her. As they belonged to distinct religious traditions, he was careful to manage the relationship. So, as a religious man, he asked her for a temporary marriage (mut’a) in order to be respectful to her and to his religion. However, the woman refused his proposal, arguing that she would not have a relationship with a “schedule to end.” The woman did not accept the Shi’a licit practices of marriage and felt insulted, arguing that “love does not have a fixed time to exist.” In Hassan’s opinion, the relationship fell apart because of the different cultural vision both had of love and relationships. According to Hassan, “Brazilian Christian culture” sees marriage as something “eternal.” But Hassan had only done what he, as a Muslim man, considered to be respectful and correct. Tomas, a 35-year-old Brazilian convert, told me in a conversation that he had no “vices,” such as drinking alcoholic beverages, before becoming a Muslim. He was raised in a Catholic family, but when he was a teenager, he stopped attending the Church’s mass, although, he emphasized, he had always believed in God. Tomas’s first contact with Islam was through a Muslim school friend who taught him some of the Islamic principles but never asked him to convert. Years later, as an undergraduate student of journalism, Tomas went to Rio de Janeiro’s mosque in order to research media coverage of


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9/11. He emphasized to me that his connection to Islam came from this study. He found Islam rational and far from the stereotypes of religious violence and militancy spread by the media. According to him, Islam was able to address many of his spiritual concerns, and so he decided to convert. Although Tomas’s conversion narrative does not stress relinquishing Brazilian male cultural modes of socialization, as José’s narrative does, Tomas did say that the most difficult aspect of becoming a Muslim man was to stop flirting with women. He made a personal effort to remain chaste after his conversion. Two years ago he got married, ending nine years of celibacy. The long period in which he did not have a girlfriend or sexual intercourse caused him some embarrassment. According to Tomas, his father criticized him for his restraint because a “man has to have as many women as he can before marriage.” Tomas felt embarrassed every time he had to explain his motivations to his father and to his non-Muslim friends and co-workers. Some of them did not believe he was being sincere, because in their opinion “a man could not abstain from sexual intercourse.” In this way, the mosque and his Muslim brothers were supportive of Tomas’s relationship with Islam, because they understood his choice and did not criticize him. For them, being chaste was also a male attribute and not a “strange thing.” In his words: A friend is a person who you respect and trust. As a Muslim my world views changed, and naturally I made new friends inside the mosque. It is easy when you do not have to explain to another man why you do not drink alcohol or watch pornography, and just care for the other.

In another ethnographic context, I was chatting with a sheikh and other male and female Muslim friends in a mosque. A Brazilian convert told us his birthday was coming and his workmates were preparing a surprise party for him that would be held at his house. They contacted his wife and asked her to keep the secret, but knowing that Muslims do not celebrate birthdays, she thought it would be better to warn him about the problem to avoid any embarrassment. So the man asked the sheikh to enlighten him about the Islamic prohibition of birthday celebration and tell him how he should behave with his friends. The sheikh explained that the Prophet Muhammad recommended that Muslims not celebrate their birthday, but since they were living in a non-Muslim majority society he should respect the celebration

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his friends organized but warn them not to bring anything illicit, like alcohol. Finally, he said that the man should use the opportunity to talk about Islam and explain to his friends certain religious principles. The sheikh recited a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic and afterward translated it to Portuguese. The hadith expressed opposition to any proximity between a Muslim and alcohol, because it “harms the pocket, body and mind, especially the latter, and makes people lose their ability to act with reason and make the right decisions” (Chagas 2012: 74). The above sheikh’s statement—that alcohol causes bodily harm to men—can be connected to what my mosque’s male friends told me about “feeling good” with themselves in avoiding haram drinks and foods. José and Ahmed, for example, emphasized that everyone must be aware of the body’s appearance. However, this should not be seen as vanity but as a religious duty, since the body connects a Muslim to the material world and also to the spiritual one through the prayer performances. The body, in this sense, is their main technical instrument to contact the sacred realm (Mauss 1973). My friends used to recite Qur’anic verses and hadiths on this theme. For them, the importance of being careful of what they eat and drink is a way of putting Islam into practice, through their bodies. José told me that he tries to eat moderately, avoiding food waste. He teaches his children not to “play with food” because there is famine in the world and not to eat “forbidden food” at school, such as ham and fruit jelly. My interlocutors make an enormous effort to provide healthy halal food for their family, but sometimes it is not possible to find halal products at the supermarkets. A young recent convert accompanied me on a walk after a religion class at Rio de Janeiro’s mosque. In our conversation, he emphasized his appreciation for the classes given by the sheikh. He considered this pedagogical activity very important for local Muslims because it allowed them to improve their understanding of Islamic codes and helped him to “correct” various aspects of their daily lives. In his opinion, he and his fellow converts should try to live a pious life in Rio de Janeiro, cutting off all “old habits,” such as going out to parties or cinemas. He stated that it would be easier for Brazilian male converts than for Arab Muslim men to be pious in the local context, since Brazilians are already accustomed to being around illicit things. However, some of my interlocutors who had been born Muslim in an Arab family criticized the “fast” changes that some male converts tried to implement in their daily lives. One of them, Mu-


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hammad, a man in his thirties, told me that some converts want to change everything “overnight,” aiming to become “exemplary Muslims.” A fifty-year-old Palestinian woman who migrated to Brazil in 1990 participated in this conversation. She told us that she really likes her Rio de Janeiro brothers and sisters: “Because the majority of them are Brazilian new Muslims. They are like children who need attention to be raised in the correct Islamic way, so they have to learn how to pray, how to fast, and have to learn the Arabic language. They need our care.” According to Muhammad, converts should try to “learn Islam step by step,” being aware of the challenges posed by the local cultural context. He also said they should be more tolerant of the imperfections of others. On many occasions, I could see Muhammad talking to new converts inside the mosque, reading the Qur’an to them and explaining religious concepts. According to him, these activities are inspired by early Islamic history, when companions of the Prophet used to look to each other for more religious knowledge. The Prophet, in this sense, is the male model of perfection mobilized by all of my interlocutors (Chagas 2012).

Conclusion Islam in Brazil is marked by a plurality of ideas, practices, and forms of institutional organization. Some Muslim communities make discreet missionary efforts to attract Brazilian converts to Islam. Other communities live the religion as part of their cultural Arab heritage, maintaining transnational connections to the Middle East. In this sense, the Muslim religious dynamics in Brazil are crossed by a variety of social identity elements, such as ethnicity, gender, generation, and internal theological divergences in which local believers are entangled. As noted in the stories above, these elements do affect the ways Muslim men think and act as men, but they are not the only ones. Here, I draw on Inhorn’s (2012) concept of “emergent masculinities” to explore how ideas and practices of manhood are differently embodied in different moments of my Muslim interlocutors’ trajectories (see also Inhorn and Wentzell 2011). The concept highlights the openness and the creativity upon which changes may operate over the course of a man’s life. On one hand, the men with whom I worked indicated a way out of essentialist and stereotypical views on Muslim men, such as those connected to violence, jihadism,

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and the like. Ahmad’s efforts to open the mosque for the public to visit, his engagement against religious intolerance, and his charitable work are examples of how he acts as a man. He understands these practices as a way of caring about his family and his religious community as well as a way of showing compassion for the needy. For him, an upright man of faith is a man publicly committed to the religion. On the other hand, my interlocutors forged new ways of being “real men” by dealing with the local blatant ideas on manhood in the Brazilian context. Both José and Tomas, for example, had to deal with the reconfiguration of their selves when they became Muslims. They embodied new ways of being men through Islamic moral values. In their narratives of conversion, the emphasis on practices of care, on rationality and emotional self-control, and on marriage and family all fell within the arenas of Islamic male respectability, against which they positioned a generic “Brazilian male culture.” They disciplined themselves through bodily practices such as mosque attendance, prayer, fasting, sexual abstinence, growing their beards, controlling their gaze, and caring for themselves (Foucault 1988). Thus, it is important to note that these men also struggle to have pious bodies, which can be mobilized in different contexts as symbolic capital and as resources for social prestige. Even if discreetly, the male, like the female, Muslim body, can implement an Islamic message. Like the female body, the male body is also “subject to social regulations, meanings and expectations” (Ghannam 2013: 3). In this sense, mosques are important arenas in which those religious bodily practices matter. As metaphoric home and school, this sacred space becomes a place of belonging and learning but also of intimacy and conflict. There, the brotherhood in Islam is coined, since mosques generate a sense of community. They are caring spaces that produce different religious subjectivities. If Brazilian culture appears objectified in these narratives, so does Arab culture. As noted above, José and other Brazilian male converts emphasize the separation between Islam and “the Arabs.” According to them, many of the negative stereotypes surrounding Muslims do not have to do with Islam but with “Arabs.” In this sense, some of my interlocutors felt they were more able to live as Muslim men in Brazil than the Arabs since they had the cultural intimacy (Herzfeld 1997) to navigate obstacles (alcohol, pornography, gender interactions) toward a “true” Muslim life. These examples can help us understand how the dynamics of local Muslim communities affect the different ways in which Muslim masculinities are forged.


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In this chapter, we see how Islamic values must be publicly demonstrated by way of moral attitude. These examples illuminate how these men operate through the lens of male gender practices. Through their accounts, my interlocutors showed us how their subjectivities and public commitment to Islam play an important role in the way they fashion their manhood.

Gisele Fonseca Chagas is an adjunct professor of the Department of Anthropology at Fluminense Federal University in Brazil, where she teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs. She is also vice-director of its Center for Middle East Studies (NEOM/UFF). Chagas has written several articles and book chapters in Portuguese, English, and Spanish based on her anthropological research on Muslim communities in Brazil and in Syria. Her research focuses on gender and the construction of religious knowledge and authority in Islam.

References Bourdieu, Pierre. 1997. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chagas, Gisele F. 2012. “Preaching for Converts: Knowledge and Power in the Sunni Community in Rio de Janeiro.” In Ethnographies of Islam: Ritual Performances and Everyday Practices, ed. Baudoin Dupret, Thomas Pierret, Paulo G. Pinto, and Kathryn Spellman-Poots, 71–79. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Foucault, Michel. 1988. The History of Sexuality. Vol. 3: The Care of the Self. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage Books. Ghannam, Farha. 2013. Live and Die like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Herzfeld, Michael. 1997. Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State. New York and London: Routledge. Inhorn, Marcia. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Inhorn, Marcia and Emily Wentzell. 2011. “Embodying Emergent Masculinities: Men Engaging with Reproductive and Sexual Health Technologies in the Middle East and Mexico.” American Ethnologist 38(4): 801–15. Mauss, Marcel. 1973. “Les Techniques du Corps.” In Sociologie et anthropologie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Naguib, Nefissa. 2015. Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food, Family in Contemporary Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press.

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Pinto, Paulo G. 2015a. “Conversion, Revivalism, and Tradition: The Religious Dynamics of Muslim Communities in Brazil.” In Crescent over Another Horizon: Islam in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Latino USA, ed. María del Mar Logroño Narbona, Paulo G., Pinto, and John Karam, 107– 43. Austin: University of Texas Press. ———. 2015b. “The Religious Dynamics of Syrian-Lebanese and Palestinian Communities in Brazil.” Mashriq & Mahjar 3(1): 30–40.

Chapter 10



his chapter focuses on South Asian Muslim men who live and work in Barcelona, Spain. Specifically, it addresses the multiple ways in which these men engage in networks of collective support in a context of labor migration where they have almost no female relatives. I argue that this domesticity informs these men’s discourses on care, piety, and masculinity. This is what I call an environment of “pious homosociality,” challenging heteronormative frameworks for conceiving gender in Islam. I begin by briefly reviewing some of the usual ways in which scholars have approached Muslim masculinity to suggest how this case opens new pathways of discussion. After that, I analyze the life trajectories of three fieldwork interlocutors from their childhoods in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh to their adulthoods in Barcelona. The data included in this chapter correspond to six months of ethnographic fieldwork in Barcelona between 2015 and 2016. I conclude with a note on the links between caring for others and becoming a pious Muslim man.

How to Be a Man


From Heteronormative Frameworks to Homosocial Environments Over the past fifteen to twenty years, Muslim masculinity has become a major research topic among scholars interested in gender and Islam (Archer 2003; Massad 1995, 2007; Ouzgane 2006). In most cases, Muslim masculinity is described as a set of practices and discourses defining Muslim men’s attitudes toward women in both private and public. In this manner, anthropological and sociological approaches identify such masculinity as diametrically opposed to femininity. In one way or another, this has reproduced longstanding imaginaries of Muslim men found in Europe’s intellectual traditions. From medieval views of the Moor as a noble, but bloody savage (Marín 2009; Martín Corrales 2002) to Orientalist representations of the “Muslim Other” subversive of the colonizing missions in Africa and Asia (Metcalf 2007; Motadel 2014), Muslim men embodied the quintessential threat to the fragility of women, Western or not. Today, these imaginaries are still present in both Western and non-Western media. Some examples are the sinister images of dark, bearded terrorists, analyzed by Alsultany (2012) and Fábos and Isotalo (2014), and the portraits of conservative husbands, fathers, and brothers who aim to preserve the honor of the family by subjugating their wives, daughters, and sisters, analyzed by Ewing (2008) and Kapur (2010), among others.1 In this scenario, anthropologists such as Marcia C. Inhorn (2012) and Nefissa Naguib (2015) have emphasized alternative gender dynamics based on relationships of equality between men and women at home. For example, Inhorn and Naguib have highlighted new ways to organize domestic tasks of care and nurturance, as well as the kindness and tenderness of men toward their female relatives. In addition, scholars such as Rusi Jaspal and Marco Cinnirella (2010) and Scott Kugle (2010) have begun addressing what Muslim men do and think of themselves beyond their interactions with women.2 Consequently, “crisis of masculinity” (Hopkins 2009), “men in crisis” (Amar 2011), and “emergent masculinities” (Inhorn and Wentzell 2011) have become recurrent concepts in gender studies. In all cases, these concepts open a terrain for discussing Muslim masculinity through the diversity of its forms and as embedded in economic, political, and societal contingencies. Therefore, these concepts do not simply refer to historical transformations of gender roles and values in Islam but, as anthropologist Farha Ghannam


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(2013) has pointed out, to the complexities characterizing gender roles and values neglected in previous approaches to what it means to be a Muslim man. Considering these arguments, this chapter contextualizes the experience of Muslim men within an eminently masculine environment. Like other migrant populations, the South Asian community in Barcelona has developed mechanisms to overcome the adversities of living in the diaspora. However, the predominant presence of men among South Asian Muslims in the city has given rise to forms of understanding collective care in ways rarely found among other migrant populations,3 such as Moroccans and North Africans in general, the other largest Muslim community in the city. As shown in Table 10.1, most Pakistanis, Indians, and Bangladeshis currently living in Barcelona are male labor migrants between twenty and fifty years old, who left their families back in their countries of origin. These men normally stay together in small apartments in working-class areas and work in electronic and food stores, in call shops, as carriers driving small vans and trucks, or simply as street vendors. For many of them, their duty in these circumstances fundamentally involves supporting their countrymen and fellow Muslims. According to my main interlocutors for this chapter, caring for one another makes them members of a community that, ultimately, helps them be what they claim they are: Muslim men overcoming the loneliness of life in a strange world. This is what I call an environment of “pious homosociality” beyond the usual heteronormative frameworks defining gender in Islam. The following stories provide a closer insight into this world.

Tariq The first evening of my fieldwork in May 2015, I accompanied a group of Pakistani men to the communal prayer (maghrib). We walked to a place of worship located on the ground floor of an old building in the Raval, a neighborhood in the historical center of Barcelona. There I met Tariq for the first time.4 He was sitting with other South Asian men in the main prayer room, and we sat with them. I introduced myself and shook everyone’s hands. Then Tariq started looking at me. Tall, thin, and with a four-finger white beard with no moustache, Tariq was wearing long white robes (jubbah). With a deep voice, he asked me in fluent Spanish about my interest in being there. I explained that I was there for academic fieldwork

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TABLE 10.1. South Asian Population in Barcelona, 2015 (Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh)

and that one of my main research interests was the everyday life of Muslim men in Barcelona. He seemed interested and invited me to join him for dinner with other men at a smaller room in the back of the mosque. That night, Tariq told me he grew up in a small town near Gujrat City, in the Gujrat district of Pakistani Punjab. His family settled there in 1947, after the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, just before he was born. Until he was ten, he lived with his paternal grandparents, his parents, and his siblings: three elder brothers and two younger sisters. His family owned several food stores in his hometown, as well as a small guesthouse in Gujrat City. Interested in his story, I suggested we meet for a longer conversation. The day after meeting at his apartment, we began a set of life story interviews. Like all his siblings, Tariq attended a primary school a few minutes’ walk from home, and in his spare time helped his parents in one of the stores they owned. He remembered how he enjoyed listening to the Urdu news on the small transistor radio they had at the store. While Urdu was his mother tongue, he was also fluent in Punjabi, a language he perfected when in 1961 he moved to the city of Bahawalpur, in the south of the Pakistani Punjab, to attend to


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a public secondary school for boys. There he lived with two of his elder brothers in the house of a paternal uncle who had been widowed that year along with his three sons. When Tariq graduated from secondary school, he moved back to his hometown for one year and worked at the family stores again until his father passed away in 1971. That same year, Tariq got the financial support from his brothers dedicated to the family business and moved to Lahore to study law at the University of the Punjab. For two years, he lived with other Punjabi male students at the house of an older man who rented rooms cheaply. While living there, Tariq began spending time at a small mosque located in the backyard of the house. It was there where he had his first contact with the Tablighi Jama’at. The Tablighi Jama’at is an Islamic proselytizing group that originated in northern India in the 1920s and that expanded rapidly throughout South Asia and other British imperial domains (Masud 2000; Sikand 2002). In 1973, after two years in Lahore, the financial decline of the family business made Tariq’s brothers unable to cover his living expenses. Tariq did not want to return to his hometown and decided to travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, accompanying a group of male missionaries of the Tablighi Jama’at (jama’at). Once there, he spent almost three months living in a mosque, which regularly hosted preaching and discussion meetings (ijtima) with other South Asian and Southeast Asian men. During that time, Tariq fostered a network through which he traveled to the Persian Gulf in December 1973. For seven years, he worked for a leading oil company in Qatar. Although his salary was not high, he managed to send some savings to his brothers in Pakistan. In addition, while in Qatar he became fully engaged in the Tablighi Jama’at, and joined one of their missions in the pilgrimage (haj) to Mecca in 1979. As he likes to say, this trip made him realize the importance of caring about his physical appearance. In his view, looking clean and presentable earned him respect from other men. This was precisely what made him look pious in the eyes of the members of the jama’at, who in 1980 invited him to return to Kuala Lumpur and combine his job in a clothing business with teaching Islam at a local madrasa for boys. With two jobs and a good reputation, Tariq thought he was ready to marry Saadia, a younger Punjabi woman who was living in Pakistan and already had the approval of Tariq’s family. Although he never stayed with her, he traveled periodically to Pakistan, and during the eighties had three children with her, two girls and one boy.

How to Be a Man


As Tariq mentioned once, he always thought that one day he would settle with his family in Punjab, but an unexpected opportunity arrived in 2005, when he traveled to Europe for the first time as a missionary of the Tabligh. This trip took him to Greece once the mission concluded. In Athens, he worked for several businesses owned by Indian and Pakistani Muslim men. Living surrounded by them had always helped him to minimize the feeling of being exiled he had developed while living abroad, and only away from his family and country did he realize the importance of what he defined as “working for God with the jama’at.” Thanks to a life on the move he had nothing to regret: he helped his family in the company of other Muslim men who cared about him by teaching him good manners and taking him across the globe. This is exactly how Tariq ended up in Spain, once the financial crisis worsened in Greece. In Barcelona, Tariq lives with other four Pakistani men in a twobedroom apartment in Trinitat Nova, a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. He has lived there since his arrival in 2012. He found the place through another Pakistani man who also gave him a fruit store located near Rambla de Badal, another working-class area at the opposite end of the city. In one of my visits to his shop in the summer of 2015, Tariq explained how every month he earns enough to pay the rent of the apartment and his store, to pay a short stipend to a younger Pakistani man who helps him at the store, and to help both his family in Pakistan and some of his younger countrymen in Barcelona. Looking at me with a straight face, he said that rather than making him rich, the fruit store allows him to survive as a disciplined and compassionate man. Now he wants to help other South Asian men by providing them with a livelihood in Barcelona and the guidance necessary to deal with life’s circumstances. In the summer of 2015, Tariq and I usually met early in the morning at his apartment. Around eight o’clock he was back from the morning prayer (fajr) at a neighboring place of worship. A few minutes before nine o’clock, a trip of thirty minutes on the metro took us to the fruit store, which he opened from Monday to Saturday between nine and nine thirty in the morning. Sometimes he left his Pakistani co-worker while we went shopping at the wholesale market, but most of the time we sat for hours at the fruit store. During that time, he talked to different people, including customers and passersby who in many cases were also South Asian Muslim men. Often, he began conversations asking for charity and inviting his interlocutors to sit with him and talk for a while.


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On certain occasions, after a longer talk, he encouraged these interlocutors to participate in the prayer, discussions, and lunch that regularly take place at the fruit store. At the end of one of those long days, Tariq explained to me that he had led the communal prayer at noon (dohr), in the afternoon (asr), and in the evening (maghrib) at the back of the shop since the first week he opened it. As he said, eating, praying, and reading the Qur’an in a group is better than doing it alone at home or at work, and the shop serves as a space for those who have no time to go to a mosque in the other end of the city. Over the summer, I also saw how Tariq usually told his interlocutors how to talk, how to dress, and how to organize everyday issues, such as housework, studies, professional duties, and domestic economy. In some cases, he even raised his usually elegant voice to scold some of the younger South Asian men for what he considered scruffy and inappropriate clothing. Every time this happened, he looked at me and, with a gesture of resignation, expressed compassion for “those guys.” This is how, within the past few years, Tariq’s fruit store has become a place where he leads community meetings and regulates access to networks of collective support through which many of his Muslim countrymen socialize in the city. It is precisely through these networks that I first met Hamid.

Hamid One sunny afternoon in July 2015, Hamid turned to me while I was sitting in Tariq’s shop. Hamid is a smiling, middle-aged man with a black trimmed beard whom I had seen before, always wearing a light gray pathani, a common South Asian garment. Despite his strong foreign accent, Hamid’s Spanish was good, and we talked for almost two hours, which became a common occurrence that summer. The first time I met Hamid, he explained that he was the youngest of three brothers, with a younger sister as well. In 1977, when he was seven years old, his family sent him to a madrasa in Hyderabad, in central India. Although his father was not very observant and only attended the mosque for the weekly communal prayer on Fridays, he wanted Hamid to “become a good man.” In Hamid’s view, his father must have thought that he lacked good manners. At the madrasa, Hamid studied and lived with other Dakhni- and Urdu-speaking boys. For a decade, the habits acquired from his teachers and shared with his classmates shaped his daily routines and behavior.

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He learned to take care of himself and to manage his time for studying, reading, and reciting the Qur’an. With a smile, he remembers how sometimes he and his friends sneaked away from the madrasa and went out to listen to music, from Hyderabadi Marfa in public celebrations to Indian pop on the radio. He liked this life in which he spent most of his time in the city and rarely went home. However, his studies at the madrasa came to an end in 1985, when his mother passed away. At that time, his father had just retired from his job as a government official and wanted his sons to help him manage the family properties: a few small buildings that they rented as warehouses and for housing. Hamid never thought he would return to stay with his family. Therefore, in 1988, once he turned eighteen, he began looking for jobs elsewhere and was finally able to combine his family obligations with working as a teacher in a primary school in Hyderabad, where he settled again as soon as he could. In his free time, he took long walks around the city and often met some of his childhood friends from the madrasa. This was the time when most of them began living together again. “It was like being at the madrasa,” said Hamid. In our subsequent meetings in the summer of 2015, Hamid and I regularly sat at Tariq’s shop. One day I asked him if he had ever been married. He mentioned that in 1992, after spending three years in Hyderabad, he moved to Jaipur, a large city in Rajasthan in northern India. There he married Ameera, the daughter of an older man he had met in Hyderabad. In Jaipur, Hamid started working as administrative assistant in the headquarters of a textile company owned by a friend of his father-in-law. Although he did not have the proper training, Hamid was good at math and fluent enough in English and Hindi to be a “good employee.” In a sincere tone, he regretted he did not stay long with his wife. Their first daughter was born in October 1993, just after he had accepted his “better position” in Durban, South Africa, where he worked for the same textile company. His new salary allowed him to send some savings to his wife, but he could not travel to visit her in Jaipur for the first time until 1997, spending about one year there until June 1998, when his second daughter was born. In Durban, he continued sharing time and experiences with other South Asian Muslim men, living with them and joining them in community preaching at the local mosques at least once a month. Although he was never fully involved in those meetings, they were a good way to meet other people and hear about job opportunities. In addition, with no money and no relatives in Durban, Hamid found


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in those meetings what he described as a comfortable environment that made him feel safe in an unsafe foreign country. This is how, like Tariq, Hamid grew up and lived surrounded mostly by men, and in our summer interviews he always spoke of them with respect and appreciation. Hamid’s European story began in 2006, when he was offered a job as an accountant in a travel agency in Birmingham, England, owned by a Pakistani man he had met in Durban. With this job, he was able to send money to his wife and two daughters and even donate a few pounds a month for the maintenance of a local mosque. One day I asked him how he arrived in Spain. He paused before explaining that at the end of 2008 his plan was to travel back to India for at least one year. However, “someone in Birmingham” invited him to participate as a partner in a business of electronics stores in Barcelona. He thought it would be a good idea to invest part of his savings in a business in Europe, and he finally moved to Spain hoping to make enough money to bring his family there. However, the financial crisis of 2008 hit Spain particularly hard, and a year after, in 2009, he and his partner closed two of the three stores they owned, thus accumulating a large debt to their suppliers. By the end of 2010, he had given up his part of the business to his partner, and like many in that situation, he ended up with little savings and no job. As in Durban, Hamid found in the preaching and discussion meetings at local places of worship in Barcelona the comfort and the social networks to help him survive in the city. Through these networks he found a new place to stay in Besós Mar, a rather marginalized area in the periphery of Barcelona, and a new occupation. Since 2011, Hamid has been working as a street vendor of souvenirs for tourists in the surroundings of the Camp Nou, Barcelona’s main soccer stadium. Every day after attending the morning prayer at a small place of worship in Besós Mar, he has breakfast with his four Pakistani roommates. “In a small place like that one you don’t have any privacy, but after a while you don’t care anymore and they become your people; you even know how they smell and snore!” he said. After eating, he takes the metro from Besós Mar for almost one hour up to the Camp Nou stadium, where he spends the whole day. His only break, he jokes, is for lunch, when he sees “these talkative men at the fruit store,” about a twenty-minute walk away. At the end of the summer of 2015, I asked Hamid whether he enjoyed his time with Tariq and his friends at the shop. I saw him there almost every day, talking and having lunch with them, usually

How to Be a Man


eating food that Tariq and his friends had brought from their homes. Hamid laughed and responded that he was now too lazy to follow such a strict life, waking up early, staying awake until late, and sometimes fasting for a day even beyond the month of Ramadan. Some people mock them for how they dress, he said, but he respects them for what they do and cares about what others say about them. Although he did not see himself telling others how to live their lives, he thought Tariq and “his people” do “a good job” supervising younger South Asian newcomers. “They tell them not to sell alcohol; I have thought about doing it, but Muslims should not.” After all, in his own words, he was “almost a decent man.” Then he smiled again and suggested that every Muslim should spend time with men like Tariq, adding that “one never knows when a job opportunity is coming, only God knows, and sometimes men like Tariq know it, too.” In Hamid’s view, “those people” had always helped others to find opportunities. Then he encouraged me to join one of his Pakistani roommates in a night tour across the city to see how they work. During my fieldwork, I had already joined these groups, mostly composed of South Asian men walking at night while asking for charity and encouraging others to join them in conversations about Islam. This was the Tablighi Jama’at, the same group with which Tariq collaborates for missionary and proselytizing purposes. As Hamid put it, these men, like his roommate, seek other Muslims who “may need their help.” I asked him how they knew who is Muslim and who needs help. Hamid smiled and said, “They just know; you will see.”

Asif In my last week of fieldwork in August 2015, Hamid and I joined his roommate and other two Pakistani men in a night tour in the Raval area in Barcelona. We met at Carrer de l’Hospital, one of the main streets of the neighborhood. We began walking through its narrow alleys trying to attract passersby with charity boxes and encouraging them to join us. At some point during the night, we stopped in front of a younger South Asian man who was standing in the middle of an alley called Carrer de la Paloma selling beer cans. The talk went on for a minute, but the young man did not seem to understand what Hamid’s roommate was telling him in Urdu. After that, they all greeted each other, and we left. The next night, I again joined


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the three Pakistanis in their night tour across the Raval streets. After walking for a while, we found the same young South Asian man standing and selling beer cans at the place where we had met him the night before. They all talked for another minute until the three Pakistanis told me to take the young man for a tea, and he seemed to agree. At midnight, almost all bars serve alcohol, so we went to a Moroccan coffee shop I knew, one of the few places serving tea at that time in the neighborhood. We walked for a minute, and once there we sat and ordered two teas. I introduced myself and my research. He introduced himself as Asif. I asked where he was from, and in poor Spanish he responded that he was from Bangladesh. Shyly, mixing Spanish and English, he explained that he had spent almost two years in Barcelona after living another two years in Rome, Italy, where he arrived in 2011. He was now twenty-nine years old and planned to stay in Spain until getting what he called a “good job.” In the meantime, he was “just selling beer cans and samosa,” a South Asian pastry made of onion, green peas, and potatoes. He said it was a “bad job,” and with a gesture he described how he put the beer cans under the sewer covers to hide them from the police.5 I also asked about his family in Bangladesh. Using his fingers, he explained that he had two sisters and two brothers, and in elementary English, he told me he had no father and had never lived with his mother. His father passed away when he was a child, and his mother sent him to live in Camilla, a city not far from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, far from his family. Although he did not clarify whether he stayed with a relative in Camilla, he mentioned he had spent time with other boys and had attended a primary school while working multiple jobs for a few years. After a moment of silence, I asked if he was friends with the Pakistanis who had talked to him in the street. Mixing again Spanish and English, he admitted that he had seen them several times, always at night in the Raval, but did not know them much. They used to invite him to join them, but he never did so. He told me he would see them breaking the fast in a local place of worship where he used to attend the communal prayer during Ramadan.6 I suggested that he go to some of those places of worship to meet other Bangladeshis. He nodded but remained silent before saying that “those people” used to “talk too much, saying too many things” and were all older men. He preferred to do things his own way, such as shaving and wearing jeans. But, because he respected “those people” and did not

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want to offend them by being rude, he avoided regular contact with them. Even so, he confessed that he had returned to them a few times for help obtaining free clothes and food. I was eager to learn more about his story in the city, but he implied that he had to go, so we exchanged phone numbers. I was not able to meet Asif again that summer. He did not answer the phone, or it was off, and I left Barcelona a few days later. A year later, in June 2016, I called him, and he answered. His Spanish had improved, and he remembered me. We decided to meet in front of the Moroccan coffee shop where we had shared tea a year before. The next morning, I arrived on time and waited for him. It was almost noon, and the crowd was diverse: Filipinos, South Asians, Moroccans, and a few elderly Spaniards who lived in the Raval or were frequenting the nearby food market. Asif arrived twenty or thirty minutes late and asked me to accompany him. We walked through the characteristically narrow streets of the Raval until we arrived at the small doorway of an old building. Together, we entered the small fifth-floor attic that Asif shared with another Bangladeshi man of the same age and two younger Senegalese men. They were not at home. They were all street vendors selling souvenirs for tourists. He did not know them well but said that he and the other Bangladeshi supported each other in their respective living expenses, depending on how much money each of them made every day. Although not in the best condition, the place was cheaper than many other apartments he had seen in the area. It was unfurnished, but there was enough space for a few mattresses on the floor, their bags, a small cooking stove, and an old fridge. He was happy with it and admitted he had found it through the groups of Pakistanis who go out at night, namely, the men of the Tablighi Jama’at. I was surprised, as he had not mentioned it a year before. In any case, Asif said he was planning to move into a “better place” elsewhere in the city, but he needed to find a job as a shopkeeper or as a waiter so he could save money and obtain a work permit. It was unclear if he was also helping someone in Bangladesh, but he stressed he was happy to help other young Bangladeshis in Barcelona. We sat on his mattress and kept talking in Spanish until he got a phone call. Asif then asked me to meet him again, perhaps in the evening. During June and July of 2016, I met Asif several times, both at his place in the morning and in the street at night. He was never very talkative, usually responding to my inquiries with short sentences, or even monosyllables. One night I joked about that: we did not


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need to speak to understand each other. Timid as usual, he said that the time spent together had made us become a little bit closer, as had happened before with the men he had lived with in Bangladesh, Italy, and Spain. For the first time since I knew him, he laughed and assured me that this also happened with the groups of Pakistani men we used to see in the street, living together and sharing almost everything. Sometimes we met them while they walked in the area, and I saw Hamid’s roommate a few times. We usually talked to them briefly, and they encouraged us to go home or to join them for a late dinner and prayer in their homes or the nearby places of worship. Missionaries of the Tablighi Jama’at in the city always functioned in the same way: they greeted other South Asians, mostly street vendors, and talked to them for a few minutes until some agreed to join them. The nights with Asif had always been quiet until one night in late July 2016. I had not seen him for almost two weeks. He had not answered my calls, but I finally managed to catch him on the phone. He told me to meet him at midnight in front of his building. After I had been waiting for one hour, he responded to my texts and said he was not able to meet me that time. I decided to walk, and not far from where he lived, I saw him with two other South Asian young men. They were standing in the middle of the road. I heard they were speaking loudly in Bengali while one of them was arguing in Spanish with an older, apparently angry woman. As I approached, a man came out from a nearby building. In a threatening tone in Spanish, the man addressed the three South Asians. I got even closer and asked Asif what was happening. He seemed confused and surprised to see me. He apologized for not having called before and said that one of his Bangladeshi colleagues was in trouble. I assumed they had an issue with that woman or perhaps with the man, but I did not ask, and Asif did not offer. I stayed with him for about two hours that night. We remained silent until I suggested it would be a good idea to ask for help from the men of the Tablighi Jama’at, adding that they had already helped him to find a place to stay. Asif immediately shook his head. He did not want them to know much about him. They already knew that he worked selling alcohol in the street and disapproved of it. I told him they cared about that, and he responded that he also cared about keeping his place and wanted to keep it until he found a better one. He confessed that he knew he was not the man

How to Be a Man


he should be, one who fears God. Every time he saw the missionaries in the street, he thought about that.

Conclusion: Masculinity, Care, and Piety in an Uncertain Future At the end of the summer of 2016, I once again returned to Tariq’s fruit store. It was almost nine o’clock at night, and just after I got there he closed the shop. A few South Asian men and I stayed with him inside. In Spanish, Tariq introduced one of his colleagues: Ahmad, a South Asian man in his late forties who had been living for almost a decade in Barcelona. First in Urdu and then in Spanish, the man asked who among the attendants did not speak Urdu. Two or three people raised their hands. The man nodded and started speaking in fluent Spanish. We all sat on a few wooden stools and fruit boxes, forming a circle around him. He said he was glad to see newcomers and younger men who did not frequent any meetings at the local places of worship. He welcomed all of us and declared that he was there to give shelter to those who live alone in the city. He remembered that when he arrived in Barcelona, he found the support of Muslim countrymen. He also remembered how many Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani Muslim men leave their families back in their countries and how hard it is to live with no family in a new, strange place. Tariq offered a few examples of how solitude often leads Muslims to forget about their duties as Muslims, wasting time and money in bad company and neglecting prayer. Then he claimed that “some things are a shame for oneself and for others.” In a relaxed tone, he invited the attendees to rectify the ways in which they, as others, take care of their habits and personal appearances or even the ways in which they address each other. After that, he cited a few sayings and deeds from Prophet Muhammad’s life (Hadith) and encouraged the attendees to take them as exemplary. Tariq told the group that Muslims’ personal integrity involves the integrity of the entire Muslim community. He continued, saying that Muslims must fear God, which in his view means avoiding any offense to those who can help. As this chapter shows, the vicissitudes of labor migration have shaped the lives of many South Asian Muslim men currently living in Barcelona. In many cases, these men engage in networks of col-


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lective support, such as the one fostered by the missionaries of the Tablighi Jama’at across the globe. Often, these networks provide many with housing and job opportunities, as well as with an atmosphere that palliates their feelings of solitude and vulnerability. However, generational and socioeconomic differences between the men who are part of these networks also position them differently within such an environment. Although my fieldwork interlocutors agree that Muslim men must be concerned about caring for each other, they have different notions of what caring means. For Tariq, caring entails teaching discipline and good manners to younger men and newcomers but also being compassionate with them. For Hamid, caring involves respecting oneself and the elders, as well as maintaining a community infrastructure that helps him survive among Muslim men. For Asif, caring means striving to overcome everyday difficulties and refraining from offending a community that constantly shows him the path to God and to the man he believes that he should be. In this context, masculinity, care, and piety are the product of the living conditions, needs, challenges, anxieties, and goals that physically, bodily, discursively, and affectively bind many South Asian Muslim men in Barcelona. In other words, masculinity, care, and piety are not stable concepts but practices and discourses that emerge from the contingencies of social interaction in a specific context. Thus, this chapter demonstrates how a heteronormative framework is not a conditio sine qua non for the performance and discussion of gender roles and values in Islam, as it is not in other contexts, Muslim or non-Muslim, religious or otherwise. Similarly, this chapter shows that an environment with few women, and in which Muslims are a minority, can be a suitable one for becoming a pious Muslim man.7 Comparative research and collaborative projects may now open the door to discussions of how different environments of “pious homosociality” offer multiple answers to the questions of how to be a man and what it means to be a Muslim man, especially when far away from home.

Acknowledgments First, I thank Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib for including me in this volume. Second, I thank John R. Bowen, my doctoral advisor, as well as Geoff Childs, Rebecca J. Lester, and Jeffrey Q. Mc-

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Cune, Jr. for their close reading of a previous version of this chapter. Finally, I thank all the participants in my fieldwork for their collaboration in my research. Guillermo Martín-Sáiz is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. His doctoral project addresses how itinerant preachers of the Tablighi Jama’at, an Islamic movement originating in colonial India, generate spontaneous religious debates in the street among Muslims who live and work in Barcelona, Spain. He analyzes the way in which these debates shape Muslim publics across age, gender, and ethnolinguistic boundaries and challenge the channels of representation of Muslim communities in mosques.

Notes 1. The link between race, gender, Islam, and violence in migratory contexts has generated many publications on European and North American media. In the past two decades, scholars in the social sciences have addressed how the association of these terms is produced in both media and academic work. Examples of this analysis are Bhattacharyya (2008), Dwyer, Shah, and Sanghera (2008), Jiwani (2006), Macey (1999), and Razack (2004). 2. An earlier historical and nonethnographic approach to Muslim homosociality, and specifically to male homosexuality in Islam, is Murray and Roscoe (1997). Moreover, approaches to masculinity beyond heteronormative frameworks have become common in broader debates about gender, not only in Islam. Three relatively recent examples are Hejtmanek (2015), Osella and Osella (2006), and Shabazz (2009). 3. The only exceptions are the Senegalese and the Gambian communities, which are predominantly Muslim and mostly composed of men. However, like the rest of West African populations in Barcelona, Senegalese and Gambians comprise small communities that, according to the Catalan Institute of Statistics, barely exceeded 1,100 and 200 members, respectively, in 2015. 4. By request of my fieldwork interlocutors, the names that appear in this text are pseudonyms. 5. In 2006, the Municipal Council in Barcelona approved the so-called Ordenança del Civisme, which involved the prohibition of selling and consuming alcohol in public spaces and outside the terraces of bars, restaurants, and hotels. However, selling and consuming beer in the streets is still common in the city.


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6. In Barcelona, as in many other places in the world, the month of Ramadan lasted from 18 June to 17 July in 2015 and from 6 June to 5 July in 2016. 7. In this regard, anthropologists Mayanthi L. Fernando (2014) and Jeanette S. Jouili (2015), for example, have suggested understanding Western European cities not merely as morally polluted contexts but as places that remind Muslims of the necessity of being pious and keeping the sense of community and, therefore, as suitable environments for piety.

References Alsultany, Evelyn. 2012. The Arabs and Muslims and the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11. New York: New York University Press. Amar, Paul. 2011. “Middle East Masculinity Studies: Discourses of ‘Men in Crisis’, Industries of Gender in Revolution.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 7(3): 36–70. Archer, Louise. 2003. Race, Masculinity and Schooling: Muslim Boys and Education. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Bhattacharyya, Gargi. 2008. Dangerous Brown Men: Exploiting Sex, Violence and Feminism in the ‘War on Terror.’ New York: Zed Books. Dwyer, Claire, Bindi Shah, and Gurchathen Sanghera. 2008. “From Cricket Lover to Terror Suspect: Challenging Representations of Young British Muslim Men.” Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 15(2): 117–36. Ewing, Katherine Pratt. 2008. Stolen Honor: Stigmatizing Muslim Men in Berlin. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Fábos, Anita Hausermann and Riina Isotalo, eds. 2014. Managing Muslim Mobilities: Between Spiritual Geographies and the Global Security Regime. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Fernando, Mayanthi L. 2014. The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Ghannam, Farha. 2013. Live and Die like a Man: Gender Dynamics in Urban Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Hejtmanek, Katie Rose. 2015. Friendship, Love, and Hip Hop. An Ethnography of African American Men in Psychiatric Custody. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Hopkins, Peter E. 2009. “Responding to the ‘Crisis of Masculinity’: The Perspectives of Young Muslim Men from Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland.” Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 16(3): 299–312. Inhorn, Marcia C. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Inhorn, Marcia C. and Emily A. Wentzell. 2011. “Embodying Emergent Masculinities: Men Engaging with Reproductive and Sexual Health Technologies in Middle East and Mexico.” American Ethnologist 38(4): 801–15.

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Jaspal, Rusi and Marco Cinnirella. 2010. “Coping with Potentially Incompatible Identities: Accounts of Religious, Ethnic, and Sexual Identities from British Pakistani Men Who Identify as Muslim and Gay.” British Journal of Social Psychology 49(4): 849–70. Jiwani, Yasmin. 2006. Discourses of Denial: Mediations of Race, Gender and Violence. Vancouver and Toronto: UBC Press. Jouili, Jeanette S. 2015. Pious Practice and Secular Constraints: Women in the Islamic Revival in Europe. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Kapur, Ratna. 2010. Makeshift Migrants and Law: Gender, Belonging and Postcolonial Anxieties. Abingdon: Routledge. Kugle, Scott Siraj al-Haqq. 2010. Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. Macey, Marie. 1999. “Religion, Male Violence, and the Control of Women: Pakistani Muslim Men in Bradford, UK.” Gender and Development 7(1): 48–55. Marín, Manuela, ed. 2009. Al-Andalus/España. Historiografías en contraste: siglos XVII–XXI [Al-Andalus/Spain. Contrasted Historiographies: 17th– 21st Centuries]. Madrid: Casa de Velázquez. Martín Corrales, Eloy. 2002. La imagen del magrebí en España. Una perspectiva histórica: siglos XVI–XX [The Image of the Maghrebi in Spain. A Historical Perspective: 16th–21st Centuries]. Barcelona: Bellaterra. Massad, Joseph. 1995. “Conceiving the Masculine: Gender and Palestinian Nationalism.” Middle East Journal 49(3): 467–83. ———. 2007. Desiring Arabs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Masud, Muhammad Khalid, ed. 2000. Travellers in Faith: Studies of the Tablighi Jama’at as a Transnational Islamic Movement for Faith Renewal. Leiden: Brill. Metcalf, Thomas R. 2007. Ideologies of the Raj. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Motadel, David, ed. 2014. Islam and the European Empires. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Murray, Stephen O. and Will Roscoe. 1997. Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History, and Literature. New York: New York University Press. Naguib, Nefissa. 2015. Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food, and Family in Contemporary Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press. Osella, Caroline and Filippo Osella. 2006. Men and Masculinities in South India. London, New York, and Delhi: Anthem Press. Ouzgane, Lahoucine, ed. 2006. Islamic Masculinities. London and New York: Zed Books. Razack, Sherene H. 2004. “Imperilled Muslim Women, Dangerous Muslim Men and Civilized Europeans: Legal and Social Responses to Forced Marriages.” Feminist Legal Studies 12(2): 129–74. Shabazz, Rashad. 2009. “‘So High You Can’t Get Over It, So Low You Can’t Get Under It’: Carceral Spatiality and Black Masculinities in the United States and South Africa.” Souls 11(3): 276–94. Sikand, Yoginder. 2002. Origins and Development of the Tablighi Jama’at (1920– 2000): A Cross-Country Comparative Study. Hyderabad: Sangam Books.

Part III


Chapter 11


Introduction “Sometimes I ask myself why I was born here. The Central African Republic sure is a bizarre country.” Colonel Tarzan’s words fell between us. He and I sat shelling and eating fresh peanuts in the shade of a mango tree not far from his home in Tiringoulou, a town in the Central African Republic’s (CAR’s) far northeastern reaches. We had been chatting about his life. Born here, he left in 1997 to join an antipoaching militia that patrolled the region’s vast parklands for unwanted interlopers, particularly those foreigners who hunted elephants and other megafauna, often letting their cattle claim the lush grasses instead. In 2006 he turned his military skills to a new end: rebellion. To protest the region’s abandonment, he and several hundred other men from the area1 attacked and claimed towns in a trajectory toward the capital. They were rebuffed by the army and the French soldiers supporting it and signed a peace agreement. Tarzan then went home to wait for a disarmament program, which would have brought him material support and perhaps even a new job. He waited. And waited. In the meantime, a humanitarian organization showed up to help the population deal with the consequences of the rebellion, and he had gotten a part-time job with them—he became the local children’s rights deputy, for he had an


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especially good way with kids and youth. It was during this period that I got to know him. Tarzan labeled his country bizarre because of the way that people like him are so utterly ignored. “Abandoned” is the region’s denizens’ idiom of choice. How, in the modern world, could a government get away with attacking when not wholly ignoring a whole vast territory (the area Tarzan patrolled as an antipoacher is larger than Portugal) that was putatively part of its own domain? I empathize with his characterization. His is as much as anything a moral claim—that is, a statement that his situation is not the way things should be. But his situation is not as aberrant as he portrays. A number of African countries have a Christian south, where the state organs are concentrated, and a minority population of Muslims residing in the north. In national consciousnesses, Muslims are dangerous foreigners, described as differently tempered than Christians (quicker to pull a weapon), suspiciously good at business, and imperialist (and therefore never true nationals of the country). So this chapter takes as its starting point a remote (site of the least light pollution in the inhabited world, it is a marshy, difficult to traverse swamp for nearly half the year) and little-known corner of the world. It does so to raise concerns about the position of a much more populous cohort of men: those whose religion—Islam— and distance from the capital mark them as foreign and dangerous within their own countries and who are living in spaces of abandonment—of “statelessness,” to use the language that undergirds much geopolitical/diplomatic concern about these kinds of territories. Many men in this situation feel their only option is to play into the dangerousness fears in such a way as to turn them back on the people holding them and thereby make a claim to the entitlements others enjoy. This was the case for Tarzan and his fellows. They knew the only way they would be taken seriously was by playing into the conceptions of Muslim frontiers as dangerous and stateless, which are, in different ways, central to the intermittent concern presidents and international actors show about places like this. While it is obvious that state actors do not on a regular basis exert effective control over this area, for the most part the president and the international agencies have reacted with the equivalent of a shrug. Some would like to run projects on behalf of people in the area, but it is generally not cost effective to do so, nor is the security of people and goods sent for such purposes in any way guaranteed. This is where rebellion comes in: it is a show of force that—for instance through its paradigmatic form of attack, the taking of towns— makes the state’s usually fictive control apparent as the fiction that

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it is. And in doing so, rebellion turns the region’s abandonment into a problem that demands a response. Many people in northeastern CAR have come to feel that the only means they have of critiquing their status is by channeling their anger into a particular form of threat (Lombard 2016a), which plays into the concerns and tools of the international actors that are intervening in Central African politics, who I refer to as the good intentions crowd (Lombard 2016a). Commonly called the “international community,” that term is a misnomer; these actors are more aptly a crowd (disparate people present at the same event), with the shared trait that they derive their sense of purpose more from their good intentions than their effects. People like Tarzan have found no other form of communicative action with the same power. What happens when a person feels that his (and this phenomenon is indeed gendered male) only way to operate “on the scale of the world” (Simone 2001) is to threaten? This chapter takes a biographical approach to this question, focusing on the life of now-general Tarzan, who was born and remains Soumaine Ndodeba in nonmilitary contexts. He prefers his birth name, but it is by his nom de guerre that rebel group members know him, and this chapter thus alternates between the two. Soumaine’s life reveals many similarities to what others have diagnosed among “stuck” (Sommers 2012) young men who turn to armed group membership in the hope that it will offer them a means of subsistence, and perhaps even success (Debos 2008; Hoffman 2011; Honwana 2000; Vigh 2006, 2009). Much of this literature rightly emphasizes how these young men’s expectations are never met, rising higher in inverse proportion to the likelihood they will be fulfilled, and how the rebellion threat has become a kind of cruel optimism (Berlant 2011; Lombard 2016a). However, rebellion is also a source of detours, of opportunities different from what rebel group members may once have imagined, primarily proffered by the humanitarian and international agencies that arrive to help. These temporary jobs provide glimpses of protection-based ways of seeing, that, while not wholly new or foreign to the rebel group members (many are doting, if often absent, fathers), are new in terms of how they make those concerns into a source of a livelihood. Therefore, this chapter tempers the literature on stuck youth, and stuck armed group members in particular, emphasizing what is changing, specifically the new ways of thinking and doing that, while not necessarily transforming armed group members’ social status, nevertheless alter these men’s every day, for example via encouraging and monetizing that masculine version of care, coaching.


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Background Northeastern CAR is sandwiched between Chad, Sudan, and (since 2011) South Sudan. A little over a century ago, it was the Islamic frontier. A site for raiding and trading with the Islamicized polities to the north throughout the 1800s, it was only at the very end of that century, around 1890, that a former merchant named Muhammad al-Sanusi began to establish a centralized polity whose economic and political motor was raiding (people to be made slaves, ivory, foodstuffs, etc.) in the area. The 1800s was thus a century of conversion—from other understandings of the world to Islam and from noncentralized modes of social organization to centralization and coercion—entailing exciting new ways of thinking as well as massive upheaval. At nearly the same time, the region also became embroiled in another frontier process, that of territorialized European (in this case French) colonialism, working its way in from the coast. It was here the two processes met, augmenting each other for a time, until, at the dawn of 1911, the French officer dispatched to Sanusi’s capital decided the sultan posed a risk and executed him (Cordell 1985). The French justified the killing and their presence more broadly on the grounds that Muslims, like the sultan, were foreign imperialists with no real claim to the territory or to rule over people there. The French capital lay nearly a thousand kilometers to the south, at an outpost they built called Bangui. Both for ideological reasons and for practical reasons, everything that had to do with the state was colored southern and Christian. While at first the French envisioned making the northeast into an economic powerhouse, they quickly realized that doing so would require massive inputs they entirely lacked. So instead they declared the northeast an “autonomous district,” too far away, too large, and too sparsely populated to warrant much direct administration. This designation was a kind of placeholder; it claimed the area as part of Equatorial French Africa but left it mostly ignored (Lombard 2015). Less than fifty years after Sanusi was killed, CAR gained independence. Many people alive then still remembered the days of Muslim-led slave raiding, the height of which occurred between 1895 and 1910. From the perspective of people from the south, the northeast might be Central African territory, but it is Central African territory that is inhabited by foreigners—dangerous foreigners.2 In this sentiment, they are drawing from and building on the French colonial bias. Early in his tenure as CAR’s first president, David Dacko

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planned a trip to Birao, the northeastern-most town in the country, a French-built garrison that was the “Zabriskie Point of the French empire”—held simply “for the sake of holding it” (Brégeon 1998: 226, my translation). The administrator there, a French civil servant even after independence, later recounted that he had been out en tournée (on rounds—being carried in a tipoye) when the president arrived. The official returned home only in the wee hours. “When I joined him [Dacko] around three in the morning, I found him barricaded in my residence (the furniture had even been pushed up against the doors). The next morning, he informed me that he wanted to leave immediately for Bangui. I realized then how full of worry he was” (quoted in Brégeon 1998: 226, my translation). With time, the colonial-built roads degraded, and it became ever easier for capital elites to allay fears about the dangerousness of northerners by simply ignoring them. For the most part, northeasterners have been left to their own devices, both by leaders in the capital and by international agencies that have taken on a range of state functions in the wake of structural adjustment and economic decline.3 This is the bind of CAR’s predominantly Muslim northeast: its remoteness, its sparse population, and the prevalence of bandits and other armed actors make it exceptionally difficult for it to pass cost-effectiveness or security calculations that underlie the international provision of development aid. And yet capital elites and international agency staffers alike have seen it as harboring potential danger, in part because of its presumed connections with Muslim armed trade networks extending northward into Chad and Darfur and beyond. The dangerousness fears add another layer of difficulty to the already arduous process of claiming national citizenship. Doing so is an expensive and complicated undertaking for any Central African. But for northeasterners with names that mark them as Muslim, it is especially fraught. First, they must make the days- or weeks-long journey to the capital. There are no bush taxis or public transportation, but people can purchase a seat atop the load borne by a Sudanese transport truck, at least during the dry season. These often break down or get stuck, whether in the mud or at the proliferating roadblocks (Lombard 2013), making this a cumbersome mode of transit. Then northeasterners must convince the officials processing their claim for a national identity card that they are in fact Central African. Doing so requires a birth certificate (not easy to obtain up north)


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but also often more than that, since it can be alleged that the birth certificate was purchased through corrupt means (that the means of dealing with this allegation is to pay a bribe indicates how circular corruption is as a social problem). Because of their religion and provenance, northeasterners are thus frequently denied rights to nationality. From a legal perspective, they are not stateless, but in effective terms they are.4 Among the few who leave the area for study or other reasons, many adopt a Christian name just to facilitate their movement, study, and access to related opportunities. But most find their education cut short before they would have liked, due to the lack of anyone to “follow” (that is, pay for) them, and they remain in the area, marrying, farming, having and raising children, and—for some—alert to potential income-generating opportunities, which are admittedly rare. Those that arise often relate to the ways that this area’s statelessness comes to be seen as a problem demanding action.

When the Absent State Becomes a Problem In most ways northeasterners’ characterization of their zone as utterly abandoned is apt. Largely, from the perspective of government and international organization affiliates with money and other resources, the fear of a stateless/Muslim area is one best dealt with by ignoring it. However, the minimal institutional presence of the state became a problem demanding action at two moments: first, when poaching peaked in the 1980s and, second, with the rebellions of the 2000s. In the first case, armed conservation was the response. Armed conservation helped inculcate the sense among guards that they are Central African and gave them new military skills, factors that contributed to the prosecution of rebellion. These projects played out as follows. In the 1980s and 1990s, the hunting and cattle herding being done by transient men5 reached an intense scale.6 The area’s elephants and other megafauna were being decimated, and cattle were being pastured here in dramatically larger numbers, raising concern among ecologists and environmental experts that desertification would engulf this area, too. The whole area is protected as a national park or otherwise designated for conservation (and therefore is a no-go place for humans). This is a sensible land use policy from the perspective that the area has a very low human population and high levels of biodiversity but a decidedly impractical one, consider-

General Tarzan the Coach


ing that the area is exceptionally difficult to police and is surrounded by countries at war. Nevertheless, policing of parklands was just the response marshaled. Between the late 1980s and the 2000s, the European Union funded massive conservation and antipoaching projects in the region. A range of actors became involved at different points, including safari hunting operators and their employees, French soldiers, Central African armed forces, and private conservation associations. For men living in the zone, these various initiatives were all sources of work—pretty much the only employment for men in the area without much education. To become an antipoaching guard, one had to pass a fitness test, including a running race, and sometimes also had to know someone in charge. Those selected were given temporary houses on antipoaching bases and trained in military tactics and, in some cases, conservation principles and flora and fauna identification. Their targets when out patrolling were divided into two main categories: local poachers (people living year-round in villages and towns in the area) and foreign poachers (people who only spent part of the year in CAR and who generally had an “Arab” appearance—that is, who looked and dressed like they came from Darfur or Chad). Local poachers’ goods were seized, and poachers landed in jail or were made to pay a variety of fees. The antipoaching leaders initially tried the same tactic with foreigners, but their relations quickly deteriorated. They began to shoot each other on sight. This was the world that Soumaine entered when he joined the guards in 1997. He was sent to the Sangba base. He worked well and was promoted. When funding for the EU conservation project came to an end in 2004, Soumaine was selected for an elite force that would work with a couple of Russian former French Foreign Legionnaires to do the same work, only using different tactics, since their numbers were fewer. (These tactics infamously included terrorization ploys like dismembering the bodies of those they killed.) It was while working with them that Soumaine earned the sobriquet Tarzan. The Russians would take a guard’s mistake as an opportunity to select a nickname for him, a practice that both solidified their authority and confused enemies. My favorite of these nicknames was Zidane, assigned to a mild-mannered older man in a tribute to the infamously tempestuous French soccer star. In this work, Soumaine, a Muslim, was generally fighting other Muslims. Sharing a religion with the people he was attacking was not a source of dissonance for him. In contrast, his status as Cen-


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tral African was more tenuous, and perhaps therefore all the more desired. Working for conservation initiatives, which were carried out by quasi- or nonstate actors and funded and spearheaded by foreigners, heightened his sense of self as legitimately Central African. Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park was designated a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage site in 1987, and the state-centered allocation of responsibility for protecting “world patrimony” also helped to foster a sense among the people working on conservation that the land, grass, water, and charismatic megafauna thus designated were among the country’s improperly exploited riches. The conservation schemes had the added benefit of bringing revenue to certain northeastern towns and villages, such as Tiringoulou. However, when the government announced a new class of cadres for “promotion” into the state environmental services, people like Soumaine noticed a disparity. The antipoaching guards were drawn from the two northeastern prefectures, Bamingui-Bangoran and Soumaine’s own Vakaga. Those promoted were exclusively from the former, which has a mixed Christian and Muslim population. None of the Vakagans was tapped for the lifelong salary/pension and status of a permanent state job. Though conservation projects often pay better than the state in the short term, they are temporary, and when they end their employees are again cast out into the ranks of those scrambling for an income, let alone the status of a salary. This was a major assault on Soumaine’s sense of self as Central African. Another occurred in 2006, when the Central African presidential guard attacked Tiringoulou and a few other villages. The government blamed people in the area for supporting Chadian rebels who had used the town’s airstrip to offload men and military equipment. Tiringoulou residents had duly reported this incident to the authorities in the capital via expensive Thuraya satellite phone, their only rapid means of communication, only to be suspected of treachery. In the wake of these incidents, Soumaine left the antipoaching unit and returned home to support people there. He left again quickly, though, trekking two days through the bush, navigating by water points, until he found a group of men who were beginning to organize militarily. With his military skills, he trained the others. They reemerged in dramatic style at the end of October by attacking Birao. They named themselves the Union des forces pour la démocratie et le rassemblement (UFDR) and claimed the city (not difficult to do given the limited presence of state actors there and

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their limited armament). In the following weeks they repeated their tactic of early morning attack on isolated outposts and claimed several other cities as well, in a clear trajectory toward the capital. Their march was stopped by French and Central African soldiers at the end of November, and they had to return home, where they eventually signed a peace agreement with the government that was to bring them some measure of greater largesse. Theirs was not the only rebellion to emerge around that time. The first was based in northwestern CAR. The UFDR was the second. Then came a handful of others—in part through tutelage from menat-arms from throughout the militarized region, in part through following the news (the long rebellion/war in what became South Sudan and the armed groups proliferating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and in part through their own experiments. An assortment of marginalized politicians and abandoned rural youth in CAR were learning about rebellion as a tool to make a claim to inclusion. The challenge they had to overcome was the president and good intentions crowd’s resting state of apathy regarding the benighted northeast. These actors tend to see remote CAR as a place where violence is simply endemic (similar to their impression of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as described by Autesserre 2009), usually described as either “intercommunal,” “tribal,” or “criminal”—and not something these actors have tools to deal with. Therefore, part of the process of learning about rebellion was figuring out how to present the mobilizations in such a way as to mesh well with the tools upon which the good intentions crowd can draw. In addition to serving as new sources of resources, the international actors also provide leverage in rebels’ quest to be taken seriously. Being taken seriously was in this case largely a matter of provision of material goods, with the pinnacle being a state salary and the entitled status that indicates (Lombard 2016a). This meant shaping the violence and their mobilization as an explicit challenge to the state: taking towns and emphasizing the state’s lack of control over the hinterlands. A patriotic name and acronym clarified what kind of a mobilization these groups were and made it easier for international agencies and their government collaborators to use the peacebuilding tools at their disposal, which are primarily directed toward these explicit challenges to state authority. In short, through a process of mutual adaptation between international interveners and rebel group members, rebellion came to exhibit a conventionalized form that facilitated their collaborations with each other (Lombard 2016a).


Louisa Lombard

Rebel leaders recognized the role they played in the major changes in their region over the last decade. As General Damane Zakaria, head of the UFDR from 2008 to 2011, put it during one of our meetings in 2009, “It is because of the rebellion that the nongovernmental organizations [NGOs] came here. Do you know how long MSF and UNICEF7 have been working in CAR? For a very long time— thirty years, or maybe more. But none of them set a foot here.” This was not because the area’s human population had not suffered from armed violence or other causes of humanitarian concern. In the four years before the UFDR’s 2006 emergence, hundreds of people—far more than died during the rebellion’s battles—were killed in what is usually glossed as “intercommunal violence.”8 But, as Damane pointed out, it was only as a result of rebellion that agencies tasked with mitigating conflict and suffering arrived. There are contingent, practical, and ideological/framing reasons the good intentions crowd works best with conventionalized rebellions. Here is one example of each. On the contingent side, around the time the rebellions emerged, there was a particularly energetic United Nations (UN) coordinator for CAR, Toby Lanzer, who used all available means of persuasion to draw in humanitarian organizations. Under his tenure, the number of humanitarian organizations mushroomed from just over a handful to twenty-odd. On the practical side, conventional armed groups have organizational hierarchies that enable humanitarians to negotiate with them for safe passage of goods and people, which is not the case with other, less structured forms of militarized mobilization. And on the ideological side, the primary objective of the UN/nation-state world order is to reproduce the logic of the nation-state everywhere it goes (Ghosh 1994), and so explicit threats to the state’s monopoly on violence tend to draw more attention than other forms of violence, which are harder for people elsewhere to understand. When a rebel group emerges, wire services cover the event; when robbers attack travelers, the chance of coverage is much lower. In short, conventionalizing rebellion has been a way for people in remote regions of CAR to reverse the dangerousness fears of people in the south and people in the good intentions crowd: from being a reason to ignore, the dangerousness fears are channeled into a “known” form that can elicit greater attention. Armed group members hope that this attention will occur in a particular mode: providing entitlements—eventually for everyone, but for armed group members first. In this respect, armed group members have been perennially disappointed. When I first got to know them, in 2009 and 2010, they

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were waiting for a promised disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) program that kept getting delayed for reasons that were obscure to them (though they had their suspicions). They hoped and expected that DDR would bring state jobs, primarily in the state security forces, for all who wanted them, and that they would be able to keep the ranks they had taken while rebels. For the international organization staffers and others organizing DDR, all based in the capital, this was a nonstarter, for it countered the objectives of another donor-led initiative, that of professionalizing the military, which would be hard to do if so many bumpkins and ne’er-do-wells were integrated as colonels and generals. Nevertheless, many armed group members claimed they had been promised just that. Either way, the DDR process never made it to the point that a decision on the rebel group members’ status vis-à-vis the state was made. For many reasons, the DDR steering committee, which was designated to organize the DDR procedures, stalled and never managed to undertake any initiatives on behalf of the UFDR.9 DDR staffers were open about this when I spoke with them; logistically and from a security perspective, the northeast was simply too difficult to reach with the goods they would need for DDR, which in part consists of the distribution of household and livelihood kits. The risk of theft was too high. But somehow the message did not get sufficiently conveyed to the armed group members themselves, who were waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and getting all the more frustrated at how easily they could be blown off. Soumaine was no exception. He worried the government did not trust the UFDR and would never integrate them into the army. The political will for inclusion, a necessary corollary to the material aspects of inclusion, was lacking, he diagnosed. In response, he and his fellows promised that if necessary, they would “bring back insecurity” (i.e., renege on their peace agreement and return to rebellion). And that is exactly what they did, in 2012, when approached by their former leader Michel Djotodia, a politician and diplomat long eager to become president. Djotodia asked them to join an armed coalition, known as Seleka (“alliance” in Sango, CAR’s main language), he had mounted with the objective of taking the capital. The former UFDR—now calling themselves the Rassemblement Patriotique pour le Renouveau de la Centrafrique (RPRC)—did not immediately join. But when it became clear how strong the Seleka was and how likely it was that they would remove the president, the former UFDR decided to throw in their lot with them.


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The assortment of people under the Seleka umbrella did eventually take the capital, in March 2013. Djotodia declared himself president. Soumaine was injured in the attack on Bangui. He was shot in the leg and airlifted to Gabon for medical treatment. (The medical military airlifts that occur during armed conflict are a fascinating phenomenon in and of themselves. In addition to Gabon, other fighters were transported to Morocco for treatment, flying on military planes. This is a kind of humanitarian aid that has not been much studied, or even noticed.) He remained there for several weeks and then returned home to Tiringoulou to recuperate fully. Meanwhile, his fellows were trying to pay themselves by running taxation and other schemes, as well as to restore some kind of order in the country. This proved very difficult because the Seleka included many people with only fleeting interest in the country. These people are usually described as foreigners, and in some cases that label is correct, but nationality is difficult to ascribe to people whose careers and family connections spread across several countries. Therefore, I prefer to be precise: the salient issue here is that many did not have a long-term, sedentary interest in the country and its people. Overall, they not only failed at restoring order but also helped inspire a range of armed mobilizations against them, and against alleged Muslim foreigners more broadly, which became known as the anti-Balaka. I account fully for these developments elsewhere (Lombard 2016a). For now, let me fast-forward to when I reconnected with Soumaine in June 2015. He had become a general, but other than that he was in the same position he had been when I had last seen him: waiting for DDR, concerned that his leverage was limited when it came to compelling the government and international organizations to provide for him. The new buzzwords of the good intentions crowd had become prominent in his vocabulary (“no such thing as peace without social cohesion,” “reconciliation,” “federalism,” “equality on equal footing,” “liberty,” etc.). In our conversations, he was testing out negotiating strategies. For instance, he and his fellows were considering making a claim for the independence of the northeast. He recognized that statehood would be tough but figured that if nothing else making a big ask could help them get more from the government and international agencies, rather than simply being blown off, yet again, as DDR approached. So though in certain respects Soumaine’s position had changed—and in particular, his status as a Muslim had become ever more problematic (a greater source of danger to him)—in others

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he was in quite a similar position to that of a few years earlier. Still waiting. And to a large extent, this is the story that has been told about contemporary rebellion in Africa: that it fails to bring about the transformation in social status rebels hope for (Sommers 2012; Vigh 2006, 2009) and that the main productive aspect of these young men’s lives is perpetrating violence (Hoffman 2011). Soumaine’s experience fits these narratives, but not perfectly, for there is much it leaves out. Being in a rebel group also correlated—directly and indirectly, with Soumaine taking on a range of roles related to protection—to caring, particularly in its masculine variant, coaching. The following section discusses those activities and their effects and implications.

Rebel Humanitarians When I saw Soumaine in June 2015, I told him I had had a child since we last met. He congratulated me and then replied that he had had four during the same period (with multiple wives). This is one difference between northeastern CAR and contexts of waithood (Singerman 2007) elsewhere, where waiting is a matter of waiting both for a job and to be able to afford marriage. In rural northeastern CAR, having a family remains relatively straightforward; it is the status of a salary that is so difficult to obtain. Soumaine clearly enjoyed his family. He seemed most at ease when at least a few of his descendants were nearby. His oldest son prepared and served us tea and food with learned precision; he seemed to study unobtrusively everything we did and said. One of his youngest daughters, clearly doted on, often claimed a spot between her seated father’s legs, from which she, too, would watch and listen with a mixture of shyness and inquisitiveness. Being in an armed group meant that Soumaine was often away for long periods. Prior to this return, for instance, he had been away for about a year. But when home he relished the time with his kids, and they clearly relished the ability to be close to him.10 That talent for working with kids had been recognized by the international humanitarian organization that set up a presence in Tiringoulou in 2007. This organization, a U.S.-based medical charity, supported the town hospital and village health posts. In addition, they had expanded their activities to include “protection,” a broad reference to the humanitarian impulse. Generally, it includes such


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things as training and monitoring along various rubrics of vulnerability, such as gender and age (Abramowitz 2014; Moran 2010). The intention is to create sustainable means of protecting the vulnerable from harm. Children are a demographic category of special interest to people working on protection and development in the era of the “human potential agenda” (Piot 2010). They are an easy group to identify and locate, and there are pots of money for doing these kinds of things, such as through UNICEF, the UN agency devoted to the rights and situation of children.11 Many of the humanitarian protection activities in Tiringoulou had to do with children. For instance, organizations would run training on children’s rights and child development. They also started a project to teach women to make school uniforms, which families could purchase at heavily subsidized prices. School uniforms were a meaningful marker of greater dignity for the educational enterprise in the town.12 The charity had one expatriate protection officer who covered all of the outfit’s offices in the country. In each locale, this protection officer had to rely substantially on locals. When the organization’s staffers asked who had a good reputation for working with children and youth, Soumaine’s name was proffered first. And that was how the antipoaching leader turned rebel became Tiringoulou’s children’s rights point person, the local representative for UNICEF. In this capacity, Soumaine learned a range of new skills and perspectives. For instance, he attended daylong lectures on child development, during which he learned about the rights of the child and collected pens and pads of paper the NGO had brought from Bangui, of a quality that was not otherwise available in town and therefore a marker of cosmopolitan connections. More challenging was when the humanitarian organization paid two former semipro Central African soccer players to come to Tiringoulou for two weeks to run a soccer skills camp for the town youth. Soccer is popular in Tiringoulou, in the way it is in much of the world: as a kids’ pick-up game, as a fashion inspiration (knock-off soccer jerseys are some of the few items of manufactured clothing for sale), and as something watched on the very few televisions with satellite connections and generator power in town. But no one had ever received any in-depth training in how to play, nor did anyone try to organize people for full-team games. The soccer teachers said that when they arrived, people would just kick the ball as high or as far as they could. But within a few days, players were learning to pass effectively to their teammates and otherwise move the ball tactically.

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Soumaine had a special role in all of this. As the children and youth point person, he was groomed as the future coach for a town team or league. He was not new to the job of training people under him, nor was he new to being trained. As an antipoaching guard, he had been trained by the British, Americans, French former soldiers, and Russians. The British, the Americans, and the Russians all prioritized commando tactics, in which one person alone can perform the operation (ambushes, mechanisms of attack, etc.). The French emphasized more classic battle techniques. When Soumaine joined the UFDR, he was given a special rank: commandant d’instruction militaire. This was the result of his prior training and his role in training recruits with less military experience. Soccer was different, however. The goals and stakes were different, but so were the tactics and means of cooperation. Soumaine’s prior experience had some relevance, but he was forced to adapt as well. The soccer training culminated with a well-attended public match between les grands (the big guys) and les jeunes (the young). Soumaine was the coach for les grands, and Eric, one of the teachers, coached les jeunes. Les grands were, as their team name suggested, more physically powerful. They struggled, however. Eric called out corrections, encouragement, and other advice for his players. He yelled a lot, but each comment had a specific purpose, a specific recipient. Soumaine, on the other hand, quietly paced, with a worried expression and furrowed brow. He made occasional comments, but they lacked the authoritative ring that Eric’s had, and Soumaine mostly seemed overwhelmed by the stress of the situation. In armed battle, he was known for his cool and his fearless demeanor. Some said that “bullets bounced off him,” implying that he had superhuman capacities. He denied this, citing that each person’s moment to die is ordained by God and none other, while acknowledging that there are people with strange powers. With as much battle experience as he had, he had seen some things, like bullets that fall from a person rather than penetrate. Coaching was not wholly different from these military skills; nor was it wholly similar. It was a new way of relating to people, a new way of organizing them and toward new ends. While one can question whether and how coaching soccer boosts protection (soccer clubs have after all been primary sites for radicalization, as well as hooliganism), the NGO’s arrival and soccer training opened Soumaine up to new ways of working with people. The big guys lost the game and were angry. A few charged that Eric had unfairly coached his team, and there was a brief ruckus that


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threatened to injure him. Soumaine was among those who called the would-be aggressors to reason. He and his team had lost. He likely would never be a great soccer coach. Nor had his rebellion brought about the fundamental shift in status (from ignorable to entitled) that he had sought. But his joining a rebel group, a movement to threaten (to play up his and his fellows’ dangerousness visà-vis the state), had helped elicit greater humanitarian interest in his zone, and that was providing him with opportunities to explore new kinds of work and new modes of organizing others in a variety of collective endeavors. This might sound like a small thing, but remember that while there is a long tradition in northeastern CAR of men joining together for defense and feuding, and though men pray together at the mosque, other opportunities for social association in the area— working together toward a shared end—are few. Elsewhere in the country people sometimes organize themselves into agricultural cooperatives to share risk and resources, initiatives often supported by development organizations. But there are no such initiatives in the northeast. Therefore coaching—telling people what to do in concert with others, toward both short-term and long-term aims—entailed new skills and ways of relating to and leading others. Soumaine appreciated these even as he found the tasks expected of him intermittently overwhelming. This kind of fostering of new coaching and care abilities was temporary, however. That is one problem that Central Africans see with humanitarian aid: it is always short term, and it is only deployed to places with those particular kinds of security issues that do not disrupt their work. In September 2010 an unidentified armed group (rumored to be the Lord’s Resistance Army, but that was not confirmed, and the LRA wasn’t generally known to be operating that far north and west in CAR) attacked Tiringoulou. The humanitarians decided to decrease their operations in the area, citing fears for the security of its staff. This was around the same time that DDR was definitively postponed. Soumaine and the others were left adrift. In 2014, after rejoining the rebellion, Soumaine was in Bambari, the major city of east-central CAR. His armed group, the RPRC,13 was based there, as were anti-Balaka elements and a third armed group, which, like the RPRC, was erstwhile Seleka, but now the two groups are mistrustful of each other. In Bambari, the UN/humanitarian organization presence was far larger than it had been in Tiringoulou. The UN mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) opened a major base with more than twenty civilian staff in addition to its contingents of

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peacekeepers, who joined the French Sangaris peacekeepers, who also patrolled. A variety of humanitarian organizations were working there, too (including the one that had worked in Tiringoulou). Soumaine’s superiors gave him a new title: chef de bureau de discipline militaire (head of the office of military discipline). Many of the men under him do not know his real name; they know him as General Tarzan. General Tarzan has a reputation for dispatching swift and fair justice; usually this means separating people who have fought, detaining and questioning them separately to let them cool off, and then working out a sanction for whoever is at fault. In another life, perhaps he would have been a school principal; his job seemed similar to that of a principal, though without the educational framework. Most of what the armed group members did was wait. Even those who worked on roadblocks encountered not a steady flow of traffic but infrequent arrivals. Waiting breeds frustration, and disciplinary procedures like those General Tarzan was responsible for become all the more important and common occurrences for keeping people moderately in line. So while the period in which he was engaged in hostilities as a member of a rebel group was fairly short, the period in which he was responsible for new modes of control and care toward the group’s members stretched far longer, in ways that Tarzan had not initially foreseen. What is interesting in terms of these new modes of discipline and care is that for many of these guys, the application of control and social group management were not elements they were used to experiencing outside of their families and home locations. So while stuck and waiting, they were involved in a new kind of social experiment as well, and in a new kind of social organization, elsewhere described as the increasing importance of barracks-like spaces to African zones marked by violent conflict (Hoffman 2007). But a lot goes on in barracks besides preparing for fighting. Indeed, for people like Soumaine, their main task is to prevent people in the barracks from engaging in violence. They do not always succeed, but it remains their goal. In other words, in the aggregate Soumaine’s being an officer in a rebel group was more about creating new organizational structures of legitimate control and discipline that helped solidify his position as a leader than it was about enacting violence. This required him to develop leadership skills that combined control and care/encouragement—namely, coaching. In addition to serving as disciplinarian for the men under him, this work of preventing people from fighting provided other lines of work for Soumaine, ones that engaged the UN and humanitarian


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actors present. He loved this work. The UN mission was organizing “rapid intervention projects.” The idea with these projects was to quickly employ people from across conflict divides, money being as good a social lubricant as any other tool the peacebuilders had. Soumaine was part of a team that chose young men and women from throughout the area to participate. They had five sites with twentyfive people at each. At each site they picked people representative of the population: Christians, Muslims, armed group members, civilians, and so on. They had them work for a month (fixing up roads and other manual labor) and paid them well for it. Participants also had to attend weekly daylong seminars on peacebuilding and human rights. The project culminated with a massive “March for Peace” co-led by Christians and Muslims. When I met with Soumaine in the middle of 2015, they had run this project twice. Soumaine was amazed at how well it had gone. The participants, who were in some cases on opposite sides during the fighting, ended the program as “brothers and sisters,” as he put it. That is perhaps an exaggeration. But it captures his amazement at the transformational effects of this kind of communal, paid labor and his excitement about his role in it. He hoped that this kind of initiative would spread around the country, particularly to Tiringoulou, because it seemed to him transformative, as well as fun. Soumaine was also involved in another major UN project, this one run by UNICEF. Harking back to his previous humanitarian work, he was named the Focal Point for Children Associated with Armed Groups. His job was to locate children associated with armed groups and deliver them to UNICEF for registration and transportation to Bria, a diamond-mining city a few hundred kilometers away. In Bria, the children would be housed in a camp run by a development or humanitarian organization and given professional training in sewing, masonry, carpentry, battery-charging businesses, livestock rearing, and so on. The first time Soumaine approached the area’s armed groups asking them to present their child soldiers, he found seventy. On the second, he found nineteen. I expressed skepticism; in the more than a decade I have been studying rebellion in CAR, I have seen few kids-at-arms in the Beasts of No Nation model (late teenagers, yes, but not so many children). Soumaine’s response was technical. “You know, there are kids who come to the armed group to sell candies; there are those who approach the armed group looking for tempo-

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rary work; and there are those who seek refuge with the combatants. All of those we take their names to give them to UNICEF.” In short, Soumaine was being marshaled by the UN to recruit child soldiers. For “child soldier” (or the clunkier but more correct “children associated with fighting forces”) was a label/identity that in most cases was being applied only at the moment of their demobilization. It only became a socially real and effective category at the moment the kids were labeled this and separated from family and other social structures in order to join a pod of kids in similar circumstances. The case of an armed group leader recruiting child soldiers for the sake of peacebuilding projects presents many ironies. But while I find those ironies compelling, here I am interested in how Soumaine took up the humanitarian ways of thinking, embracing their attempts at social reengineering, in the process learning new ways of organizing people and caring/coaching. These social reengineering projects tend to be short, both starting and ending abruptly (Moran 2010), and they tend not to bring about the transformations in status that are among armed group members’ main reasons for taking up arms in the first place (Lombard 2016a; Vigh 2009). But Soumaine’s excitement about these work projects was genuine. In them, he saw a new outlet for his skills—an outlet that was less destructive than armed conflict, to which he had never been drawn as anything other than a means to an end anyway. He still dreamed of the stability of a long-term salary (such as in the form of a government post or sinecure), but even without that, he was excited about the projects he had under way and about the possibilities associated with them. He was still waiting, but he was excited about where he was going in the meantime.

Conclusion Soumaine remains an officer in an armed group. He joined in order to protest the abandonment of his home region and in the hopes of gaining entitlement to a state salary and the status associated with that. The particular kind of statist distribution he saw as optimal has not arrived. Far from it. Regarding those goals, he, like so many other young men, is in a perpetual state of waithood (Frederiksen 2013; Honwana 2012 Singerman 2007; Sommers 2012; Vigh 2006, 2009). He was immensely frustrated with how easily he and his fel-


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low fighters’ demands could be ignored (for reasons ranging from innocent/practical to manipulative/dishonest) by the president and diplomatic and international organization leaders. The accountability gap between him (and other marginalized yet threatening youth) and the people they saw as hoarding all the money preoccupied him, and he was actively seeking ways to dismantle it. These interests did not determine everything he did, however. Life, as the cliché has it, went on. Soumaine’s kids were growing up, sometimes with him present and often not. There is no mobile phone network in Tiringoulou, so when he was not in town, he had limited means of communicating with his family. A few Tiringoulou residents do have satellite phones, which helps, despite their immense air time costs. The humanitarian presence also became a way to pass messages—letters could be tucked into employees’ luggage, or they could, when the satellite internet connection was working, pass emails or Facebook chats on to people in better-connected places. The humanitarian and peacebuilding presence in his home region has not yet eradicated armed conflict from people’s political repertoires in the manner in which it claims to seek. But they have brought new techniques, skills, and ways of thinking. And for these projects, armed group leaders can be useful people to work with. Soumaine’s immediate commanding officer, General Joseph Zoundeiko, was another good example of these processes.14 His conversation was peppered with international law terms and other concepts he had learned through training by the International Committee of the Red Cross and other organizations. While he did not always follow these dictates to the letter when engaged in armed conflict, they became important elements of his ideational and practical repertoires. Soumaine is an even more striking case in the extent to which humanitarian thinking, and particularly coaching, became part of his work life. His talents regarding working with children and youth predated his involvement with a humanitarian organization. Nevertheless, the experiences he has gained working with humanitarians and the UN also helped give him a new sense of purpose and new ways of thinking about managing people, enacting discipline, and getting people to work together toward both short-term and long-term goals (whether in soccer or in life more broadly). So while this chapter seconds many of the arguments made in the literature on marginalized youth and waithood, it also points to perhaps surprising effects of armed violence and the need to consider what else people do while they are waiting. While they might never get where they thought they were going, they might not so much be

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stuck (socially immobile) as still in the same place, but with conditions around them changing, both for the better and the worse. And in the process they change too. Beyond the context of armed groups and young men, this is an important consideration because the dangerous/foreign label that attaches to many of the armed men from northeastern CAR is a variant of one seen all over the world, one that currently seems to be disproportionately attached to Muslims. And while on the one hand this chapter echoes the dehumanizing aspects of those tropes, it also points to holes and opportunities, in part brought about by humanitarians and in part by other forces and actors. That is, it draws out ways the danger/foreignness of Muslim men turns into new, sometimes surprising, possibilities for collaboration. On balance it is still problematic—if not frankly tragic—that “Muslim foreigners” like Soumaine feel their only chance at getting taken seriously is to take up arms and enact the threat they are believed to be. It is frustrating for these men, who have other aspirations, and it is even more tragic for the people who suffer from their attacks, losing their few material possessions and sense of security. But that should not prevent us from noticing some of the other consequences as well, which include new sensibilities and new ways of thinking, often organized around a kind of coaching.

Louisa Lombard is an assistant professor of anthropology at Yale University. Previously she held a Ciriacy-Wantrup postdoctoral fellowship in natural resource economics at the University of California at Berkeley. Her research focuses on African borderland areas, where the state is largely absent and a range of actors govern. She is the author of State of Rebellion: Violence and Intervention in the Central African Republic and numerous articles on armed conservation, histories and meanings of violence, armed groups, and intervention in Equatorial Africa.

Notes 1. Estimates at the time were that the group had six hundred members (Spittaels and Hilgert 2009). 2. For people in Vakaga, their spiritual leader, the sheikh Tidjani, lives in a village outside Nyala, in South Darfur, and this is part of why southerners see them as more loyal to that country. Many young men






7. 8.


10. 11.

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from northeast CAR travel to Sudan for religious education. The roads are better in that direction, and the possibilities for religious education more numerous. CAR was a prototypical case of françafrique (Smith 2013), with France continuing to play a dominant role in politics and governance long after independence. This began to change in the 1990s. Post-Cold War, international agencies assumed greater powers of intervention in “failed states” like CAR, and France was looking for a less conspicuous role anyway. With the rebellions beginning around 2005, humanitarian involvement in CAR mushroomed. A few of these organizations set up offices in the northeast, but the feelings of abandonment in rural CAR continue to run deep. Though people appreciate the international agencies’ role in distributing welfare largesse, they understand any such aid to be short term and temporary, whereas “the state” still stands as the paragon of lifetime employment (that is, as a change in the status of the kind of person one is). It is telling that when CAR’s Emperor Bokassa sought to “exile” undesirables, it was to northeastern-most Vakaga prefecture that he sent them (Gallo 1995). That such a fate was a punishment was so obvious as to go unremarked in the definitive account of the ordeal. They are usually described as foreigners, and though in some cases that is usefully descriptive, it can also be an unhelpful reduction of the thoroughly transnational lives many of these men live. The 1970s had also seen intense ivory hunting, but at that point profit from the trade was controlled by the Central African presidentturned-emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa (Le Noël 2000). Doctors without Borders and the United Nations Children’s Fund, respectively. I am skeptical of the term “intercommunal violence” because it assumes steady communities that are fighting each other, when in many cases it is the process of fighting itself that redefines the makeup of communities. That is, community is not a static variable; it is one that changes, and the process of fighting is itself bound up in that process of change. There is an accountability gap when it comes to these kinds of programs; while it might be understandable that programs do not play out as planned, it is nevertheless apposite to point out that certain people—the organizers—will get their salary either way, while others—the “beneficiaries”—will not (Lombard 2016a). For further accounts of Muslim men as fathers and caregivers, see Naguib (2015) and Inhorn (2012). The elderly are another demographic group of interest to the protection crowd, but the elderly do not have the same publicity/institutional profile that children do through UNICEF and other humanitarian appeals, nor can they be said to be “the future” so easily.

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12. Another project brought a man from a village elsewhere in the prefecture who could make wheelbarrows and carts, with the aim of having him teach people in Tiringoulou, where no one had that skill. 13. There were new people involved, but in terms of leadership the RPRC was mostly just a new name for the UFDR. 14. Zoundeiko was killed in battle in February 2017.

References Abramowitz, Sharon Alane. 2014. Searching for Normal in the Wake of the Liberian War. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Autesserre, Séverine. 2009. “Hobbes and the Congo: Frames, Local Violence, and International Intervention.” International Organization 63(2): 249–80. Berlant, Lauren. 2011. Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke University Press. Brégeon, Jean-Joël. 1998. Un rêve d’Afrique: Administrateurs en OubanguiChari, Cendrillon de l’empire. Paris: Denoël. Cordell, Dennis D. 1985. Dar al-Kuti and the Last Days of the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Debos, Marielle. 2008. “Fluid Loyalties in a Regional Crisis: Chadian ‘ExLiberators’ in the Central African Republic.” African Affairs 107(427): 225–41. ———. 2013. Le métier des armes au Tchad: Le gouvernement de l’entre-guerre [The Occupation of Arms Carrying in Chad: Governing the Interwar]. Paris: Karthala. Frederiksen, Martin. 2013. Young Men, Time, and Boredom in the Republic of Georgia. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Gallo, Thierry Jacques. 1995. Les oisifs de Birao: S’évader ou périr [The Idlers of Birao: Escape or Perish]. Paris: l’Harmattan. Ghosh, Amitav. 1994. “The Global Reservation: Notes toward an Ethnography of International Peacekeeping.” Cultural Anthropology 9(3): 412– 22. Hoffman, Daniel. 2007. “The City as Barracks: Freetown, Monrovia, and the Organization of Violence in Postcolonial African Cities.” Cultural Anthropology 22(3): 400–28. ———. 2011. The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Durham: Duke University Press. Honwana, Alcinda. 2000. “Innocents et coupables: Les enfants-soldats comme acteurs tactiques” [Innocent and Guilty: Child Soldiers as Tactical Actors]. Politique Africaine 80(4): 58–78. ———. 2012. The Time of Youth: Work, Social Change, and Politics in Africa. Sterling: Kumarian Press. Inhorn, Marcia C. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


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Le Noël, Christian. 1999. On Target: History and Hunting in Central Africa. Agoura: Trophy Room Books. Lombard, Louisa. 2013. “Navigational Tools for Central African Roadblocks.” Political and Legal Anthropology Review 36(1): 157–73. ———. 2015. “The Autonomous Zone Conundrum.” In Making Sense of the Central African Republic, ed. Tatiana Carayannis and Louisa Lombard, 142–65. London: Zed. ———. 2016a. State of Rebellion: Violence and Intervention in the Central African Republic. London: Zed. ———. 2016b. “The Threat of Rebellion: Claiming Entitled Personhood in Central Africa.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society 22(3): 552–69. Moran, Mary H. 2010. “Gender, Militarism, and Peace-Building: Projects of the Postconflict Moment.” Annual Review of Anthropology 39: 261–74. Naguib, Nefissa. 2015. Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food, and Family in Contemporary Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press. Piot, Charles. 2010. Nostalgia for the Future: West Africa after the Cold War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Richards, Paul. 1996. Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra Leone. London: James Currey. Simone, AbduMaliq. 2001. “On the Worlding of African Cities.” African Studies Review 44(2): 15–41. Singerman, Diane. 2007. “The Economic Imperatives of Marriage: Emerging Practices and Identities among Youth in the Middle East.” Working Paper 6. Washington, D.C. and Dubai: Wolfensohn Centre for Development and Dubai School of Government. Smith, Stephen. 2013. “France in Africa: A New Chapter?” Current History 112(754): 163–68. Sommers, Marc. 2012. Stuck: Rwandan Youth and the Struggle for Adulthood. Athens: University of Georgia Press. Spittaels, Steven and Filip Hilgert. 2009. Central African Republic: Mapping Conflict Motives. Antwerp: International Peace Information Service. Themnér, Anders. 2011. Violence in Post-Conflict Societies: Remarginalization, Remobilizers, and Relationships. New York: Routledge. Vigh, Henrik. 2006. Navigating Terrains of War: Youth and Soldiering in GuineaBissau. New York: Berghahn Books. ———. 2009. “Conflictual Motion and Political Inertia: On Rebellions and Revolutions in Bissau and Beyond.” African Studies Review 52(2): 143–64.

Chapter 12


Introduction The southeastern region of Tanzania, along the Swahili coast,1 has a long history of Omani Arab presence. This is particularly so in Kilwa, which was a well-established trading town at the time that Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, first arrived on the East African coast in 1498 (Middleton 1992). Farther down the coast, the region known as Mtwara, along the Ruvuma River, which acts as a natural boundary between Tanzania and Mozambique, is inhabited by people who identify themselves as the Wamakonde, Wamakua, Wayao, Wamwera, Wamachinga, Wandingo, and Wamatumbi, among others (Wembah-Rashid 1998). The Mtwara Region is commonly referred to as the Makonde area because the Makonde are the largest and the dominant ethnic group in the region. They constitute the third largest of the 120 ethnic groups of Tanzania, but as a social group, they are among the country’s poorest and marginalized people. The British colonial administrators who governed Tanganyika2 until 1961 often referred to the Makonde area of southeastern Tanzania as a “Cinderella region of a Cinderella territory,” that is, a peripheral region where no development could be expected (Lie-


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benow 1971: 11). However, this decades-long negative descriptor of the Mtwara Region changed in 2005, when substantial, recoverable reserves of natural gas were discovered in the Mnazi Bay area (Ledesma 2013; Lokina and Leiman 2014; Shanghvi and Jingu 2013), leading to the siting of a large gas development project in the rural Mtwara Region (Kamat 2017). While the natural gas is being used mainly to generate electricity for powering industrial and commercial development, the social impact of the gas project, particularly in regard to how the project has affected people’s farmlands and in turn disrupted their livelihoods, has received very little attention from those at the helm of the project. In other words, the dominant narrative, as told mainly by politicians, government representatives, and the media, focuses on how the gas development project will help Tanzania to become economically self-sufficient and self-reliant within a few years. The counterdiscourse, which highlights the false promises made by politicians regarding the benefits of the gas project, allegations of corruption, and the ongoing displacement and further marginalization of the people of rural Mtwara, has been largely suppressed. This chapter aims to provide an ethnographic representation of the sentiments of the people whose lives have been disrupted by the dispossession of their farmlands and other sources of livelihood caused by the gas project in rural Mtwara. By focusing specifically on the life histories and narratives of five Muslim Makonde men, this chapter also seeks to illustrate how Makonde men express different forms of care, especially by demonstrating a deep concern for the welfare and the future of their children, grandchildren, and immediate and extended family members. Briefly, the gas project has resulted in the displacement of large numbers of people from the villages that are inside the project’s catchment area. People have lost their farmlands, cashew trees, and coconut trees to the project, which involved the uprooting of thousands of planted coconut and cashew trees to lay the pipeline that would transport the gas from the Mnazi Bay gas fields to Dar es Salaam, the country’s commercial hub, 545 kilometers away. The ongoing process of dispossession and displacement of people from their farmlands and their traditional fishing grounds is ethnographically visible. People have been dispossessed of their assets, especially intergenerational coconut palms and cashew trees, which provide an important source of income to the people who live in the rural coastal Mtwara Region. Alternative income-generating/livelihood opportunities in the region are scarce. The gas project, which is cap-

“And What Will Our Children Eat?”


ital intensive, has little potential to provide direct, long-term employment opportunities to dispossessed villagers. Physical displacement and state-mediated land dispossession in the affected villages has occurred on multiple fronts. The gas project has “fenced off” large plots of farmland to drill wells and uprooted trees in order to dig the trenches and bury the pipeline with a fiftyfoot wide permanent right-of-way on both sides. The gas company has paid compensation to those whose lands and trees were lost to the project, but by villagers’ accounts, the compensation has been unfair and unreasonable. Drawing on ethnographic data gathered in two of the villages directly impacted by the gas project, this chapter reflects on the narratives of dispossession, displacement, and food insecurity as told by Muslim Makonde men3 who inhabit the villages around the gas fields. The chapter seeks to illuminate the alternative stories as told by Muslim Makonde men vis-à-vis the dominant discourse about the gas project’s potential to transform the Tanzanian economy. This chapter focuses specifically on the stories of men whose lives have been most directly affected by the gas project and whose stories have neither been fully recorded nor brought to the fore by the media or political leaders. First, the chapter provides additional background information on the Mtwara Region. It then discusses the Makonde people and some aspects of their social and cultural lives. Following that, the chapter provides some information on the ethnographic setting of my fieldwork. This is followed by a section on the food security situation in the study area and excerpts from life histories and narrative segments of five Makonde men to highlight their experiences and sentiments regarding the gas project and its impact on their lives. The concluding section argues for the need to pay close attention to issues of social justice and the moral worlds of the people of rural Mtwara to mitigate further disruption of livelihoods across generations.

The Mtwara Region and Its Peoples The Mtwara Region is divided into seven administrative districts: Masasi, Masasi Town, Nanyumbu, Newala, Tandahimba, Mtwara Urban, and Mtwara Rural. In 2012, the population of the Mtwara Region as a whole was 1,270,854, and that of the Mtwara Rural District in particular was 228,003. The overall socioeconomic profile of


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Mtwara Rural is very poor, as it lacks access to basic infrastructure and resources. Nearly 40 percent of the population of Mtwara Rural lives below the basic needs poverty line (The United Republic of Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics 2016). In 2012 Mtwara had one of the lowest rates of school attendance in the country, with only 18.8 percent of individuals over age five currently attending school. Given Mtwara Region’s unimpressive statistical profile, it is unsurprising that in the literature, the region is commonly described as “the periphery” (Seppäla 1998a). Of the twenty-nine regions that comprise Tanzania (including Zanzibar), the Mtwara Region has the highest percentage of its population working in agriculture of any region in the country, with 87 percent of individuals ages ten and above primarily employed in agriculture (The United Republic of Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics 2016). For the most part, agriculture is practiced for subsistence and supplemented by only a small number of cash crops, especially cashew and coconuts. The Makonde people of southeastern Tanzania are concentrated in the Mtwara and Newala districts. They are commonly divided into three main groups: the Nnima people, who live in the northwest of the plateau; the Ndonde people, who live on the southwest of the plateau; and the Maraba people, who live near the Ruvuma and along the coast as well as on the eastern part of the plateau. The Maraba are commonly associated with the Swahili coastal culture, which, along with their Makonde origin, determines their cultural and historical identity. This is reflected in their religion (Islam), their fishing practices, their dress, and their language, which is strongly influenced by Kiswahili. The Matambwe also regard themselves as belonging to the Makonde people. They live near Ruvuma next to the Ndonde, with whom they intermarry (Kraal 2005; Saetersdal 1999). The Makonde constitute about 86 percent of the population of the Mtwara district. Political historians of the region such as Liebenow (1971), who have provided insights into the origins of the Makonde people in the Mtwara Region, believe that the Makonde movement from Ndonde in Mozambique to the Makonde plateau was part of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century turmoil in East Africa, which created their ethnic identity. The coastal Makonde settled at Maraba Hill, Lindi region between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Liebenow 1971: 20–30). However, the major movements took place from the middle of the nineteenth century and were induced by the slave trade and

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the Ngoni invasion (Liebenow 1971; Mihanjo and Luanda 1998). Other factors also contributed to the migration of the Makonde people from the Mozambican side to the Tanzanian side and their subsequent permanent residence in Mtwara, such as natural disasters, the villagization program that was implemented on the Tanzanian side in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Lal 2015), and the Mozambican war. Over the years, land pressure has considerably increased the mixing of residential patterns and ethnic groups in the region. The mixing of people is enhanced by frequent marriages between the ethnic groups (Seppäla 1998b). Most of the Makonde people who live in villages along the southeastern coast of rural Mtwara and on Tanzania’s border with Mozambique trace their origins to Mozambique. Many are believed to have settled on what is now the Tanzania side, across the Ruvuma River, following the raids conducted by the Ngoni from southern Africa, which prompted many people to flee across the Ruvuma River. The majority of Makonde people who live in the coastal villages are engaged in small-scale farming and subsistence fishing; they grow cassava, maize, rice, and different types of lentils and peas; they are engaged in cashew cultivation and coconut farming, a cash crop; and artisanal fishing is a significant activity, but in most households, fishing is a secondary occupation.

Ethnographic Context I conducted fieldwork in several coastal villages of rural Mtwara from 2009 to 2015. The vast majority of the people who live in these coastal villages self-identify as Makonde. Nearly all the residents in these villages are bilingual; they speak Kimakonde and Kiswahili (the national language). The majority of the people who live in these villages are poor, economically and socially disadvantaged, and heavily dependent on subsistence farming and marine-related and coastal activities, including artisanal fishing (Kamat 2014; Katikiro, Macusi, and Deepananda 2015; Mangora, Shalli, and Msangameno 2014). Although these are coastal villages, agriculture remains the predominant primary activity in the villages, with more than two-third of households dependent on agriculture to earn a living and to meet their food security. Fishing accounts for less than one-fourth of the primary source of income. Though these occupations are all largely practiced on a subsistence scale, agriculture is practiced for both


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food and income, while fishing is mainly for cash income (Mangora, Shalli, and Msangameno 2014). Although the region is well known for cashew production, only a few of the relatively wealthier households are engaged in full-time cashew and coconut farming. Most villagers live in thatched mud houses, and only a few households have access to wired electricity. In addition to conducting several in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with village residents, I engaged in participant observation in the villages. This provided me with the opportunity to observe people’s everyday lives, record their food procuring and consumption practices, and gain insights into their general disposition toward the development projects in their area. The data presented in this chapter are mainly from two neighboring villages—Msimbati and Mtandi, which have a combined population of about 10,000.

Social Transformation and Food Security In documenting the process of social transformation in rural Mtwara, I focused my ethnographic gaze on questions pertaining to food security mainly to examine how development projects have affected people’s everyday food security concerns. I elicited food narratives from a cross section of the population. An analysis of the narratives revealed that people often spoke of the last five to ten years as a time when they had access to sufficient food and they were able to eat three meals a day, but their food security situation had deteriorated over the years (Kamat 2014). The narratives also revealed that there were intra- and intervillage differences in how people articulated their food security situations and that these were dynamic and changing. While the food security situation had not changed significantly for some of the villagers, for others, it had worsened over the last five to ten years. Some villagers pointedly mentioned that the conservation and development projects implemented in the region had intensified their vulnerability. Most of the Makonde people who live in the villages where I carried out fieldwork grow at least some of their own food. They grow food grains, lentils, and tubers such as cassava, and they also buy food from grocery stores in their villages. Very few people buy all their food from a grocery store. People cultivate maize, cassava, rice, sorghum, and millet, and they typically buy corn flour, cassava flour, spaghetti, and other sundries from shops. Importantly, fish is not spoken of as one of the items in the “food” category. This is be-

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cause fish is commonly considered a side dish or is used to prepare relish, rather than being consumed as the primary food item to “fill one’s stomach” (see also Walley 2004: 148). Moreover, fish, octopus, squid, shellfish, shrimp, and other intertidal invertebrates and crustaceans are seen as items to be sold for cash income. The cash is used to buy food grains, flour, and other highly desirable but generally unaffordable food items such as chicken and beef, which are eaten only occasionally in most households. My research suggested that food insecurity is an enduring concern for a majority of the households in rural Mtwara. Significantly, no matter how much access people had to the ocean, only very few people were exclusively dependent on the ocean as the primary source of their food supply—either directly, in the form of fish and intertidal invertebrates gleaned from the beach, or indirectly, from the money earned through the sale of fish. In in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and everyday conversations, villagers often used “the coconut tree” as a metaphor to index their food and livelihood security. It was a staple of everyday conversation that cut across social groups, and villagers made comparisons to provide concrete illustrations of the nature and magnitude of their loss—especially when the topic of conversation was the compensation that the gas company had paid them to make up for their farmlands and trees lost to the project. Villagers often spoke of the coconut trees on their farms and the palms that lined the sea front as synonymous with their ancestors’ foresight—their parents and grandparents had planted the trees so that their children and grandchildren could lead food-secure lives. People commonly used the expression, “Coconut trees are our savings” (Minazi ni kama akiba) to illustrate their significance in their lives. In comparison with the cashew tree, which requires much tending and the use of pesticides to deal with the threat of fungus, the coconut tree requires little labor and tending. Nonetheless, it takes at least eight years for the tree to mature. It requires careful and longsighted planning to become involved in coconut cultivation (Seppäla 1998b). Given the economic, cultural, and culinary significance of coconut trees (and the coconut) in the Makonde peoples’ lives and the usefulness of coconuts in food preparation and as a source of nutrition and fats,4 all those who participated in the study repeatedly referenced the coconut tree in their interviews and everyday conversations to calibrate and lament the nature and magnitude of their loss. They mentioned that the gas companies had paid them a paltry


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sum for the coconut trees that they had lost to the project, especially given their long-term value—an estimated one million Tanzanian shillings in comparison to the TSh100,000 ($63)5 they were promised or given in compensation for each coconut tree that was lost to the project. For a majority of the narrators, their main concern was how their “big loss” to the gas project would affect their children and grandchildren in terms of their future livelihoods. They were concerned that their children and grandchildren would have no assets to build their lives on or to fall back on in times of financial hardship in the future. Abuya (2013) has illustrated similar sentiments among the Mijikenda in the southeastern part of Kenya regarding the significance of the coconut tree in their lives. For the Mijikenda people, the coconut tree “was the very essence of life, the giver and sustenance of life and was embraced as the most important tree in the community” (Abuya 2013: 5).

Life Stories In this section, I present brief excerpts from the life histories of five Makonde men from the study villages to highlight their sentiments and concerns for the welfare of their family members. Mzee Salum6 is a 64-year-old resident of Msimbati village. His father, Mzee Musa, was from the Mzanaki tribe (kabila, or ethnic group). Employed as a soldier serving the British East African Command, he had traveled from Mara, Tarime, in northwestern Tanzania to Mtwara in the 1950s. While stationed in Mtwara, he married Salum’s mother, who was a Makonde. Two years later, Mzee Musa returned with his wife to Tarime, where Salum was born. Mzee Salum lived in Tarime with his parents until they divorced in 1958. He returned with his mother to Msimbati, where his mother married again. He was one of eight siblings, and all except one were alive in 2014. Mzee Salum grew up in rural Mtwara to become a relatively wealthy, enterprising man. He spent some of his formative years in two other coastal villages on the Mtwara peninsula—Msangamkuu 1967–1979, and in between in Mkubiru in 1972, where he initially took to fishing in 1966 and then to farming. Over the years, with the help of his family members, he was able to accumulate and cultivate large plots of land in and around Msimbati village, growing food grains and also cash crops such as cashew trees and coconut trees. At the time of the interview, Mzee Salum

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had married four times. He had divorced his first wife on grounds of incompatibility (tulishindwa kuvumiliana kwa kweli nikaona haifai kuishi) and was living with his three wives and several of his adult children and young grandchildren. Twelve of his children were alive. In 2014, he was living in Msimbati with four of his sons and eight of his daughters. His oldest daughter, of whom he was especially proud, was a schoolteacher; and two of his sons were living in Dar es Salaam. When asked to compare his current life with how it was when Julius Nyerere was Tanzania’s president (1961–1985), he spoke of it as a time when life was reasonably good, a time when it was difficult to earn money and money had immense value (thamani). By contrast, he spoke of the present as a time when money had lost its value—purchasing power—(pesa haina faidha, haina thamani). In remembering his past, he spoke of the wedding day of his first marriage as one of the happiest days in his life and the day his first son was born as another. He said, “I first thanked God for giving me a good wife and then I prayed hard so that he would bless us with a son, and really, my wife gave birth to our son and I was overjoyed.”7 Although Mzee Salum was one of the relatively wealthy residents of Msimbati village, he was among those who were very vocal about their losses and development insecurities resulting from the gas project in their midst. Mzee Salum explained to me in an interview how his initial outlook toward the gas project had changed from being pleased with the compensation to being shocked and disappointed (nilisikitikia) with what was on offer as the project was scaled up and a new company took over the operations. He acknowledged that the gas project was a national project and that it was meant for the development of the entire nation and not just the Mtwara Region, but he was very disappointed that they had taken large tracks of his farmland to drill new wells and to bury the main pipeline. He expressed how he often feels depressed, and his eyes well up with tears every time he walks to the plot of land that was once his farm. Now his former farm is fenced off, with a gas well in the middle and security guards patrolling its perimeter, carrying submachine guns. He feels cheated because he was forced to accept an unacceptable level of compensation: I can’t buy land with the compensation they have paid me. I was not expecting to get billions of TShillings in compensation, but I definitely wanted to receive a fair compensation that would be enough to help me and my family members to get on with our everyday lives. But that has not happened. I am really disappointed.


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Mzee Salum added that the government had intervened to justify a significantly lower compensation amount (one-fourth the original amount), leaving him and others with a deep sense of anguish and betrayal. There were many other villagers who echoed Mzee Salum’s sentiments in their interviews. Mzee Haji was one of them. Mzee Haji is a 37-year-old resident of Mtandi. Both of his parents were born in Mtandi. His grandmother was born in the neighboring village of Msangamkuu, while his grandfather was from Mozambique. Haji was one of seven children born to his parents: four sons and three daughters. After finishing his primary education in Msimbati (1985–1991), he attended the secondary school in Nanyembo (1992–1995) and finished form 4 (eleventh grade). He was unable to continue his studies because of a family emergency; his mother died unexpectedly in 1995, and his father died shortly thereafter. He had to return to Mtandi to take care of his siblings. Given the circumstances, he “had no choice but to get married” at that young age because he needed a wife who could take care of his siblings and also manage the household. At the time of the interview in 2014, he was married to the same woman and was living with his two children, a fourteen-year-old son who was studying in high school (form 1) and a six-year-old daughter. After trying his hand at a number of small businesses and short-term jobs, he settled down to lead the life of a farmer. He had benefited a lot, economically, from trading with people from the Mozambique side, who would bring sea cucumbers ( jongoo) to Msimbati. Mzee Haji would buy the sea cucumbers from the Mozambican fishers and sell them to traders in Mtwara, who in turn would sell them to Chinese buyers in Dar es Salaam. He also sold octopuses to traders in Mtwara, who would forward the octopuses to the fish markets in Dar es Salaam. Although he had several siblings to take care of following his parents’ death, he spoke of his life in the past as being much better than the present; in the past he was able to do business with people from the Mozambican side, but he was finding it increasingly difficult to continue with his sea cucumber business because of government restrictions on the trade in sea cucumbers. He spoke of the past as happier times, and he particularly recalled the happiest day in his life, when he received the news that he was the only student from Msimbati village who was selected to join the high school in Nanyembo. Reflecting on how the gas project had affected him and his family, he explained:

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In 2011 or 2012 when they did an assessment of the land and trees that would go under the project, for compensation, they had agreed to pay a certain amount per square meter of land. Then the government representatives came and explained to us that this project is for the benefit of the entire community and not just individuals who have lost their land and trees to the project, so the compensation rates [viwango] would be brought down. We were really shocked; we started the litigation but nothing happened. . . . So we think that this gas project is a big loss to us. . . . In 2005–2006, they paid us Tsh25,000 for each coconut tree that we had lost to the project, and now they’ve increased it to Tsh100,000 for each coconut tree, but it is still a big loss because we have to divide that money among our children, who would have otherwise enjoyed the benefits of each of the coconut trees over the next fifty or seventy years, and they’ll have to pass on their share to their children and so on; coconut trees are not like cashew trees; Tsh100,000 is just not enough as compensation because it’ll be used by me, my children, and my grandchildren—but a coconut tree can serve us for seventy years, and it is worth millions of Tshillings over its lifetime.

In the above segment from his interview, Haji expresses why he was so troubled by the compensation that he was offered for his losses. He, along with other villagers, expresses his sense of helplessness with the government’s interference in the matter and his fear that he will not have coconut trees to pass on to his children and his grandchildren. In his interview he spoke of the present as a time of insecurity and uneasiness. Mzee Saidi is a 44-year-old resident of Msimbati. Both of his parents and grandparents were born and raised in Msimbati. He was one of seven children born to his parents, and in 2014, only two of his siblings were alive. Saidi was keen to attend high school after finishing his primary education but was unable to do so because of his family’s difficult economic situation. Saidi describes himself as a farmer, but he also trades with people from the Mozambique side of the Ruvuma River. He married when he was very young, and so he divorced his first wife because they were unhappy as a couple; he married again and divorced his second wife as well. At the time of the interview, he was living with his third wife and their two children. Mzee Saidi voiced his feelings about the gas project: This gas project makes me want to cry. I have lost my entire farmland to the project. . . . They had promised that they would provide employment to hundreds of people from the village on the project,


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but so far they have employed only a small number of people mainly to do some temporary survey work and to dig the trenches for the pipeline.

Several respondents echoed Mzee Saidi’s comments that the gas project had not lived up to the promise of providing gainful, longterm employment especially to the village youth, so that their income could bring prosperity to the village, where many households had lost their farmlands and trees to the project. Mzee Athumani is a 75-year-old resident of Msimbati village. He was born in Msimbati in 1939 and raised in Ruvuma, a few miles away from Msimbati, by his grandparents, who were originally from Manga, Comoro Islands, before returning to Msimbati after his circumcision ( jandoo ceremony). Mzee Athumani’s parents were both born in Msimbati. He was one of nine children who were born to his mother. At the time of the interview in 2014, only two of his siblings were alive. Mzee Athumani got married in 1958 and had eight children (seven sons and one daughter), six of whom are alive. He divorced his first wife on grounds of incompatibility, married again, and has been living with his second wife ever since. He spent his youth working as a fisherman but gave up fishing to take up farming. At the time of the interview, he and his children (all adults) were growing cassava and sweet potato and tending to a large plot of cashew trees and coconut trees. Mzee Athumani remembers spending much of his life with bare necessities, but over time he had accumulated substantial farmland and was able to grow cash crops, especially cashew and coconuts. He had lost some of his farmland, cashew trees, and coconut palms to the gas project, for which he had received compensation. However, he was ambivalent toward the gas project and refrained from complaining overtly about it because the gas company had employed one of his sons, who was able to bring home a regular monthly salary. At the same time, he was concerned about the future of his other children, whose lives were filled with uncertainty. On the one hand, they no longer had their father’s farmland to grow food and cash crops on and, on the other hand, they could not rely on fishing in the ocean because of restrictions on fishing activities in the region. Even so, when asked to compare his present life with his life in the past, he said: In the past, everything was in short supply; we had difficulty in getting clothes; this is what I saw and experienced in the past; travel was also difficult. . . . Now we eat food grains that are from Songea; and

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today I can go to Mtwara town to attend a death/burial and come back the same day, so life has changed, but I am still worried about my children because I don’t have much to pass on to them. They ask me: “What are we going to eat? And what will our children eat?”

Although Mzee Athumani’s situation was better than many others who had not benefited in any way from the gas project, and although he spoke of the past as a time when life was difficult and marked by all kinds of shortages, as a parent, he was still concerned about the present and the future of his children and grandchildren because he really did not have much that he could pass on to them. Mzee Jamali is a 75-year-old resident of Msimbati. He was born in Msimbati but was raised in Mikindani for the first fourteen years of his life. His parents and grandparents were also born in Msimbati. He was one of five children born to his parents, two boys and three girls. Mzee Jamali had married twice and had five children from his marriages and several grandchildren. He had divorced his first wife a few years after his marriage, and, at the time of the interview in 2014, he was living with his second wife and two of his widowed sisters in Msimbati. Mzee Jamali owned a large plot of land in the Ruvula area, where he grew cassava and maize. The gas project had taken over his entire plot of land, which was chosen as the site for the installation of the gas-fired power plant in Ruvula. Because of this, he had to forfeit hundreds of cashew trees and coconut palms to the gas project in return for compensation that pushed him and his household members to live a precarious life filled with everyday insecurity. He lamented that he had spent all the money he had received as compensation and had nothing to give to his children and grandchildren. Consequently, many of them had outmigrated to other parts of Tanzania, and in the process he had lost contact with them. He explained: I don’t have any money. My life is really very bad. If you ask anyone around in my neighborhood, they’ll all tell you that this man’s life is really very bad. My children do not have the means to support me and I myself don’t have the strength/energy to do anything. I have not eaten anything since morning. My wife—who bore my children—her condition is also bad, but her condition is a little better than mine. I’m afraid of hunger (no food), money, and health. No money, no food. I don’t have my farmland anymore. I lost it to the gas project.

Mzee Jamali was not only worried about his desperate situation but also concerned that he was unable to keep his children and grandchildren close to him because they had all migrated out of Msimbati


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village in search of a livelihood. Consequently, Mzee Jamali had lost contact with his family members.

Conclusion The Wamakonde people of coastal rural Mtwara are experiencing social transformation that is fast unfolding, leaving many long-term residents to wonder about their livelihoods and the future of their families, children, and grandchildren. While media representations of Mtwara are being couched in the language of a “gas bonanza” amid Tanzania’s proclamation that it would become a middle-income gas-exporting economy in the next few years, the majority of the ordinary Makonde people who live in the coastal villages are experiencing intensified insecurities. The project has dispossessed many families of their ancestral farmlands and directly threatened their livelihoods and food security. Thus, the Makonde men’s narratives examined in this chapter index a range of negative experiences in regard to the displacement and dispossession caused by the gas project. In addition to feeling betrayed by the political leaders, people are displeased with the gas project because many have lost their ancestral farmlands to the project and feel that they have been ill compensated. For the majority of the Makonde men who participated in my research, their food security concerns were not so much about the present as about the future, about their next generation. Hence their persistent rhetorical question: “And what will our children eat?” In their narratives, men such as Mzee Salum, Mzee Haji, Mzee Saidi, Mzee Athumani, and Mzee Jamali expressed their indignation at being dispossessed of their ancestral farmlands; they expressed their disillusionment regarding the ongoing perceived social injustice. In a context where there is very little flexibility to switch between livelihood strategies, the Makonde who live in the coastal villages of rural Mtwara are disappointed with the government’s handling of their predicament in the name of national development. To conclude, in Tanzania, at a time when the country’s political leadership has described the gas development activities in rural Mtwara as “blessings upon blessings” (Poncian 2014), many Makonde men in rural Mtwara see the gas project as yet another cause of their marginalization. As good Muslims and as nurturing, responsible parents, Makonde men such as those represented in this chapter are deeply concerned about the long-term impact of their

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dispossession on their families. They are especially concerned about the future of their children and grandchildren, who they know are less likely to inherit any property from them in the form of ancestral land and trees. In other words, they see the loss of their livelihood-related assets as delimiting their traditional role as caregivers. As Naguib (2015) notes, “Caregiving is embedded in practices, discourses, controversies, and principles that are not always easily categorized” (34). The narrators’ words recounted in this chapter about the loss of their farmlands and cash crops, such as coconut and cashew trees, reveal not only their sense of vulnerability but also the challenges stemming from the insecure means of earning their livelihoods. Ultimately, any efforts to ameliorate the perceived injustices meted out to the Makonde people who have lost their sources of livelihoods to an extractive project must address not only their economic, social, and structural vulnerabilities but also their local moral worlds.

Vinay R. Kamat is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. His research interests include medical anthropology, global health, childhood malaria, marine conservation, extractive industry, political ecology in East Africa, and the outsourcing of clinical drug trials in India. Kamat is the author of Silent Violence: Global Health, Malaria, and Child Survival in Tanzania, among numerous other academic publications.

Notes 1. The Swahili coast commonly refers to the coastline of East Africa, particularly that of Kenya and Tanzania. The people who inhabit the Swahili coast are commonly referred to as the Waswahili (the Swahili), and they predominantly speak the Kiswahili language (Caplan 2007). 2. The Republic of Tanganyika (independent in 1961) and the Republic of Zanzibar (independent in 1963) formed a union in 1964 to become the new nation-state of Tanzania. 3. Narrative representations of women from the study villages in regard to their disposition toward the gas project implemented in their villages are the subject of a different paper. 4. Villagers add coconut milk to many of their dishes, especially rice and fish curry. It is a very valuable source of fats (and consequently energy), especially in a population in which chronic malnutrition (stunting) is very high.


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5. US$1 = TSh1,600 in 2014. 6. All proper names in this chapter are pseudonyms. 7. Nilimwomba mungu anisaidie kwa nimzae mtoto wangu wa kwanza na awe wakiume na kweli mwenye zi mungu alinisaidia nikupata mtoto wakiume kweli nilifurahi sana.

References Abuya, Willice O. 2013. “What Is in a Coconut? An Ethnoecological Analysis of Mining, Social Displacement, Vulnerability, and Development in Rural Kenya.” African Studies Quarterly 14(1–2): 1–21. ———. 2015. “Mining Conflicts and Corporate Social Responsibility: Titanium Mining in Kwale, Kenya.” The Extractive Industries and Society 3(2): 485–93. Caplan, Patricia Ann. 2007. “‘But the Coast, of Course, Is Quite Different’: Academic and Local Ideas about the East African Littoral.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 1(2): 305–20. Kamat, Vinay. 2014. “‘The Ocean Is Our Farm’: Marine Conservation, Food Insecurity, and Social Suffering in Southeastern Tanzania.” Human Organization 73(3): 289–98. ———. 2017. “Powering the Nation: Natural Gas Development and Distributive Justice in Tanzania.” Human Organization 76(4): 304–314. Katikiro, Robert E., Edison D. Macusi, and K. H. M. Ashoka Deepananda. 2015. “Challenges Facing Local Communities in Tanzania in Realising Locally-Managed Marine Areas.” Marine Policy 51: 220–29. Kraal, Peiter J. 2005. “A Grammar of Makonde (Chinnima, Tanzania) 2005.” Ph.D. diss., Leiden University. Lal, Priya. 2015. African Socialism in Postcolonial Tanzania: Between the Village and the World. New York: Cambridge University Press. Ledesma, David. 2013. East Africa Gas: Potential for Export. Oxford: Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, University of Oxford. Liebenow, J Gus. 1971. Colonial Rule and Political Development in Tanzania: The Case of the Makonde. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. Lokina, Razack and Anthony Leiman. 2014. “Managing Natural Resources for Sustainable Growth and Human Development in Tanzania—The Case of Extractive Industry.” ESRF Discussion Paper. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Economic and Social Research Foundation. Mangora, Mwita M., Mwanahija S. Shalli, and Daudi J. Msangameno. 2014. “Livelihoods of Coastal Communities in Mnazi Bay-Ruvuma Estuary Marine Park, Tanzania.” In Vulnerability of Agriculture, Water and Fisheries to Climate Change: Toward Sustainable Adaptation Strategies, ed. M. S. M. Mohamed Behnassi, Gopalchandran Ramchandran, and Kirit N. Shelat, 271–87. New York and London: Springer.

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Middleton, John. 1992. The World of the Swahili. New Haven: Yale University Press. Mihanjo, E. P. and N. N. Luanda. 1998. “The Southeast Economic Backwater and the Urban Floating Wamachinga.” In The Making of a Periphery: Economic Development and Cultural Encounters in Southern Tanzania, ed. Pekka Seppäla and Bertha Koda, 222–232. Seminar Proceedings No. 32. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet. Naguib, Nafissa. 2015. Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food, and Family in Contemporary Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press. Pedersen, Rasmus Bundsbaek and Peter Bofin. 2015. “The Politics of Gas Contract Negotiations in Tanzania: A Review.” Danish Institute for International Studies Working Paper 2015: 03, Copenhagen. Poncian, Japhace. 2014. “Embracing Natural Gas Discovery and Extraction as a Blessing for Equitable and Sustainable Benefits to Tanzania.” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 19(6): 55–61. Saetersdal, Tore. 1999. “Symbols of Cultural Identity: A Case Study from Tanzania.” African Archaeological Review 16(2): 121–35. Seppäla, Pekka. 1998a. Diversification and Accumulation in Rural Tanzania: Anthropological Perspectives on Village Economics. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet. ———. 1998b. “Introduction.” In The Making of a Periphery: Economic Development and Cultural Encounters in Southern Tanzania, ed. Pekka Seppäla and Bertha Koda, 7–36. Seminar Proceedings No. 32. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet. Seppäla, Pekka and Bertha Koda, eds. 1998. The Making of a Periphery: Economic Development and Cultural Encounters in Southern Tanzania. Seminar Proceedings No. 32. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet. Shanghvi, Ian, and John Antony Kiang’u Jingu. 2013. “Tanzania and the Quest for Sustainable Utilization of Oil and Natural Gas.” ESRF Discussion Paper. Dar es Salaam: Economic and Social Research Foundation. The United Republic of Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics. 2016. Basic Demographic and Socio-Economic Profile Based On 2012 Population and Housing Census [Mtwara region]. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Walley, Christine. 2004. Rough Waters: Nature and Development in an Eastern African Marine Park. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Wembah-Rashid, J. A. R. 1998. “Is Culture in South-Eastern Tanzania Development Unfriendly?” In The Making of a Periphery: Economic Development and Cultural Encounters in Southern Tanzania, ed. Pekka Seppäla and Bertha Koda, 39–57. Seminar Proceedings No. 32. Uppsala: Nordiska Afrikainstitutet.

Chapter 13



he headlines were filled with the news of another tragedy of migrants perishing at sea on their way to Europe from the Middle East, this time with passengers from Afghanistan and Syria. On 20 January 2014, eleven Afghans, eight children and three women, died when their small vessel sank off the Greek island of Farmakonisi. The Greek news stations in Athens broadcast the arrival of the sixteen survivors at the port of Piraeus; they were soaked in sea water and tears of grief from the loss of their families. The two men interviewed about the incident on television could barely speak; yet somehow they managed to expel the sequence of events in between mournful cries. When their fishing boat crossed the sea border of Turkey and landed in Greek waters, they were intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard, whose crew attempted to push them back into Turkish territory. One of the survivors, an Afghan man who lost his wife and four children, described how, once they were attached to the coastguard vessel, it took off at a speed so high that it caused their boat to capsize. The survivors frantically described how the officers not only refused to help the women and children flailing in the freezing waters

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but also hurled obscenities at them and prevented them from boarding and ultimately left them to drown. The videos and images of the two devastated men, one holding an infant that managed to survive, brought the politically controversial issue of the abuses and deaths of migrants crossing the Mediterranean and Aegean seas to everyone’s attention; however, like many other incidents, it was only for another sensational moment before ultimately being dismissed and forgotten by the media and the public. I came much closer to the tragedy at Farmakonisi than simply viewing the survivors through a screen, when Hussein, a young man from Afghanistan with whom I spoke frequently, invited me to go to one of the unofficial Afghan mosques in Athens to meet with some of the survivors of the incident. The building was a large warehouse space with tapestry lined walls, crimson colored carpets covering the cold concrete floor, and an expansive heavy curtain dividing the men’s and women’s prayer spaces. I felt overwhelmed by the emotional weight being shared by the one hundred or more men sitting cross-legged on the floor against the four walls of the main room. Hussein led me across the center of the room and invited me to sit in the far corner near the curtain but unexpectedly, and I admit uncomfortably, on the side with the men. I kept offering to take a spot with the women, so I wouldn’t disrupt the solemnity of the occasion with my presence as the only woman in the clearly male defined space, but Hussein insisted I remain there next to him. Not speaking the language, and clearly out of place, I was left to focus on the sensorial and emotional intensity of the experience. As we waited for the survivors to arrive, I listened to the deep and repetitive tonal sound penetrating the atmosphere from speakers in each corner of the room. The men, seated closely to one another, quietly prayed with heavy solemn expressions on their faces. When the survivors entered the room looking exhausted and shredded with grief, several men stood and helped them walk to the front of the room, where they were seated side by side. The imam began to address the crowd in Pashto, and soon most of the men in the room were in tears. As each moment passed, the level of raw emotion increased until we were all visibly immersed in the experience of their exquisite collective pain. This experience of sharing such a level of heightened emotional and sensory experience among a large group of Muslim men was incredibly painful; yet it was also profound to participate in such a deeply human experience in a male dominated space that is often stereotypically characterized as repressive and violent. This vignette


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captures several themes that this chapter addresses as it presents the ways many Muslim migrant men in Greece express their masculinity through often extraordinary acts of moral intimacy that are rarely conveyed. In the tumultuous context of rapidly changing political, cultural, and economic conditions in Greece, Muslim refugee and migrant men struggle to provide much-needed care and protection to their fellow Muslim migrants—both living and dead. In the middle of an intense period of social unrest, widespread unemployment, and severe economic crisis, Greece continues to be the primary point of entry for all mixed migrants (a term used by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to designate economic migrants, refugees, and victims of trafficking who travel together along the same routes) entering the European Union. The majority of migrants who have been entering through Greece’s eastern land and sea borders since 2012 come from the Middle East, China, South Asia, Central Asia, and Africa, and many of these people are Muslim. However, with the ongoing civil war in Syria, as well as the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the highest numbers of refugees are coming to Greece from these countries. Given the current economic and political situation in Greece, accommodating the overwhelming needs of migrants and refugees arriving in the country continues to be a herculean task, especially since the overwhelming number of people have crossed the Aegean from Turkey to the Greek islands. In 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that more than one million arrived in Greece via the Aegean Sea, more than half of whom were Syrian. The IOM also reported 3,700 deaths at sea; however, the number of deaths is assumed to be much higher because they are unable to account for many people who were lost at sea. As of April 2018, the IOM reports that 602,506 migrants have arrived in Europe since January 2016, with 221,937 in Greece and 309,873 in Italy. Although the number of people entering Europe has decreased significantly from over a million who entered in 2015, the ratio of deaths to the number of arrivals has dramatically increased. One in forty-seven people died at sea while trying to reach Europe in 2016, which amounts to 4,655 deaths that have been accounted for (IOM 2018). This chapter highlights the shared commitment of various Muslim migrant men in Greece to caring for the living and dead among them. The case studies for this research reveal that the role of religion and religious identity among these men was often a secondary consideration when confronted with the issue of helping those

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in need. As several anthropologists have shown, the misconception that “Muslim” is the primary identity for those who follow various forms of Islam essentializes what it is to be a Muslim, thereby disregarding or erasing other forms of identity people may privilege over their religious affiliation (see Abu-Lughod 1989; Grillo 2004; Silverstein 2004). This chapter is based on three years of ethnographic research in Athens with several trips to Lesvos Island in 2009 and from 2013 to 2016. The narratives and data are drawn from a combination of unstructured and semi-structured interviews with Muslim men from Afghanistan, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria, and Pakistan. The interviews were conducted primarily in Greek and English, with the aid of several local translators in each of the languages of the participants. Other methods of data gathering included the use of social networks established on social media like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Viber to aid refugees in the movement from their countries of origin into Europe. Through several case studies drawn from this research, the chapter explores men’s ritual practices, personal sentiments, and collective sense of religious obligation to care for the living and the dead in Athens, where economic, political, and social conditions are rife with tension and severe hardship. What we see is that care and the obligation to care are central to what it means to be a pious, upstanding Muslim. Such an approach to care highlights that it is not identity that is central to how men who are Muslim engage in daily life, but instead it is the practice of care through which they perform the emotional work of being in community with others.

“We Want to Care for the Dead, but First We Must Take Care of the Living” Hussein and I met for the first time in March 2013 at the office of the Afghan Community Center located near Omonia Square in central Athens. On a sweltering day in August, I sat across the table from him and explained that I was interested in learning about how Muslim migrants in Athens took care of the dead in a city without a Muslim cemetery. He calmly replied, “We want to care for the dead, but first we must take care of the living.” He continued: Our people are the poorest. Many people don’t have enough food to eat or a place to live. There are no jobs and no support from the


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government or anywhere. And the streets are not safe. Members of Golden Dawn are beating up men and leaving them in the streets. We respect the dead, but we have many problems for the living that we must face every day. Wait, and in time I will show you what is happening in this country.

Two days later, Hussein invited me to meet him in Omonia Square to share something with me. When I arrived, we greeted each other, and then he gestured for me to follow him. I asked him where we were going, but he remained vague, simply stating he had some people he wanted me to meet. A short distance away, we entered one of the many cheap residential hotels in the area that are often occupied by migrants. We were waiting in the dark, musty lobby when a young Afghan woman descended the staircase, warmly greeted us, and then led us back up the stairs with her. She took us to her room, where we met her mother, Fatima, who was seated in the bed with her legs covered with a blanket. I smiled and stood quietly to the side as Hussein seemed to explain to her who I was and why he brought me to her room. Suddenly, he told me to come over to the bed because he wanted to show me something. I stood beside the bed looking at the woman’s back as Hussein slowly lifted the shawl that had been covering her. I was stunned. A large metal rod protruded from her back, which was bright red and enflamed. Hussein explained to me that she had been shot by the Taliban in Afghanistan, which injured her spinal column. Before coming to Greece, she had a metal rod surgically implanted into her back to support her spine. A few weeks ago, the rod broke and pierced her lower back, leaving her in her current state. She was rushed to the public hospital, where she had to wait twenty-four hours to see a doctor. Widespread austerity measures and an ongoing economic crisis have left hospitals in Greece seriously understaffed and without sufficient supplies and resources. When the doctor finally saw her, he had to turn her away because they were not equipped to deal with such an injury. She would have to go home and try to get an appointment with a specialist at a different hospital. However, because she is a refugee, she had to first get through to her caseworker, who would then try to arrange things for her. This was a process that was far too lengthy and cumbersome for a woman in excruciating pain with a metal rod protruding from her lower back. Hussein explained that he had been trying for a few weeks to help this woman, but he continued to be met with excuses, unanswered calls, and dead ends.

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We wished the woman well and followed the daughter back down to the lobby, where we sat to speak with her. Hussein explained that the young woman was a student in his English class. It was difficult for her to attend because her father did not allow it. He was a violent man who often beat her and her mother, even in her current state. Hussein was working hard to get her mother well so he could help the mother and daughter leave the father, get their refugee papers, and then move to Germany, where they had other relatives waiting for them. In the meantime, he tried to support the daughter with her studies as much as possible and encouraged her to be patient and stay strong until they could leave. Hussein is a 25-year-old man from Afghanistan who had been living in Greece for the past ten years. When he was fifteen years old, his father was shot by the Taliban, leaving him, his mother, and his brother to fend for themselves. The three of them went to Iran, where they tried to settle in but ultimately decided that Hussein should go to Europe and try to bring the rest of them over. So, he left Iran on foot, on his own, and made his way into Greece by crossing the Aegean Sea well before the experience became a topic in the mainstream Western media. During his first few years in Greece, he had been held for a year at Pagani, one of the worst detention facilities in the country and located on Lesvos Island. It was closed several years ago due to its inhumane living conditions. While incarcerated, Hussein managed to teach himself English and then proceeded to teach other young boys who arrived after him. Once released from Pagani, Hussein found his way to Athens, where he experienced another year of hardship and misfortune living on the streets, homeless and left to fend for himself. He eventually arrived at the growing Afghan community, where he found social support and refuge. From the time he arrived in Greece until this day, he has dedicated his life to helping fellow Afghan refugees. His grasp of the English language, his knowledge of the asylum process, and his ability to navigate the volatile environment of Greek politics made him an indispensable advocate for his community. Hussein’s biggest problem arose when his application for asylum was finally reviewed after eight years of living in a state of legal limbo. The reviewer noted his fluency in Greek, his general state of health and well-being, and his deep knowledge of how things worked in the country and denied his asylum request on the grounds that he did not look or act like a refugee. The Greek state granted him a long-term, but temporary, migrant permit, which allows him to re-


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main in the country and work, which he continues to do in support of the Afghan community as well as other refugees in the country (for an in-depth analysis of the Greek asylum process, see Cabot 2015). Although Hussein is an activist and a leader in his community, his commitment to caring for fellow Afghans, and fellow refugees in general, is not unique, nor are the problems he addresses. Many of the issues he highlighted in the events of one day in his life can also be found in the narratives of Muslim men from other countries. When dealing with the range of concerns and experiences, such as those described in the narrative above, incredibly difficult choices must be made about how and where to allocate time and resources. These are choices that transform the expectations of what the Muslim men with whom I spoke hold to be true, to be right, or to be wrong. The everyday effects of major political and economic policies in the lives of these migrant men cut to the core of how they perceive life and death. Using the “optic of death” to “defamiliarize society” (Seremetakis 1991), this chapter reveals what the handling of the dead tells us about notions of “human dignity,” how those ideas contribute to what it means to be human, and, in the cases presented here, what it means to be a Muslim man. The widespread practice of Muslim men caring for other Muslims in Athens reveals a less acknowledged compassionate and humane side of masculinity among Muslim men. Throughout his years living in Greece, Hussein has dedicated himself to protect the vulnerable, to recognize the invisible, and to advocate better conditions for all refugees residing in, stuck in, or passing through Greece. Hussein demonstrates his role as a protector of those who are vulnerable, such as the woman and her daughter in the narrative above. To provide care for Fatima’s injury, Hussein carefully navigated the physically and emotionally unsafe intimate space of her family and those of an overtaxed resource-stripped Greek health system and the overwhelmed Greek Refugee Asylum office. While his role as an advocate in the Greek institutions may be viewed as characteristically masculine, his presence in the very intimate and feminine space of Fatima’s bedroom, where he was allowed to lift her shawl and expose her bare back to me, transcended stereotypical rigid gendered divisions. In that moment, Hussein was a caring human being who was there to help another human being in terrible pain. This very simple statement reveals a core sentiment between strangers that often becomes mired in popular rhetoric depicting an impenetrable divide

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between Muslim men and women. In this scenario, Hussein’s actions can be characterized as both masculine and feminine and neither masculine nor feminine, but definitely intimate and inspired by a sense of morality. After leaving Fatima’s hotel, Hussein and I walked a few short blocks to the Afghan Community Center. Seated at the table, he presented me with several folders and opened them one by one. Each folder had a photo of a young boy or man with notes written in combinations of English, Greek, and Dari attached. He held up one photo and explained: This is Mohammad. He’s fourteen years old and he’s disappeared. His parents are in Afghanistan and have been trying to reach him, but he doesn’t answer. I’ve been calling the prisons, hospitals, morgues, and detention centers to see if I can locate him. The story is the same for these other boys.

He then took a piece of paper and began drawing a map to show me the location of all of the detention camps in Greece at the time. “I have gone to every camp and recorded the names and phone numbers of every Afghan being held in them. I want them to know that someone cares about them and knows they are there. It’s terrible the way they are treated, like animals, not even human.” During one of our visits at the Afghan Community Center, Hussein informed me that by showing up to physically acknowledge the existence of the Afghans in the camps, he not only affirmed their own sense of humanity but also showed the police that they had been seen and accounted for. Writing about moral responsiveness, Butler (2009: 51) explains, “The critique of violence must begin with the question of the representability of life itself: what allows a life to become visible in its precariousness and its need for shelter, and what is it that keeps us from seeing or understanding certain lives in this way?” Hussein’s presence created a moment during which the detention officers were forced to engage with the detainees as human beings who mattered. The events described above took place two years ago; the reality in Greece is even harsher today, as more austerity measures have been imposed since then and the almost one million refugees that have entered the country in the past year are facing a crisis of rejection from most European countries. In the course of several hours of one day, Hussein presented me with the dramatic reality of what it means to care for the living and the dead among Afghan refugees in Athens, Greece. For Hussein, care is an issue of social justice and


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securing human rights for the most vulnerable groups. He skillfully navigated between the intimacy of caring for wounded bodies, like Fatima’s, and working to transform the structural and institutional mechanisms that render his people as those to be feared, pitied, or ignored. Confronting the most intimate experiences of social suffering, Hussein fights against exhaustion and despair resulting from a decade of struggling to be recognized and to be heard among those in his community, within the Greek state system, across the European Union, and ultimately across the globe.

Old Muslims and New Muslim Migrants One of the most pressing issues that faces Hussein and Muslim migrants from other communities in Greece is the burial of those who die in Greece. The first choice among the majority of migrants with whom I have worked is to repatriate the remains to the country of origin. While ideal, this process involves time, money, and access to a consulate or embassy, requirements that are often not available to migrant communities in Athens, particularly under the current conditions of austerity. While my research indicates that repatriation is generally preferred among migrants, it is important to note that for most Muslims, having an Islamic burial is not an option in Greece unless the remains are transported to Thrace, where there is a legally protected Muslim minority that can accommodate them. The “Muslim minority” in Thrace was legally recognized in Section III, Articles 37–45 of the Treaty of Peace (also known as the Treaty of Lausanne), which was signed by Greece and Turkey in July 1923 as the final dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of boundaries in eastern Thrace. In the aftermath of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922 and prior to the ratification of this document, both countries signed the Convention on the Exchange of Populations in January 1923, which involved the movement of 1.5 million people across the Aegean Sea. The articles of the convention provided for the compulsory departure of Muslim persons living in Greece and Turkey and Greek Orthodox persons living in Turkey and Greece. However, exceptions exempted Greek Orthodox persons living in Constantinople (Istanbul) as well as Muslim people living in Western Thrace from removal. These populations comprise Turkish speakers, Pomaks, and Roma, all of whom are identified as Greek citizens of

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Muslim faith by the Greek state. Under the Treaty of Lausanne, this minority (based on the legally unifying category “Muslim”) is entitled to enjoy educational, linguistic, and religious freedom. Most of the Muslims in the region are Sunni, with the exception of a few villages in the Evros Prefecture, where there is a concentration of followers of the Alevi-Bektashi sect (Hüseyinoğlu 2010: 3). The “new Muslim migrant” is someone who has come to Greece from another country sometime between the late twentieth century and the present. Temporal references as “new” or “old” not only distinguish the legal status of different Muslim groups in Greece but also highlight how ideologies based on historical relationships between Greece and Turkey are renewed and rearticulated through this new category. Among new Muslims, the population of Arab (Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, and Iraqi) and Egyptian Muslims comprise some of the oldest and most organized Muslim immigrant communities in Greece. Other major Muslim groups include those from Pakistan, Sudan, Morocco, and Afghanistan, and the number of Muslims arriving from West African countries, such as Nigeria, is growing. Given the extraordinary cultural and linguistic diversity of Muslims in the country and the complexity of Islamic legal and theological theory and cultural practice, in this chapter, I refer to “Muslims” and “Islam” specifically with regard to their relation to the Greek church and state. Beyond the desire or religious need to be buried separately from people of other faiths, the nature of Greek funerary practices creates additional obstacles that prevent Muslims from being buried in non-Muslim areas of Greece, particularly in major cities. For example, in Athens, as a result of space limitations in cemeteries, burial plots are rented for a period of three to five years, during which the body is interred and then ideally fully decomposed. At the end of this period, the bones are removed from the temporary grave, placed in a container, and moved to a communal ossuary. In Islam, as in Christianity, death is viewed as a continuation of life in another state of existence, rather than an end. The Qur’an and the Hadith provide detailed prescriptions regarding the washing of the deceased, the shrouding of the body, the funeral, the burial, and the transition from life in this world to the afterlife. Although the cultural variation and theological interpretations of Islamic burial rituals vary widely, currently the practice of disinterring human remains is an unacceptable funerary practice for Muslims in Greece, thus making it undesirable to be buried in a Greek cemetery.


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Local responses are only one of the, albeit major, obstacles to having a mosque and cemetery built anywhere near Athens. Political and bureaucratic complications are equally challenging. For example, in 2009, the Church donated thirty acres of land for a Muslim cemetery to be built in Schisto, an area near Piraeus. The initial piece of land was deemed inappropriate because it sits on bedrock, which is unsuitable for the depth one must dig for a Muslim grave. The Church offered another piece of land nearby, but the cemetery has yet to be built because the deed for use has not been transferred, the zoning is incomplete, and the land has yet to be classified as intermunicipal to allow Muslims from other municipalities to be buried there. Paralleling the deepening of economic issues in Greece is the rise of Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi group (now the third largest political party in the country). Members of Golden Dawn openly commit daily acts of racially motivated violence against immigrants, and Muslim communities and individuals are the most frequent targets. While the issue of racial violence is a topic in its own right, it is connected to the building of a mosque and a Muslim cemetery. In 2014, attempts to build a mosque were postponed because it became impossible to find contractors willing to take on the project out of fear of violent reprisal from members of Golden Dawn. These fears are not unfounded, as attacks on Muslim community centers, prayer spaces, homes, and individuals occurred frequently during the former New Democracy administration under former prime minister Antonis Samaras. With the election of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Syriza Party in January 2015, racist violence and the dominant presence of Golden Dawn subsided significantly. However, with the signing of the recent controversial agreement regarding the management of refugees arriving from Turkey into Greece, there appears to be an increase in violent attacks orchestrated by the neo-Nazi group. This may contribute to additional delays in having a mosque and a cemetery constructed during a period when the demand for both is growing rapidly as a result of the significant increase in the number of refugees who must now remain in Greece.

Moving the Dead across Borders In Athens, the repatriation process can take anywhere from a few days to a year, depending on several factors, such as the amount

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of funds available, the size and level of organization of the migrant community, and how quickly a contact can be reached to receive the body in the country of origin. For example, Nigerian and Pakistani migrants benefit greatly from having an embassy in Athens for each of their respective countries. There are approximately thirty thousand Pakistanis living in Athens today, which means there is a large pool of resources, even if individually small, that can be drawn on to support the expense of repatriation. Designated individuals are paid to manage the repatriation process, so bereaved individuals do not have to navigate the complex system of Greek bureaucracy when trying to secure the proper paperwork to transport the body. The embassy of Pakistan also provides administrative and financial support for repatriating remains from Greece. Currently, it costs €1,500 to send human remains to Pakistan, a price that includes the administrative fees, airfare, and costs for the preparations required to transport the body. Pakistanis in Greece have become established enough to create a system of insurance, in which a person may pay a yearly membership fee to belong to an organization that will ensure that the costs of repatriating their remains will be covered. Thousands of people contribute a set amount so that the funds are generally available to everyone. For those who do not belong to one of these organizations, friends or acquaintances will go “doorto-door” and collect donations from individuals, businesses, and organizations to raise the money to send their friend’s remains back to Pakistan. The Afghan community is also large, but in general the population tends to be poorer than many of the other communities, which makes collecting donations even more challenging. In Hussein’s experience, many Afghans in his community are reluctant to donate to the care of the dead and as mentioned earlier prefer to focus on the living. He explained: They say I collect money for alive people, not dead people. They say, “Sorry guy, when people are dead they are ugly. . . .” For me they are not ugly. They are human. If you want to respect them, you have to bury people and respect people in every religion that they want, in every religion that they are . . . When you are born you have a lot of people around you. When you die, you don’t have no one. It’s crazy, but for me, I don’t know. I really cannot understand.

Although each community (and the individuals within it) faces its own particular challenges, there are some specific steps that need to be taken to repatriate human remains from Greece to another


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country. First, when a migrant dies in the hospital, someone must come and identify the body and claim responsibility for the care of his or her remains. There have been some cases in which the hospital performs an autopsy on the corpse without consent of the family and without sensitivity to gender or religious concerns, such as the exposure of a nude female corpse to a male doctor or coroner. During the autopsy, the organs are removed and tested at the doctor’s discretion. Once the tests are complete the organs are destroyed, unless the next of kin demands otherwise through a lengthy and often ineffective process of gaining a court order. If there is no issue of criminality, the hospital will issue a death certificate for the deceased. The body will then remain in the hospital morgue until the designated person is able to provide the means to have the body transported to the funeral home to be prepared for transporting overseas. In the meantime, the responsible party will attempt to locate a family member of the deceased in the country of origin in order to determine what they would like to do with the remains of the deceased relative and if they have any resources available to assist with the process. Depending on the country of origin and the circumstances of the individual, this process can take anywhere from a few days to a year. However, the majority of my interlocutors cite the need to support the family abroad as the most important reason to repatriate remains. Karim, a forty-year-old man from Pakistan, explained his motivation for making the effort to send back the body of his friend who had died a year earlier: Do it for love for the family. So the family can feel like the body is close by. It doesn’t matter to the dead. The body becomes dirt again. I came from the dirt, and I go back to the dirt, wherever it is. But people send the bodies out of love for the families.

When there are not enough funds available to return the body to the country of origin, the next best option is to send the remains to Thrace, where they will receive a Muslim burial among the indigenous Muslim populations. When asked how they felt about being buried in Greece if necessary, all of the respondents expressed disappointment; however, they did not believe there would be religious or moral objections. Ousmane, a fifty-year-old man from Nigeria, explained: When I die, I prefer to go to my home country. If my fate says I must be buried here, I will be buried here. When I die, God takes my soul. The body, if it’s written, it will be buried here. I prefer my body to be

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buried at home. But I’ll be dead, I won’t know the difference. . . . It’s an issue of respecting the dead body. We bury the body in the dirt out of respect. Christian or Muslim bodies, we bury them out of respect for the dead.

Mohammad, a man from Pakistan who has managed to repatriate many bodies, informed me that when the funds cannot be raised to relocate the body to Thrace, the corpse remains in the morgue until the municipality either donates it to one of the medical schools in Athens or buries it in an unmarked and, as of yet, unknown location. To date, I have not been able to confirm how widespread either of these practices are. However, in some cases, the circulation of such practices has contributed to the anxieties about being buried abroad. Mohammad also explained that when it is impossible to repatriate the remains for any reason, people in his community will take a photograph of the corpse and send it to the family of the deceased in Pakistan. When asked why people go to all the trouble to care for the remains of others, he said, “There’s no custom. It’s just out of kindness to the other, to help someone. Here in Greece, there are many people who are very poor. So, we raise money in the community for the family. We do what we can to help.” In addition to contacting the family and raising the funds, the responsible person must tackle a complex bureaucratic process in order to obtain the necessary paperwork for the body to be transported across transnational borders. Several issues involved in repatriating remains may arise, such as missing personal documents (passport, identification, birth certificate, etc.) that are necessary to move a corpse across international borders, the indelicate treatment or mistreatment of bodies by hospital and funeral home staff during the preparation of the corpse for travel, and the lack of sensitivity regarding cultural needs concerning the treatment of female bodies (remaining covered, handled by only women, for example). Mohammad shared the experience of his friend, whose wife died in a hospital in Greece. He was incredibly distraught because he witnessed her naked, but half-covered being handled by hospital staff as they removed her body from the morgue. The experience was crushing for him, and he felt great shame for failing to protect his wife’s honor and dignity in death. He attempted to file a complaint, but nothing came of it. Even before staff reductions in hospitals and other municipal offices, Greece was unprepared to accommodate the needs of people who do not follow Greek Orthodox religious practices, which in some cases also includes Greeks.


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Other concerns involve the inconvenient or scarce resources to prepare the body according to Islamic practices regarding death. For example, the Pakistani community is large and has therefore been able to develop an informal arrangement with a few funeral directors, who unofficially deliver the corpse to a designated mosque (unofficial prayer hall), where the body will be washed and prepared according to the customs of Pakistani Muslims. Mustafa, who has been living in Athens for ten years, explained, Before burying the body, we have to wash them. You have to clean them. The person is dead; there are three people that wash him and put the shroud around him. They use a fragrance from Saudi Arabia called attar. They pour it on him so he will smell nice. They shroud the cloth around him, and then bury him directly in the dirt. Without a casket.

On the other hand, the Afghan and Nigerian communities do not have this arrangement; therefore, the bodies are delivered to the country of origin unprepared and must go through the rituals upon arrival. In some situations, as among several cases of Nigerian Muslims, the body may be prepared twice, once in Greece prior to departure and then again upon arrival in Nigeria. Once all the papers are in order, the body must be prepared for transport. Several communities, such as the Pakistani, the Sudanese, and the Lebanese communities, have established a rapport with particular funeral homes that allow them to pick up the bodies from the hospitals to take them (or have them transported) to their local mosque. The body is taken from the hospital to the mosque to be washed and shrouded before it is transported to the funeral home. At the funeral home, the body is then embalmed and placed in a sealed zinc-lined coffin, which is used to transport the remains. Once the body is ready, it is transported via charter plane or occasionally on a commercial plane back to the country of origin, where the family will proceed with the remaining rituals and burial of the remains. The intersection of death and migration raises questions regarding belonging and notions of home, community building, grief and mourning, the symbolic significance of the material body, and the state management of religious pluralism. The tensions surrounding the process of sending remains home and the burial practices that follow illustrate rituals and highlight social cohesion but may also reveal discontents and inequalities (Olwig 2009; Smid 2010). The men in this study showed how funerary practices among Muslim

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immigrants in Greece and cultural notions of death have been affected by contemporary migration to the Global North. By overcoming obstacles such as limited resources, hostile social contexts, and the challenge of religious pluralism, they have found ways to express their religious obligation and emotional commitment to providing a dignified burial, not only for their fellow Muslims but, for many of them, simply for other human beings. What these men have shown us is how their care and devotion to such intimate experiences can make the ordinariness of death (Arendt 1998 [1958]; Mbembe 2003) something extraordinary.

Conclusion As extreme-right populism and Islamophobia continue to rise throughout Europe and the United States, recognizing the humanity of Muslim men, particularly migrant men, has become a pressing issue. This chapter shows that Muslim migrant men are simply men and, as men, are also human beings. Anthropologists studying Islam and Muslims from around the world have collectively created a rich body of literature that highlights and explains the diversity among and within Muslim populations. In contrast, while recognizing these differences, this chapter focuses on that which is shared among the Muslim migrant men with whom I worked by looking at the ways they cared for those in need around them. My findings reveal a level of sensitivity, compassion, and care among these men that was most often motivated by a sense of doing what they believed was the right way to treat each other and human beings in general. They engaged in acts of moral intimacy that demonstrated a respect for maintaining a sense of integrity in life and providing a dignified death for their friends, loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers.

Tina Palivos is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Yale University. Between 2013 and 2016, she resided in Athens, Greece, where she conducted ethnographic research among Muslim migrants and refugees on the subjects of death, migration, and Islam. This research was partially funded by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement grant. Tina also holds a B.A. in anthropology and French studies from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in anthropology and Modern Greek Studies from San


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Francisco State University. She has conducted research on issues of migration policy and human rights in Greece, the European Union, and several regions in Africa and the Middle East.

References Abu-Lughod, Lila. 1989. “Zones of Theory in the Anthropology of the Arab World.” Annual Review of Anthropology 18: 267–306. Arendt, Hannah. 1998 [1958]. The Human Condition. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Butler, Judith. 2009. Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? London and New York: Verso. Cabot, Heath. 2015. On the Doorsteps of Europe: Asylum and Citizenship in Greece. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Grillo, R. D. 2004. “Islam and Nationalism.” In “Islam, Transnationalism and the Public Sphere in Western Europe.” Special issue, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 30: 861–78. Hüseyinoğlu, Ali. 2010. “Islam in Western Thrace after 1923: The Role of Internal and External Actors.” Paper presented at the conference After the Wahhabi Mirage: Islam, Politics, and International Networks in the Balkans, European Studies Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, June. IOM [International Organization of Migration]. 2018. “Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 20,927 in 2018; Deaths Reach 587.” Retrieved 29 April 2018 from Mbembe, Achille. 2003. “Necropolitics.” Public Culture 15(1): 11–40. Olwig, Karen Fog. 2009. “A Proper Funeral: Contextualizing Community among Caribbean Migrants.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15: 520–37. Seremetakis, C. Nadia. 1991. The Last Word. Women, Death, and Divination in Inner Mani. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Silverstein, Paul. 2004. Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race, and Nation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Smid, Karen. 2010. Resting at Creation and Afterlife: Distant Times in the Ordinary Strategies of Muslim Women in the Rural Fouta Djallon, Guinea. American Ethnologist 37(1): 36–52.

Chapter 14



he scale of human movement from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere over the past few years and continuing to this day evokes that of World War I and World War II, both events that reorganized the entire world. The ongoing refugee crisis has seen streams of individuals and families attempting to cross borders and continents—by sea, on foot, in cars, and on busses, trains, and bicycles— to find refuge in countries nearby and across the globe. This chapter is a study of Syrian refugees who crossed the Russian–Norwegian border on bicycle. The focus is on human crisis and family life, particularly the relationship between fathers and children, against a backdrop of vast upheaval in social and geographical settings. Azziz recounts: I did some investigating, looked up the map in my son’s school atlas and found it. Then I told my wife: “Let’s save the children. We will take them to Russia, from there to Norway.” No rotten boats and rough sea to put my wife and children through, no merciless traffickers, and only one European border to cross. We came here without warm clothes. It was my decision. I have to make it work. I am, until I die, an Arab father with deep traditions.


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This unprompted statement by a Syrian man from Hama who, with his family, trekked the Arctic route to Norway in search of security, connects to the extraordinary moment when the Arctic Circle became the precarious path taken by Syrian refugees in their pursuit of safety and shelter. This chapter recounts the stories of fathers like Azziz and their pursuit of safety for their families in the high north. Embedded in these travels from Syria to one of the coldest locations in the world are the stories of how gender, family, and parenthood are articulated and how forms of caring and nurturing are expressed.

The Coldest Place on Earth Of the approximately ten thousand Syrians who have applied for asylum in Norway, close to two thousand took the Arctic path into the country. Most Syrians managed that route by obtaining business or study visas for Russia and then traveling through Moscow, north to Murmansk, and on to the town of Nikel. There they bought bicycles, which they loaded into taxis that would drive them to the Russian–Norwegian frontier called Storskog, which is the only legal crossing point between Norway and Russia. Refugees then bicycle across the border, circumventing laws on both sides: Russia does not allow anyone to cross the border on foot and Norway does not admit drivers carrying people without documents, but there is no rule against cycling across. Leaving the bicycles behind, the men, women, and children are then driven to Kirkenes, the closest city, with an approximate population of thirty-five hundred, where refugees are temporarily accommodated. Kirkenes is in the North Norwegian county of Finnmark and is situated on a small fjord by the Barents Ocean, with open sea all the way to the North Pole. Its latitude is sixty-nine degrees north, roughly equivalent to that of Point Hope in Alaska, and its longitude, thirty degrees east, which places it due north of Alexandria, Egypt. Initial fieldwork for this chapter began in Oslo in the fall of 2015, when I was an active participant in the Refugees Welcome to Norway (RWTN) food distribution efforts. Several of the Syrian families I met then had taken the Arctic route to Norway, and I decided to investigate this “new” route myself. From the winter of 2015 and into 2016, I regularly visited Kirkenes, the town closest to the Arctic border frontier, Storskog, between Russia and Norway. I talked to my interlocutors, always with their families close by, in repurposed

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temporary living spaces and hotels and during municipal meetings for which refugee families were present. Gathering the ethnographic material for this chapter involved developing research methods appropriate to the urgency and severity of the moment when Syrian refugees (and refugees and migrants from other nations) crossed the Arctic Norwegian border during the fall of 2015. This situation called for a completely different approach than I was accustomed to. For three decades I have carried out extensive and long-drawn-out fieldwork in the Middle East, which included revisiting the same field sites and the same families many times. I have been fortunate to share in many aspects of men’s, women’s, and children’s delights and sorrows over many years. Young couples who married during my first visits in the middle of the 1980s now have grandchildren going to school. Girls and boys who were attending primary school have jobs and families. The babies I carried in my arms have gone to universities and vocational colleges and are now engaged or married. But this fieldwork and ethnography is different, in the sense that it took place during one of the most devastating moments in recent history; refugees are still fleeing war and attempting to cross the Arctic Circle. The length of time over which the research took place was necessarily condensed into spur-of-the-moment interviews with a defining feature of urgency. The communications I write about here are a distillation of intense moments that reveal—in all their rawness—how Syrian fathers, overburdened with the distress and fatigue of a long and difficult voyage, express in significant ways their nurturing of children. Quotations in the text are based on initial research carried out in Norway in the fall and winter of 2015 and 2016, which included participant observation and interviews, as well as more leisurely conviviality with Syrian refugee families. I have changed the names of the fathers quoted in this chapter to protect their privacy.1 Here are portraits of profoundly anxious and sometimes funny men who describe their histories and their aspirations, as Azziz put it, as “Arab father[s] with deep traditions.” There are also accounts that demonstrate how the passage across the Arctic Circle has created a platform that brings a broad range of different people together: on the one hand, the Syrian men, women, and children who are displaced and very far from their homes, jobs, and loved ones and, on the other, those who are receiving them—the officials, healthcare and social workers, relief volunteers, and ordinary locals.


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Karim, whose second child was born weeks after he crossed the Russian–Norwegian border, finds his voice breaking as he describes how he “feels useless. Just standing there and watching others give my wife and children a place to sleep, warm clothes, toys, and food.” The social relations that are played out during the crossing to Norway—with the assistance offered and the adjustments required to settle in this new place—are creating intimacies and relationships between locals in the Arctic and refugees, breaks with old habits, and possibilities for new ones.

Visions of the Arctic The title of this chapter, “Casualties of Fatherhood,” refers to the deep sense of disjuncture felt by the fathers I interviewed in the Arctic. They endured violent battles and wrecked homes and decided to take their families and leave for “a place at the top of the map.” Their anxieties are profound. “This is very far away from home,” Azziz told me the first time we met. We were sitting in a hotel coffee shop with his wife and children. It was a hotel right on the fjord that hosts tourists vacationing on coastal steamers. Azziz’s wife, Nadia, who had started to learn Norwegian, asked me to translate a slim guide book about Finnmark that she found in the library. “Northern Norway,” I read, “is the largest county and covers more than a third of the country. It is the most sparsely populated part of mainland Norway.” The book described how this part of Norway had been settled for thousands of years and how fishing was the basis of its inhabitants’ existence. There was a presentation about the Sami people and their heritage. Azziz laughed out loud when I read about the stark differences between the dark months of winter and the white nights. “It was so dark,” Nadia said, “we did not really know what it was. We have never been outside Syria before. We are used to day is day and night is night. The children were asking us to switch on the light outside,” she said. “It is like being in your house and the electricity breaks down. But here there was no fuse to fix,” Azziz continued. There are such vast stretches, Azziz and Nadia explained, “where you see nobody,” a landscape with few tall trees, where the windswept mountains rise along the shores of the fjord. Geographically remote and climatically harsh as it may be, this part of Norway has a long history and deep memories of war and devastation. The region suffered particularly heavy destruction and

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ruin during World War II. In early 1945, the German forces, facing an escalating two-front war and seeking to delay the Russian advances into Arctic Norway, adopted a scorched-earth policy and devastated the region, burning fields, forests, towns, and villages. These are significant moments in the history of Northern Norway and in the cultural narrative of the region. Stories of war and occupation are still passed down from generation to generation, and several of my local North Norwegian interlocutors drew on these memories as the driving force behind their generally warm reception of the Syrian refugees. As a fisherman in Kirkenes explained, “It is here in Finnmark that the war took place. We know war and how it destroys everything you care for. It is in our memory and our landscape.” When I recounted this to Azziz and Nadia, they nodded and told me how several of the volunteers had their own family stories about war and suffering, “It is a long cold journey to a place that has suffered in the past and not yet forgotten. They are good people here,” Azziz said, and Nadia stroked his arm.

I Told Nadia: “Let’s Save the Children” The image of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on Turkey’s shores in 2015 was on Azziz’s mind when he decided that his family would take the Arctic route: “I think a lot of Aylan’s father,” he said, his own toddler sitting on his lap. Azziz refused to risk the Mediterranean crossing with his wife and children: “We are lucky that this faraway place was possible for us. And anyway, it is difficult to retrace your steps when the snow has melted.” He tells me how much he has been touched by the hospitality of ordinary Norwegians who have come with food, toys, and warm clothes. He smiles, “We came here without warm clothes. I will have to repay all this generosity. I pray it will not be too long until I get a job and provide for my family like I used to.” He smiles and looks over at Nadia, “You know she was a nurse in Hama. For fifteen years. She had her own car. And I had my own car. I was running my own private supermarket.” Nadia smiles back at him, “I had my own job and I had my car.” Azziz, like my other interlocutors, did not want to go into the details of the journey from Hama to Kirkenes; instead he wanted to tell me about the life he left behind. “We had a home with a little garden,” he began, and he picked up his smartphone and swiped to


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his photos to show me pictures from what he calls his “past life.” There were images of his home, the garden, meals with family and friends, and Nadia sitting with their children on a swing in a playground near their home. His life, Azziz said, revolved around making a good life for his family. They lived comfortably because his supermarket was growing and he was branching out into supplying restaurants. Nadia worked as a nurse, her money was hers to use as she wished, and he never interfered. His income was for the family, “like a good Arab man.” When they went out shopping, a much-loved family activity, his children saw him as the one “taking out the wallet.” All this has changed. “I must admit I struggle to deal with it,” he said: Sometimes I forget when we go to the mall here. My wife and children look at something and I start to feel for my wallet. But I have to make up a story to tell the children, an explanation for not getting them what they point to. They are good children; they know. Children know and feel more than grown-ups. They are more sensitive. My children even pretend not to like what I know they like.

There is a long pause before he continues, “My wallet is empty here. I can only offer hope for my children and I think they believe me.” Overcome with emotion, tears roll down his cheeks. Worried that his children might have seen the tears, he turns and smiles at them, pulls out a small atlas, and points to his son: “Our next stop is the North Pole,” he laughs. “We will get some fancy bikes. One way or another we managed to just about balance on [our bikes] until we reached the other side. The Norwegian police collected all the bikes in one big heap.” Images of piles of abandoned cheap bikes have become the symbol of the northern refugee influx. A Norwegian scrapyard and recycling company has been asked to destroy the bikes because they do not meet safety standards.

Birthdays in the High North Bassam, his wife Mona, and their children traveled from Aleppo. He heard about the Arctic from a friend. “I told Mona, ‘Let’s save our children,’” a statement all my interlocutors used when I asked them why they chose the high north. In Dubai they got tourist visas to Russia and bought plane tickets to Beirut, and then went on to Murmansk via Moscow. Like Azziz and the other fathers, Bassam said, “I don’t want to talk about the journey.”

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Bassam and Mona are joining other Syrian refugees in Norwegian culture and language classes: “My children will go to kindergarten and school. I am so relieved that I have to pinch myself.” Bassam and his wife tell me how much help they have been getting from locals: “I think it is difficult to be on the receiving end. Life is on its head. I was always the one who provides. Mona worked in Syria, but that was her money. You know us Arab men—we like to be the absolute providers.” We had this conversation when the family had been in Norway two months. When I visited them a month later, the oldest daughter was invited to a school friend’s birthday party: She already babbles away in Norwegian and has friends running in and out of the house. I would love to be able to give her the kind of birthday party my wife used to organize. But I will make sure we have balloons and gateaux [cakes]. Lots of balloons and gateaux.

Expecting an emotional moment, I was surprised when he turned to me and said, “I have promised myself not to talk like this. No looking back, only forward. What can the past give me?” He lights a cigarette and looks away. “Syrians have left their country before and they have been successful all over the world. Look, this is such a beautiful and peaceful country. What father does not want all this for his children?”

Spring Comes Late On a particularly cold day in February 2016, during the course of fieldwork, I was casually speaking to Farid, who had, with his family, crossed from the Russian border on Christmas Day 2015. He, too, had taken advantage of the bicycle loophole, and we talked about the border crossing. His four-year-old daughter loved the short bicycle trip sitting behind her father: “She wants a bicycle now.” He told me that he has promised her a pink bicycle when the snow and ice are gone. When Layla, his daughter, heard us talking about the pink bicycle she smiled at her father, and he winked. “She has to wait; spring comes late here.” In the meantime, one of the volunteers gave him a pink bicycle helmet for his daughter. “They are good and quiet people here,” Farid said. He continued: They all come with toys, scarfs, gloves, and jackets. They even bake bread for us. So now [Layla] can prepare for her new life. How could I have ever imagined that one day my daughter would ride a bicycle and look like an Eskimo in the farthermost land of God?


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When I asked if it would have been difficult for her to have a life like this—bicycle and all—in Syria, he replied that because of custom and what is expected of young girls in his neighborhood in Damascus, she would most likely be pushing around a toy pram. He swiped his phone to show me pictures of their street in Damascus. He went on: After all Layla has been through, not only her, but also Hoda [his wife] and the baby, I have to do my best to make them smile. Sometimes, I ask myself whether I made the right decision. I think of the father of this little boy found dead on the beach. I feel for that father, who must have gone mad. You know it was his decision. I took my family away from hell to be nobody in a country of ice. Sure hope it works out. I think they are good people here. But it is difficult for us Arab men to stay like this. It is not in our culture.

The Best Years for My Children Khalid comes from a long line of teachers in Aleppo, so it was natural that he too would become a teacher: “I am used to being the one who knows all the answers. All my life I have been the person who instructs and evaluates.” During his teaching career, he taught history, geography, and Arabic, all with passion, he said, to instill curiosity in young minds and the desire to seek more knowledge. It never occurred to him or Amira, his wife, also a teacher, that they would one day leave their country. Although he and Amira both agreed that it was important to be informed about the world and to respect “other people’s customs and traditions,” they had never been outside Syria. In fact, he said, they had no wish to travel outside Syria: “We had all we needed in our country.” Worried that I would think him uninterested in the world, he continued: We love to learn about other places. We had books about many places in the world. I am particularly interested in coins, and this gave me insight into world history and trade. Amira loves literature and reads a lot. We are both open to the world, but we had all we needed at home. Sometimes we talked about taking a long holiday somewhere to show our children something else. But, I think we were lazy because everything we needed was at home.

He smiles and laughs as he tells me all this. Then his face gets somber and he quietly says:

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Amira and I still held on when the trouble started. We are teachers, and teachers don’t leave class, they don’t run away from their pupils. Children look up to their teachers and we felt we could not give them a bad example by just not turning up for class one day.

He looks at me, “Let’s continue tomorrow. Do you mind?” I told him that I thought it best if they had a couple days’ break from me. Amira walked me out. “This is not easy for him,” she said. A few days later, I got a message on Facebook from Amira, “Khalid really wants to finish his story.” We continued where we had left off: “It became impossible to move. Amira was only crying and afraid to be away from the children. Our students also stopped coming to school. Everything was being destroyed. No place to hide.” He crossed the northern border with his wife and two children in August 2015. The high north was “like nothing I have ever seen in my life.” While life in Aleppo before the war was the best years of his life, he said, “I am going to make the future the best years for my children. When they grow up I want them to remember me as a good father.” He had heard about how refugees, “especially Muslims, ruin our reputation.” He wants to make sure nobody says a bad word about his little family. Every evening he and his wife light candles, a habit they learned in Norway. “Here they make their homes cozy. It is so cold outside. And they are shy people. We also had a lovely home in Aleppo. But perhaps it was livelier than here. We don’t know how to be shy.” He sits with his children around the table, with candles and warm tea, and, in a soft voice, begins his Arabic lessons. He said: I want them to remember Arabic and I also think it will be useful for them in the future. You know children learn and forget very fast. It is complicated with us grown-ups. We have so many issues, so many static ideas about life. I am a little afraid of forgetting what my country looked like. My job now is to give my children a new beginning. This is the way it has to be. Syrians have been thrown in all directions. We landed here. This is our life’s escape. It is not going to be easy. You know, making the decision to take them all away from our home was difficult. True, it became the worst nightmare, but it was still home. We left our life, our language, yes, everything we knew, to be in a land where we don’t understand anything, we don’t know anyone, and we are nobody. The love for my children made my wife and me leave.


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Fathering Far from Home In Life within Limits: Well-Being in a World of Want, Michael D. Jackson (2011: ix) uses the term “field of struggle” to point to emotional and physical spaces people negotiate in order to make life livable and even satisfying in a harsh and cruel world. This notion “field of struggle” aptly describes these Syrian fathers’ aspirations to care for their families in uncertain times. Jackson’s interlocutors in Sierra Leone talked not about what they got out of life but how they should bear their loads. Jackson learned from his long conversations in the field that this idea was closely connected to rationally constructed notions of obligation and attending to the needs of others. Jackson concludes that through individual endurance, hope, and connection with loved ones, well-being emerges as a matter of knowing how to live within limits rather than searching for an unattainable utopia. In analyzing my conversations with the Syrian fathers who have crossed over to Arctic Norway, I find Jackson’s work helpful in thinking about struggle and hope under ambiguous conditions. Recently, theoretical interest in the study and analysis of individual narrative has underscored the intensity with which a researcher’s storytelling turns into a formative process that sorts through the accounts people provide about their lives. It is important to keep in mind that in constructing their stories, people are also constructing a “self” for public use. Henrietta Moore (2006) suggests that our lines of social analysis arise in the context of specific moments and so do our theories. Engaging with what I will call “lived emergencies” opens up avenues, which I think help us to probe global responses to local survival. I propose that when—as in the case of this and every refugee crisis—individuals are displaced from their homes, their stories should be told to be understood and rendered, if not whole, at least more comprehensible. Still, stories involve abstractions, and it is challenging to theorize and analyze the material that is understood intuitively. For the person telling his or her story, the very act of recounting recent and more distant experiences has a way of shaping what he or she recollects. My wish is to preserve and recount these conversations of fathers talking about their children and their families, in which they are in fact reflecting on the sweetest and cruelest moments in their lives. Olivia Harris (1996) poses central questions about what it means for people to go through change. She asks us to ponder more the

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temporalities not only of change but also of tradition. Here are two concepts that “indicate notions of order, of legitimacy, and above all of continuity” (Harris 1996: 2). What Harris refers to as “temporalities” can be understood only if I take the fathers’ claims of aspirations to heart. Under uncertain Arctic conditions, I am reminded of Keith Basso’s recollection of a statement Clyde Kluckhohn made during a lecture at Harvard University in 1960: “The most interesting claims people make are those they make about themselves. Cultural anthropologists should keep this in mind, especially when they are doing fieldwork” (Basso 1996: 37). Claims made under the precarious conditions of my ethnography are the backdrop for exploring and theorizing the social imaginings of my interlocutors. Providing care and hope for their children under extreme physical and emotional circumstances, the fathers in this account are involved in an immediacy of experience, which provides us, as anthropologists engaged with the human condition, an opportunity to interpret how people under harsh conditions reexamine their own life possibilities. Gaston Bachelard (1969) calls it the imagination that appears when “resonances are dispersed on different planes of our life in the world” (xxii); these are the dynamics that are part of social relationships and life as lived. Listening to the notion of care as Syrian fathers reference it in their accounts provides a means to unlock men’s intimate world of paternal caregiving, at this precarious moment, while they are still recovering from their “life’s escape,” as Khalid described it. By paying close attention to the language of care that men use, perhaps we can dispel the illusion that Muslim men are adequately explained by referencing only patriarchy as the father’s slot in Muslim family life, and instead we bring forth the finer details of paternal variations and discrepancies between the ideal and the real, and between cultural order and individual male behavior. Consequently, writing about men who care greatly for their children addresses the processes by which meaning and aspirations are constructed. These accounts are shaped by times in which these fathers are living. Perceptions of time and drastic transformations of family life are connected with what the men are as fathers and as agents of tragic displacement—after all, they are the ones who made the decision to leave their homes—and how they think, feel, and react to their children, their families, and the world. Like the ritual symbols described by Victor Turner (1969), caring activities, symbolizing the role of being a caregiver, have both an emotional and an instrumental position in my interlocutors’ recollections of how they


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were received in Arctic Norway and their sense of being fathers with intangible possibilities. Men’s caregiving talk and practices appear to be driven by obligation and traditional sensibility but also by personal choice and outward expressions of gender and generational roles, relations, and transformations brought about by their status as men seeking asylum for themselves and their families. Janice Boddy (2007: 14) writes, “Studies about women are never only about women.” So it is that the fathers’ stories are not only about fathers. My interlocutors’ accounts challenge generalizations about social structure and culture, along with stereotypes about Muslim men. Recording accounts from men during turbulent times is particularly important because those accounts give us insight into raw emotions, which expose how caregiving and affective gestures are never entirely simple matters for men (or women). They involve multiple acts of affection and authority. In keeping with Marcia C. Inhorn’s (2012) new picture of the Arab man in a rapidly changing Middle East, I recently put forward the notion of men’s nurturing and caregiving actions to contribute to a more nuanced interpretation and examination of men’s domestic chores and responsibilities (Naguib 2015). Arthur Kleinman (2009: 293) tells us that caregiving is “a defying [of] moral practice.” He goes on to say: “It is a moral practice that makes caregivers, and at times even the care-receivers, more present and thereby fully human” (ibid.). This process is relevant when applied to the caregiving that disquiet times produce and helps to illuminate how it is that men “pick up the pieces” in an attempt to reorder their familial duties and responsibilities as they claim them to be. It may be said that crisis is gendered, that different grievances as well as different opportunities are available to men and to women during turbulent times. The conversation I would like to emerge from this research is one about how men, and in this case, Muslim men, use affective gestures—pointing to the North Pole on an atlas, buying balloons, getting a pink helmet, giving lessons by candlelight—to help us envisage and theorize what links men’s agency to subjectivity, to forms of the possible, to new ways of conceiving of Muslim men and their paternal role during disquiet times. Betwixt and between the lines of the narratives, we get a sense of how memories, which incessantly shape-shift in interlocutors’ accounts, become sinuous rather than linear. The kind of textual weave, which connects not only past to present but also old country

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thoughts to new country realities, probes profound philosophical themes: existential contingency and human resilience. The Syrian fathers must, it appears, negotiate the indeterminacies of existential contingency. They try hard, for the sake of the children, to repress the unsettling perception that they lack control over events, a repression that compels them to believe fully in the comforting idea that they can control their destiny, again for the sake of the children. Bassam describes the rationale for his decision. Azziz began with the atlas on his son’s desk: “The Mediterranean makes it almost impossible for refugees to survive. I don’t know why. But people talk and from them I heard about a place called Norway. That is when I looked at my son’s atlas.” Farid is anxiously hoping that his decision was the right one. Khalid, like Karim, left a comfortable life and wants to rebuild his family’s lives. Statements that Arctic Norway is very far from the Mediterranean and that the Arctic is cold and the people hospitable were often repeated during our conversations, and sometimes repeated many times during the same meeting. These fathers described a route where they first went to Russia and then onward to Norway. While some had more details about the route than others, they all asked me to wait until they had processed the “the severity of the journey,” as Azziz phrased it during one of our conversations. The tales of an expedient decision that resulted in a grueling transit into the unknown raises questions about possibilities. “Would they have sought refuge in Norway if the Mediterranean had been more humane?” I asked. The responses were always the same, about how the stories and images of drowning and brutal treatment of refugees in Europe silently and powerfully altered their course and direction in search of a better life. The war, Azziz told me during our first meeting, “has filled our lives with misery. Life endlessly twists and turns in so many directions, it is sometimes difficult to know where we have been, where we are, or where we are going.” All the interlocutors share a familial sorrow that underscores how a lived emergency can inspire human resilience but also almost break the human spirit. While past lives and present conditions create the structure under which my interlocutors live, they do not explain how they act in their day-to-day lives when their views of themselves with respect to their paternal obligations are scarred by a treacherous journey and precarious current life situation. While many times these fathers repeated that their culture demands that they be the caregiv-


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ers, I am wary of reducing my interlocutors’ accounts to culture as a utility. Marshall Sahlins (1987) explains how people not only share but also commit to a culture as a means of resolving dilemmas. This is a pertinent assessment of culture as flexible, especially within the framework of how fathers situate and define themselves in this particularly difficult and often sad moment in their lives. And yet, even in difficult and painful circumstances, these fathers somehow exercise the capacity to hope, adapt, and live well, within the messiness of life in displacement. In Still Life: Hopes, Desires and Satisfactions, Henrietta Moore (2011: 24) reviews human potentialities and people’s ways of “retain[ing] a regard for what is distinctively human about being and doing in the world.” In my accounts of these fathers’ immediate reflections on their life conditions I recognize how they “retain” their place in the world through the vocabulary of hope. One of the ways in which my interlocutors’ caregiving is articulated is through their sentiments of hope. Hope is a complicated, multidimensional conception resting on the ability to imagine, on a sense of time and of temporal movement, on a wish to imagine a better future or a belief in the possibility that life will improve, and to some extent on precariousness. There is more to hope. It is always reflected or darkened by its reverse—desolation. My interlocutors hope for particular futures, but they cannot guarantee them. They set out on a perilous journey and, they told me, at times feared the outcome and the uncertainty for their children, but then they quickly reverted to the dangers of staying. In The Principle of Hope, Ernst Bloch (1986) evokes a range of images of foreign lands and daydreams, that is, visions of what is not yet achieved. The past contains the lessons we live by—those aspects of life that we want to maintain or, if they have been lost, to bring back, and those that we want to eliminate and reject. My interlocutors’ escape to Arctic Norway reflects a future orientation that embodies hope and the possibility of a new quality of life and a future for their children. By its very nature, displacement involves different temporalities of kin and home left behind, of experience en route, of present and future, and of the different spaces of home and away. As farfetched as it may seem, the Arctic becomes a place of hope and expectation, but also ambivalence. Optimism for the future is not absent from the lives of my interlocutors, who navigate their way to give their children a sense of hope. This is, under uncertain circumstances, never all embracing, and there are many complica-

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tions my interlocutors struggle to overcome. Detailing these struggles to maintain hope and to provide the care these fathers feel they should provide their families pushes us to rethink Pierre Bourdieu’s norm strategies (Bourdieu 1977; Bourdieu and Coleman 1999). Yet norms are just a part of the shared space of my interlocutors’ concerns and relationships; they are used as self-measurements of fatherhood. I am reminded here of how Bassam, Khalid, Farid, Azziz, and Karim question their decision to leave their country. The difficulties this presents are not confined to matters of grasping the struggles of those who live lives of “ordinary sufferings” (Bourdieu and Coleman 1999); they also address the ways in which the men talk about how they care for their children. In Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, James Clifford (1997: 36) argues for a “comparative cultural studies approach to specific histories, tactics, everyday practices of dwelling and traveling: traveling-in-dwelling, dwelling-in-traveling.” For anthropology, the contribution here must then be to bypass the static and recognize how men, their attachments, and their thoughts are brought together or disconnected or transformed by forces that can be very local, global, historically contingent, and even sometimes individually idiosyncratic. The world is a fluid place, where people do not remain in the same place and where memories and relationships are complicated. Perhaps human aspects such as caregiving and hope, which are among the most vital and elusive of qualities, are the most complicated to write about. Yet the answer, I think, is not only that we need to be better writers. As Jackson (1996) explains, the irreducibility of experience poses a challenge that is epistemological and moral as well as aesthetic. His way of addressing this is to concentrate on the ingredients of experience that link ethnographer and informant, and much of his work interweaves personal thinking with an intense rendering of the ethnographic moment. With this viewpoint, the intricacies and details of fieldwork take on various dimensions, opening out toward broader human concerns rather than sideways toward comparative theory building.

Conclusion “Casualties of Fatherhood” does not pretend to be complete; however, in drawing on fieldwork evidence gathered during defining moments in a particular group of people’s lives, this text hybrid-


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izes human chronicles and interpretations about fatherly caregiving. What I think is interesting is the process that goes into the “struggle for existence,” as Khalid phrased it, “life’s escape.” The fathers in this chapter talked about their decision to take their families on a perilous trek to the other side of the world. They all maintained that they had no wish to leave their country, and they all recounted the struggles of attempting to control their fatherly image amid the swirling forces of war and destruction. Embedded in the journey to the high north are the stories of how not only men’s but also women’s agency is articulated in the struggle for survival, which, in these stories, entails migrating to the other side of the world. Agency, like crisis, is gendered: during turbulent times men and women are beset by different grievances and different opportunities are available to them. The gender formula is not reversed as such, but put on trial. While the Syrian fathers in this account are grateful to those who provide warm clothes, food, and shelter for their families, they are dismayed that they, themselves, are not the ones providing this care—care that Syrian sons, husbands, and fathers traditionally provide for their own families. In many ways, these aspects of rupture from home and the ambivalence that follows require us to understand how the global remapping of human lives influences and perhaps alters the patterns and expectations of gendered relationships. Gender acknowledges and addresses differences, but gender, like ethnicity, can be imagined, and so too can associated differences between men and women, especially in the context of upheaval. Even if the plight and flight of the Syrian men and women creates new connections and new roles, it does not necessarily obliterate old links and habits. But I propose that the human toll, the distances traveled, the routes covered, and the span of time it takes Syrian men and women to reach safety and shelter lead us to grapple with their life struggles without trying to iron out the gender inconsistencies. Women and men who have made it to the Arctic have different ways of enacting their survival. Such differences will shape the processes for settling down far from home. To settle in some new place, people must commit themselves— or at least not be unwilling—to take part in the process, which is often nothing less than a struggle. But this struggle can also be for some a source of liberation and a move away from economic hardship, political tyranny, smothering family relations, patriarchal oppression, or, as now in Syria, war. For Azziz, Bassam, Farid, Khalid, and Karim, there are new and fresher possibilities in the Arctic. It

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is this duality and the conflicts these possibilities entail that we can study more closely. I attempt to steer to a middle ground between what I was told by these men who have been displaced from their homes in the Middle East and what I know from previous studies in the region about men’s lives. We know that wars and displacements transform social relations and cultural practices, and they also change people. From these fathers’ accounts, I want to show how, in the Arctic transit, they envision their caregiving duty toward their children. As anthropologists, we know that listening to the recounting of stories entails intensive personal engagement and interaction with our interlocutors in the often-unbounded setting we call the field, which allows for serendipity. We are made aware of life issues that we were not aware of or not looking for or did not know we were looking for. Material used in this text was not collected over a long period of time; still I think that the journeys of Syrians from the Middle East to the Arctic Circle opens new conversations about how we can anthropologically and methodologically engage with human issues during vital “real time.” The connections and breaks between the local and the global regarding transformations in familial life and practices invite further questions about the long-term impact this moment in history will have on the children. And what stories will the local Arctic communities tell about Muslim fathers? As I think of these Syrians now trying to make a new life in Norway, the words of the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun, in Growth of the Soil, come to mind: “The long, long road over the moors and up into the forest—who trod it into being first of all? Man, a human being, the first that came here. There was no path before he came”(1917: 7).

Nefissa Naguib is professor of anthropology at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo. Her work is motivated by a twofold interest: to understand the contemporary world and to understand the human condition. Naguib has written on the social life of food and water; the dynamics of gender, culture, and identity; cosmopolitanism and the politics of memory; and globalization and humanitarianism. She is the author of Women, Water and Memory: Recasting Lives in Palestine; coeditor of Interpreting Welfare and Relief in the Middle East; and coproducer of the documentary Women, War and Welfare in Jerusalem. Her most recent monograph is Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food, and Family in Contemporary Egypt.


Nefissa Naguib

Note 1. As always, I remain immensely grateful to my interviewees for sharing their lives and stories with me.

References Bachelard, Gaston. 1969. The Poetics of Space. Trans. Maria Jolas. Boston: Beacon. Barth, Fredrik. 2005. Vi Mennesker [We Humans]. Oslo: Gyldendal. Basso, Keith. 1996. Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Bloch, Ernst. 1986. The Principle of Hope. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press. Boddy, Janice. 2007. Civilizing Women. British Crusades in Colonial Sudan. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bourdieu, Pierre and James S. Coleman, eds. 1999. The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society. Cambridge: Polity. Clifford, James. 1997. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Hamsun, Knut. 1917. The Growth of Soil. Trans. W. W. Worster. New York: The Modern Library. Harris, Olivia. 1996. “Temporalities of Tradition.” In Grasping the Changing World: Anthropological Concepts in the Postmodern Era, ed. Vaclav Hubinger, 1–16. London: Routledge. Inhorn, Marcia C. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Jackson, Michael D. 1996. “Introduction: Phenomenology, Radical Empiricism and Anthropological Critique.” In Things As They Are: New Directions in Phenomenological Anthropology, ed. M. Jackson, 1–50. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. ———. 2011. Life within Limits: Well-Being in a World of Want. Durham: Duke University Press. Kleinman, Arthur. 2009. “The Art of Medicine: Caregiving: The Odyssey of Becoming More Human.” The Lancet 373(9660): 292–93. ———. 2012. “The Art of Medicine: Caregiving as Moral Experience.” The Lancet 380(9853): 1550–51. Moore, Henrietta. 2006. Anthropology in Theory: Issues in Epistemology. Oxford: Blackwell. ———. 2011. Still Life: Hopes, Desires and Satisfactions. Cambridge: Polity. Naguib, Nefissa. 2010. “For the Love of God: Care-giving in the Middle East.” Social Sciences and Missions 23(1): 124–45.

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———. 2015 Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food, and Family in Contemporary Egypt. Austin: University of Texas Press. ———. 2016. “Humanitarian Pluralism: The Arctic Passage in an Age of Refugees.” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 48(2): 377–81. Sahlins, Marshall. 1987. Islands of History. London: Tavistock. Strathern, Marilyn. 1995. The Relation. Cambridge: Prickly Pear. Turner, Victor. 1969. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Chicago: Aldine.

Chapter 15


Introduction In the United States, there are nearly 200,000 Iraqi refugees. They began arriving in 1992 in the wake of the First Gulf War and were later joined by refugees of the Second Gulf War, who started gaining admission to the United States in 2008. Some of these refugees came as families, while others did not. This was especially true for young Iraqi men, many of whom fled alone from their war-ravaged country. Some of these men were part of the military forces that fought against Saddam Hussein and his brutal regime. Others assisted U.S. forces as translators, drivers, and guides (Campbell 2016). Still others were civilian noncombatants, caught up in the violence. Many were lucky to make it out of Iraq alive. Thousands of Iraqi refugee men were eventually resettled in Michigan, the Midwestern state with the largest number of both first- and second-wave Iraqi refugees. Some of these refugees came directly to Michigan from the Middle East, assigned there by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. However, others took circuitous routes, finding a permanent home in Michigan only after initial

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placements in other states. In most cases, these Iraqi refugees ended up on the outskirts of Michigan’s largest city, forming part of an ethnic enclave community that scholars dubbed “Arab Detroit” at the start of the new millennium (Abraham and Shryock 2000). This chapter focuses on Iraqi refugee life in Arab Detroit. Iraqi refugees there have been described as a “forgotten population” (Human Rights Institute 2009), one that faces high rates of unemployment, life below the U.S. federal poverty line, a lack of medical insurance, and an inability to access America’s fee-for-service, privatized healthcare system. For those with chronic health conditions, accessing medical care can be a major struggle (Taylor et al., 2014). This is true for Iraqi refugee couples who face serious reproductive health problems, including infertility, or the inability to conceive a child. Unable to access expensive assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) in the U.S. healthcare system but unable to return to their “home” country to seek medical care, infertile Iraqi refugees exist in a liminal state, one that will be characterized in this chapter as “reproductive exile.” For Iraqi refugee men in particular, who face high rates of male infertility for reasons to be explained in this chapter, their attempts to seek treatment demonstrate their reproductive agency, despite many obstacles to reproductive success. This chapter explores Iraqi refugee men’s search for love and testtube babies in America. As we will see in men’s stories, children are the markers of full adult personhood, the route to happiness and commitment within marriage, the key to social acceptance in the community, and the path to future immortality. Children are cherished and beloved by their Arab mothers but also by their Arab fathers. Arab fathers generally extoll the virtues of their children as the absolute joys of their life, their reasons for living (Inhorn 2012). Thus, infertility, or the inability to conceive a child, represents a major reproductive disruption, a source of great anguish and existential pain. To reveal the suffering of infertility within the Arab refugee community, I begin with an ethnographic foray into Arab Detroit, the so-called capital of Arab America. I turn to my study of infertility there, focusing primarily on the infertility problems of Arab refugee men. These men are structurally vulnerable in the U.S. healthcare system (Quesada, Hart, and Bourgois 2011), where problems of access are accentuated by poverty, lack of insurance coverage, and nonexistent safety nets. Such problems are revealed in the stories of three Iraqi refugee men, whom I call Ali, Ibrahim, and Sadiq. Their stories embody agency and hope but also highlight disappointment and despair.


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The Ethnographic Setting: Arab Detroit On the outskirts of Detroit, past the polluting smokestacks of the massive Ford Rouge automobile factory, lies a nondescript, twostory, red brick, medical office building, located on the same treeless, cement-gray, commercial boulevard as the Ford factory. The street itself is utterly cheerless—drab buildings, gray skies, plenty of snow, some of it blackened by car exhaust and ambient pollution. However, once inside the office building’s front door, any visitor is transported into another world—the Arab world. Within the building’s small circular front lobby, elderly Arab men with white skullcaps pass by with their sun-creased faces and backs stooped from lives of hard manual labor. As they wait in line at the Lebanese-run pharmacy, Iraqi women dressed in black abayas (traditional long cloaks) and Yemeni women wearing black niqabs (facial veils) cross the foyer, pushing their sick children in strollers into the first-floor pediatric clinic. Young Arab couples without any children take the flight of circular stairs to the second floor, hoping to pass by unnoticed as they enter the second-floor infertility clinic. This medical center is located in Arab Detroit, Michigan, an upper Midwestern, wintry, rust belt state that might seem like an unlikely home for immigrant Arabs. With its cold, snowy climate, flagging auto industry, and widespread poverty—on graphic display with the 2016 lead–drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and the teacher sick-outs protesting dangerously deteriorating public schools in Detroit—this mostly working-class state has relatively little to offer to incoming Arab migrants and refugees. Yet, over the past fifty years, the greater Detroit metropolitan area has been one of North America’s largest Arab receiving grounds. Beginning in the 1950s, exiled Palestinians started resettling in the Detroit suburbs, a pattern that continued among Palestinians over the ensuing decades. By the 1970s, Palestinians were joined by Lebanese, whose numbers swelled with each passing decade of the Lebanese Civil War. By the 1990s, Lebanese and Palestinians were joined by Iraqis, tens of thousands who came as refugees in the aftermath of the First Gulf War. Thus, over half a century, metropolitan Detroit absorbed three major populations of fleeing Arabs—Palestinians, then Lebanese, then Iraqis. By 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau showed that both the Iraqi and Lebanese populations in Arab Detroit had grown significantly but that Iraqis now outnumbered the Lebanese, at 39 percent versus 31 percent of the overall population (Schopmeyer 2011).

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These Lebanese and Iraqi refugees settled primarily in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb located on the southwestern border of the city. Prior to Arab resettlement, Dearborn’s claim to fame was the aforementioned Ford Rouge factory, the largest in the state of Michigan. But, by the year 2000, Dearborn had also become famous as a kind of “little Arabia.” Beneath the billowing smokestacks of the Ford factory, the streets of Dearborn had become lined with scores of Arab-run businesses. Clothing stores, restaurants, and bakeries are intermingled with immigration and legal aid services, medical facilities, a refugee assistance program, and a number of Islamic schools and mosques serving the Arab community. Although Dearborn is often called the “capital of Arab America,” it could be more accurately described as the “capital of Muslim America,” or, more precisely, the “capital of Shia Muslim America.” Dearborn is home to nearly 80 percent of Arab Detroit’s Muslim population, 56 percent of whom are Shias from Lebanon and Iraq (Detroit Arab American Study Team 2009). Seventy-five percent of them were born outside the United States; they left their home countries in the wake of sectarian-inflected violence. As minorities in the Middle East, Shia Muslims are now the majority in Dearborn, a population that has continued to grow because of the 2003 U.S.led war in Iraq. Indeed, despite initial U.S. government reluctance to take in any more fleeing Iraqi refugees, by 2008 and 2009, fully one-quarter of all refugees entering the U.S. were Iraqis, with Arab Detroit taking in as many as the cities of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles combined (Schopmeyer 2011). Iraqi populations can be found across all fifty U.S. states, but most have been resettled in California, Michigan, and Texas, with Michigan taking more than its fair share (Svab 2013). Interestingly, most Iraqi refugees have eventually applied for U.S. citizenship, a process of naturalization that can take place after a five-year mandatory legal residency period. Rates of U.S. citizenship are high in Arab Detroit, at 80 percent overall, including 80 percent of all Iraqis, who have been eager to become naturalized citizens (Detroit Arab American Study Team 2009). Yet, despite their U.S. citizenship gains, Iraqi refugee families in Arab Detroit live in poverty. Whereas the median household income in the United States is $53,657 and the U.S. federal poverty line is $24,300 for a family of four, nearly half, or 42 percent, of Iraqi refugees live on abysmally low household incomes of less than $10,000 per year. Although at least one-quarter of all Arab Detroit house-


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holds earn incomes below $30,000 a year, Iraqi refugees are by far the poorest group, with 82 percent of all Iraqi Muslim families living on household incomes of less than $30,000 per year (Schopmeyer 2011). Not surprisingly, by March 2011, reported unemployment rates for Iraqi refugee men in Michigan were more than 25 percent, or nearly three times, the national average of 9 percent (Sheppard 2011). This sociodemographic poverty profile is shared by the city of Detroit, which is predominantly African American. Among major U.S. cities with populations above 200,000, Detroit ranked first in the percentage of its population living below the poverty line, at 39.3 percent (Bouffard 2015). Furthermore, 67 percent of Detroit families, or more than two-thirds, were either in poverty or in a state of ALICE—asset limited, income constrained, (although) employed (Abbey-Lambertz 2014). This stands in stark contrast to the predominantly White suburbs of Detroit, where just 5 percent of residents live in poverty. To summarize then, an overarching sociodemographic profile of Arab Detroit reveals a poor, struggling community of mostly Shia Muslim war refugees from Iraq and Lebanon, all of them existing, literally and figuratively, on the margins of Detroit, a poor, deteriorating rust belt city. A map of metropolitan Detroit would thus show three sectors: first, a poor, virtually Black inner city, connected on its southwestern margin to a mostly poor Arab ethnic enclave community, and surrounded on all sides by a ring of suburban White affluence.

Infertile Refugees: An Arab Detroit Study Here, in this Arab Shia Muslim ethnic enclave made up of mostly war refugees from Iraq and Lebanon, lies the red brick medical office building described in the introduction to this chapter. On the second floor of that Dearborn medical office building is the satellite clinic of IVF Michigan, the largest infertility and in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment center in southeastern Michigan and northwestern Ohio. In IVF Michigan’s Dearborn clinic, a Lebanese American Shia Muslim IVF physician—“famous” for his medical skills and his tender mercies—attempts to treat the reproductive health problems faced by this poor Arab Muslim population. Although infertility is often assumed to be a female reproductive health problem, more than half of all cases of childlessness involve a so-called male factor (Inhorn 2012). Male infertility has multiple

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etiologies; however, most cases are genetically based, sometimes involving microscopic deletions on the Y chromosome. In the Middle East, such genetic mutations are clearly linked to high rates of consanguineous (i.e., cousin) marriage, which increases the risk for genetic defects. As a result, male infertility often clusters in families in the Middle East and often involves very severe cases (Inhorn 2012). Of the four different types of male infertility—oligozoospermia (low sperm count), asthenozoospermia (poor sperm motility, or movement), teratozoospermia (poor sperm morphology, or shape), and azoospermia (total lack of sperm in the ejaculate)—azoospermia is the most serious form. Often genetically based and incurable, male infertility is usually unresponsive to any form of medication or surgery. Instead, the only way to overcome most serious cases is through an assisted reproductive technology called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), a variant of IVF designed specifically to overcome male infertility problems. With ICSI, women undergo hormonal stimulation to produce excess oocytes (eggs). Through a transvaginal operation requiring general anesthesia, these eggs are then removed from a woman’s ovaries, engendering some degree of risk and discomfort for the woman herself. Extracted eggs are then microscopically injected with an infertile husband’s “weak” sperm, effectively forcing fertilization to occur. Through ICSI, otherwise sterile men can become fathers of biogenetic offspring—even those who must have their testicles painfully biopsied or aspirated in the search for sperm. ICSI, then, is a “masculine hope technology” (Inhorn 2016), often the only hope for infertile Muslim men, who are generally religiously prohibited from seeking alternative forms of fatherhood either through sperm donation or child adoption (Inhorn 2012). Given the scope of the male infertility problem among Arab men, my study in Dearborn ended up focusing heavily on this condition. Within the IVF Michigan Dearborn clinic, I met ninety-five Arab patients—fifty-five men and forty women, most of whom came to the clinic as couples and I interviewed together, but some of whom came alone, including eighteen infertile men and four infertile women, who I interviewed separately. Of all the men in my study, forty-two of them, or fully three-quarters (76 percent), were facing infertility problems, a statistic speaking to the high prevalence of male infertility among this Arab population. In terms of country of origin, almost half of my interlocutors were from Lebanon (45 percent), with the other half split almost evenly between Iraqis (23 percent), and Yemenis (21 percent). However,


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I also interviewed a small number of Palestinians (6 percent), as well as one Syrian man. My study took place over a five-year period, from the fall of 2003 through the summer of 2008. At the time, post-9/11 Islamophobia in the United States was running high and was further exacerbated by the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the same time, the Michigan economy was beginning to deteriorate, as Detroit’s auto industry spiraled downward. In 2013, President Barack Obama helped to facilitate an auto industry bailout to prevent Ford, General Motors, and the other large Michigan automakers from closing their plants. But by then, Detroit’s economy was so decimated that the city was forced to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy. This was the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, both in terms of the size of the city and the size of its debt, which was estimated at $18 to $20 billion (Davey 2014). In short, the timing of my Arab Detroit study happened in the midst of the post-9/11 “Terror Decade” (Abraham, Howell, and Shryock 2011) as well as during the buildup to the “Great Recession,” in which the downturn in the Michigan auto economy played a leading role (Maraniss 2015). Not surprisingly then, my interlocutors in Arab Detroit faced a great deal of hardship. Most of them were precariously employed and often desperately poor. Moreover, I heard many stories of sadness and despair, resulting in part from their refugee status. Most of the Iraqi refugees, and many of the Lebanese in my study, had come to America within the past ten years. Thus, my interlocutors spoke to me of war traumas and deaths in the family, reproductive health impairments and physical disabilities, divorces and loneliness, poverty and chronic stress. Infertility, or the inability to have a child, was just one of many struggles that most of my interlocutors were facing. But it was through this lens of infertility that I came to know about their other hardships. In an Arab cultural setting in which marriage and parenthood are considered mandatory aspects of adult personhood, the inability to become pregnant was a major heartache for most of the Arab Muslim men and women in my study. Furthermore, poverty and lack of health insurance had prevented most of them from accessing affordable infertility treatment, especially IVF and ICSI, ARTs that are extremely expensive in the United States; at an average cost of $12,513 per cycle, they are the most expensive in the world (Connolly, Hoorens, and Chambers 2010). However, IVF and ICSI are rarely covered by American health insurance companies, as these technologies are deemed elective, including under the Affordable Care Act (Buchmueller et al. 2016).

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I listened to these stories of hardship over hundreds of hours spent in the IVF Michigan clinic, usually on Friday afternoons after the main Muslim communal prayer had been held at local mosques around the city. This was also the time when the Lebanese doctor would drive down from IVF Michigan’s main headquarters in an affluent northern Detroit suburb to see his poor Arab patients in the Dearborn office. There, he or the clinic administrator (also a Lebanese Shia Muslim woman) would introduce me to patients willing to participate in my research project. I had just returned from an eight-month study of male infertility in Lebanon, where, as a non-Muslim but Arabic-speaking American woman, I had been able to successfully interview hundreds of mostly Shia Muslim Arab men (Inhorn 2012). This fact, along with my many years of research on, and cultural sensitivity toward, infertility in the Middle East, probably served to increase my perceived trustworthiness. Most people agreed to speak with me, and I often spent hours serving as both an ethnographer and health educator for this infertile Arab refugee population, whose overall medical knowledge and scientific literacy remained low. Indeed, many of my interlocutors wanted to know more about the medical causes of infertility as well as whether there were any forms of health insurance coverage for infertility treatment. It is important to note, however, that most of the individuals who participated in my study were literate in Arabic, and sometimes English. Thus, they were asked to read and sign informed consent forms in either one of those languages. I made it clear that participation in my study was entirely voluntary, as well as confidential. We always met in a back office space, where we would sit together around a small round table. The ethnographic interviews usually lasted about an hour, but would sometimes take all afternoon, usually when a man, a woman, or couple had much that they wanted to convey to me. I conducted about half of the interviews in English and half in Arabic, sometimes switching back and forth between the two languages, as was common practice in the clinic.

Structural Vulnerability and Reproductive Exile For the first three years of my study, I focused primarily on male infertility, asking the men in my study to answer a series of semistructured research questions covering sociodemographics and sexual and reproductive health. By the end of third year, I dispensed


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with the semistructured portion of my study to focus more generally on Arab couples’ infertility treatment quests, including any attempts they had made to access IVF or ICSI. Many perceived barriers to medical care were discussed during these interviews, along with other problematic aspects of being infertile in a pronatalist cultural milieu where prolonged childlessness was profoundly stigmatizing, the source of gossip, pity, derision, and even outright social ostracism.1 Most striking about my ethnographic study in Dearborn was the amount of suffering revealed in the interviews, especially among infertile men. Reproductive-aged men, most of them in their twenties, thirties, and early forties, had endured many hardships as political refugees, including the trials and tribulations of war, torture, and persecution in their home countries. As in my earlier study in Lebanon, al harb, “the war,” figured prominently in men’s reproductive narratives (Inhorn 2012). Iraqis, in particular, feared that their infertility was somehow due to war-related exposures and traumas. In fact, most of the men and women in my study had emigrated to the United States under conditions of economic or political duress in their home countries, including all of the Iraqis, who had come to the country as official refugees. Overall, this Arab Muslim refugee population was structurally vulnerable—a term forwarded by medical anthropologist Philippe Bourgois and his colleagues to highlight the positionality of marginalized populations within class-based systems of economic exploitation and discrimination (Bourgois and Hart 2011; Quesada, Hart, and Bourgois 2011). Focusing primarily on interactions within the U.S. healthcare system, Bourgois and his colleagues describe structural vulnerability as an individual’s social location within society’s multiple, overlapping, and mutually reinforcing power hierarchies (e.g., socioeconomic, racial, and cultural) and institutional and policy-level statuses (e.g., immigration status, labor force participation, access to health insurance), which put a patient’s health at risk. Thus, structural vulnerabilities lead to “health disparities” (Braveman 2006), which are defined as differences in health status, health environment, and healthcare access, leading structurally vulnerable patient populations to have significantly poorer health outcomes than others. In my study, numerous structural vulnerabilities and health disparities were clearly at play. Most of my interlocutors were poorly educated, as few of them had attended school in the United States, and few had gone beyond high school in their home countries. With-

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out good English skills or advanced educations, most of the Arab men in my study were employed in low-wage, blue-collar, or servicesector occupations, mainly as gas station attendants, dishwashers and busboys in Middle Eastern restaurants, truck drivers, construction workers, auto mechanics, used car salesmen, or factory workers. Salaries were generally low, with many men and their wives living in small apartments in Dearborn and generally eking out subsistence livings below the poverty line. With accelerating problems in the Detroit-based auto industry beginning in the early 2000s, unemployment rates in this community began to skyrocket by 2005. Several of the Arab men in my study had lost their jobs and were living off a combination of unemployment and Social Security benefits and, in a few cases, welfare and food stamps. Without regular employment, most of the Arab men and women in my study did not have private health insurance to cover the costs of their medical care. Most did not own credit cards. As a result, virtually all of their financial transactions, including visits to medical clinics, were handled in cash. In cases of medical emergency, financial and social safety nets were generally missing, forcing some participants in my study to rely on local Islamic charities for relief. In general, the Arab Muslim men and women in my study described their lives as “hard” and “stressful.” Traumatic conditions had forced them to flee their home countries in the Middle East, but once they arrived in the United States, they found themselves mired in multiple, overlapping forms of structural vulnerability—un- and underemployment, economic deprivation, educational deficits, linguistic and cultural barriers, social discrimination and exclusion, and lack of adequate social support. Furthermore, all of the participants in my study could be considered “reproductively vulnerable,” because they were facing persistent, often intractable, infertility problems in an unforgiving social environment in which parenthood was culturally expected and longterm childlessness socially stigmatized. Virtually all of my interlocutors required IVF or ICSI to overcome their difficult infertility problems. Yet, they were living in the most expensive country in the world in which to make a test-tube baby. I came to think of these poor, struggling, infertile refugees as “reproductive exiles.” On the one hand, they were forced to leave their home countries because of war and political violence. But once they arrived in the United States, they found themselves stranded—unable to return to their home country because of the ongoing violence but unable to access infertility services due to their structural


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vulnerability within the U.S. healthcare system. Exile, thus, had two meanings for this population: first, the forced removal from one’s home country, with little hope of return; and second, the feeling of being forced out of an inaccessible health care system, in which the “hope technology” of IVF (Franklin 1997) and the “masculine hope technology” of ICSI (Inhorn 2016) remained distant and fleeting mirages. This sense of reproductive exile—of being unable to access IVF or ICSI in the United States, but being unable to return home to embattled countries with shattered healthcare systems—comes closest to representing my infertile Arab interlocutors’ own subjectivities, even though this is my term, not theirs. Furthermore, the cruel political paradoxes of this reproductive exile were manifold. To wit, it was the U.S. host country that had destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure, including its healthcare system. The U.S. invasion of Iraq led to the destruction of an estimated 12 percent of Iraq’s hospitals and primary care centers (Sadik et al. 2011). Furthermore, although Iraq was once considered a regional leader in medicine, much of this capacity was destroyed by war, including in the nascent Iraqi IVF sector.2

Male Reproductive Agency: Searching for Love and Test-Tube Babies Having nowhere to return to, the infertile Arab refugee men in my study were active seekers of reproductive health care, often coming alone to the IVF Michigan clinic to consult with the male Lebanese IVF physician. Once there, these men were willing to subject their bodies to a variety of reproductive diagnoses and treatment, often undergoing repeated rounds of semen analysis, genetic analysis, and hormonal therapies and painful testicular biopsies and aspirations. In short, these Arab refugee men were willing to put their reproductive bodies on the line. Such “male reproductive agency” is rarely portrayed in studies of Arab men or in anthropological studies of reproduction more generally (Gutmann 2007; Myntti et al. 2000). However, Arab Muslim men are often caring and concerned reproductive agents (Inhorn 2012). Such male reproductive agency entails love and sacrifice, embodied interventions and agony, and care and concern for the well-being of both wives and children. In some cases, Arab men’s reproductive agency also involves heartbreaking compromises and sacrifices, including “freeing” wives from childless marriages when male infertility is deemed hopeless.

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Here, I have chosen to present three stories of Iraqi men, all of whom fled to the United States in the aftermath of the First Gulf War. Two of these men were severely infertile; they had come to the clinic alone, where I met them. In the third case, I met with the husband and wife together. The first story is about a religious cleric still searching for love, passion, and fatherhood. The second story is about a former Shia resistance fighter, who blames himself for his infertility and hopes ICSI will assuage his guilt. The final story is about an Iraqi refugee couple, who threw caution to the wind to make a test-tube baby. All of these Iraqi refugees had painful stories to tell, but, as we will see, none of them had given up hope of making families and new lives in America. The First Story: Shayk Ali and His Search for Love Spring was just around the corner in Michigan when I ventured to Dearborn on an overcast day in May. Upon my arrival, the clinic staff told me that someone had come to the clinic especially to meet me, after he had read my study ad posted in the clinic’s waiting area. This volunteer was Ali, and as I was soon to discover, he was a religiously trained Iraqi Shia Muslim shaykh (cleric). This tall, substantial man—standing well over six feet tall—in his black suit and white dress shirt and with a closely trimmed beard was an imposing figure. Yet, as we sat together in a private space in the clinic, it became clear that Shaykh Ali was a broken man, with a life story that was quite tragic. Shaykh Ali had been born in southern Iraq to a large family of six sons and six daughters. In the early years of Iraq’s Baathist political regime, even poor Shia families were able to educate their children, sons and daughters, under the social welfare system. So Ali and all of his brothers were sent to the University of Baghdad, where they earned master’s degrees in engineering. However, before they attended college, Ali and his brothers had studied in a Shia madrasa in the holy city of Najaf, where Ali had learned to read and interpret the Qur’an. He graduated as a Shia cleric in 1985, six years before the First Gulf War, an event that would change his life forever. When U.S. troops invaded Iraq at the end of 1990, the U.S. government armed both the Shia Muslims in southern Iraq and the Kurds in northern Iraq, encouraging them to rise up against the regime of Saddam Hussein. Shaykh Ali’s religiously trained family members did not fight but were caught in the postwar dragnet. Targeted by Saddam’s regime for being religious Shia Muslims, Shaykh Ali and two of his brothers were sent to prison. The two brothers—


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both shaykhs, both engineers, and both young fathers of two children—were killed, news that made their elderly father go blind instantly. Shaykh Ali survived his three years of imprisonment, but he was brutally beaten and tortured in a small, dark “dungeon,” where he lived from 1991 to 1994. Upon his unexpected release, he fled to neighboring Syria and then to Lebanon, where the large Shia Muslim community took him in on a temporary basis. Soon thereafter, he was granted political asylum in the United States and was resettled as a refugee in Arizona. In Arizona, Shaykh Ali met his future wife, Nadia, also a resettled Iraqi refugee. Shaykh Ali and Nadia loved each other and were physically passionate, sometimes making love two to three times a day. This was partly intended to conceive a child, which both of them ardently desired. However, Shaykh Ali’s undisclosed medical past caught up with him early on in the marriage. Shaykh Ali had been born with undescended testicles, a medical condition that should have been surgically corrected when he was still an infant (to bring the undescended testes down into his scrotum). By the time he entered college, Ali realized that something was wrong, so he sought a doctor’s advice and was told to undergo semen analysis. “That was in 1983, twenty-two years ago, when I did my first test in Iraq and they found no sperm,” he said. “That day was very sad, very sad. The doctor explained, ‘No, nothing!’ and I cried.” Although Shaykh Ali had undergone a corrective testicular surgery, called orchiopexy, when he arrived as a refugee in Lebanon, he also underwent a testicular biopsy, in which small samples of his testicles were removed in an attempt to find any existing sperm. Again, no sperm were found. Shaykh Ali went on to marry Nadia, hoping that some future scientific discovery would “cure” him. For example, he had read about a football player in California who had injured his testicle but who had undergone a supposed testicular transplant from his brother. Shaykh Ali wondered if this was a common operation (it is not), for which he would eventually become eligible. Meanwhile, Shaykh Ali’s wife Nadia was becoming desperate to have children, given the scrutiny of her childlessness in the growing Iraqi refugee community in Arizona. Although she loved her husband, she loved children even more, telling him, “I need a baby.” Eventually, she exercised her right to divorce within the American judicial system, leaving Shaykh Ali after three years of marriage. She remarried quickly and became the mother of two children. Out of love and compassion for her first husband, she continued to call

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Shaykh Ali, letting her young children speak to their “uncle” on the telephone. To mend his broken heart, Shaykh Ali moved to the much larger Iraqi refugee community in Arab Detroit. There, he knew no one, but he found easy employment as a clerk in a Lebanese-owned gas station. In his job, he earned $500/week, barely enough to cover his rent ($700/month), his food ($300/month), his car payments and gasoline ($300/month), and remittances to his elderly, disabled parents in Iraq ($200/month). Ever since he fled Iraq, Shaykh Ali had not worked as either an engineer or a Muslim cleric, the two professions for which he was highly trained. However, Shaykh Ali’s biggest problem was his inability to remarry. “There are lots of women in Iraq,” he said, “but they all want children. There is no Iraqi woman who does not want to be a mother.” Shaykh Ali was not opposed to marrying a divorcée or a widow with children, even if American. Indeed, during our conversation, Shaykh Ali asked me if I was married (“yes”) and then if I could help him to find an American wife. “My health is very good,” he explained. “Every day, I wake up with an erection. I am strong. My sex drive is very good. But for the past six years in America, I’ve not used it. I need a wife. I need one now. Any wife, American or Iraqi, Muslim or not. It doesn’t matter to me. Can you help me?” I told Shaykh Ali that I would contact a friend, a widowed Sunni Muslim woman with children, who also hoped to remarry. Meanwhile, I asked Shaykh Ali if he was allowed to masturbate to relieve his sexual tension. “No, this is haram [religiously forbidden],” he explained. “I cannot do this.” Instead, he told me, that semen was being released “naturally,” through nighttime emissions, which were occurring once or twice each week. Furthermore, during the afternoon’s office visit, Shaykh Ali had been advised by one of the clinic staff to consider using sperm donation. “It’s difficult,” Shaykh Ali confided to me afterward: In Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei says it’s halal [religiously permitted]. But it’s a problem. For example, if the [infertility] problem was from your husband, would you get donor sperm? It’s hard. I love science, but it is very difficult for me to accept this [donor sperm]. After [the doctor] suggested this, my self-feeling was very bad. My psychological state is now very bad.

I left Dearborn on that cold spring afternoon feeling very sorry for Shaykh Ali and his plight. As promised, I contacted my widowed friend to see whether she would be interested in meeting him as a


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prospective husband. However, as a devout Sunni Muslim woman, she could not imagine herself being married to a devout Shia Muslim cleric. She declined my offer of an introduction to Shaykh Ali, a self-described miskiin, or “poor one,” in every sense of that term. The Second Story: Ibrahim and His Search for ICSI Whereas Shaykh Ali had suffered in Iraq because of his religious convictions, Ibrahim, a 37-year-old Iraqi refugee, had suffered as a freedom fighter. As a young man in Basra, Iraq, Ibrahim had joined the Shia resistance, participating in the intifada (uprising) to remove Saddam Hussein from power following the First Gulf War. Ibrahim was shot in the pelvis and spent four months in a Basra hospital following surgery to remove the bullet fragments. But shortly after Ibrahim’s release, Saddam’s forces crushed the Shia-led uprising. Ibrahim fled to Saudi Arabia with thousands of other Shia fighters. There, he lived in an isolated, desert refugee camp in appalling conditions. However, it was back in Iraq that Ibrahim’s family faced Saddam’s revenge. Ibrahim’s older brother, the father of four young children, was taken from his home by soldiers. As Ibrahim lamented, “I lost my brother because of me. After I left, they took him. He has four children, and they never heard from him again.” Ibrahim could not go back to Iraq. So, after six years in Saudi confinement, he was admitted to the United States as a refugee. Already thirty years old, Ibrahim had experienced sexual intercourse only twice in his life, both times back in Basra before the First Gulf War. With his arrival in America, however, Ibrahim soon discovered the “open” sexual environment of the United States. With his good looks and decent English skills—acquired as an engineering student in Iraq—Ibrahim was considered attractive by American women. Thus, Ibrahim began having numerous sexual liaisons, a fact that he confessed sheepishly. “I am blaming myself. My libido is high, and maybe I ‘spent’ all of my sperm back before marriage, because I had an active sex life. I don’t know, sometimes. I did what I did, but it wasn’t right . . . maybe God wants to punish me.” Ibrahim then went on to describe how he had once loved a young woman from Missouri, the state where he was initially resettled. But the steering wheel on a U-Haul truck he was driving locked in place, causing the truck to crash, which killed his American girlfriend in the passenger seat. Ibrahim spent a year in the hospital with multiple fractures. But the death of his girlfriend caused Ibrahim significant stress; now he felt responsible for the loss of two loved ones.

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During his recuperation, Ibrahim spoke to his father back in Iraq. “Why do you have such a tough life?” his father asked him. “You need to settle down.” The family began looking for an Iraqi wife, one who would be willing to move to America to be with Ibrahim. After his release from the hospital, Ibrahim eventually moved to Arizona and then to Dearborn to be part of a larger Iraqi refugee community. There, he began thinking about marriage, and he let his family intervene. This is how Ibrahim met Amira, his younger sister’s friend and a high school chemistry teacher in Basra. Amira and Ibrahim courted for several months by long-distance telephone calls before he eventually traveled to Jordan to meet her and sign the marriage contract. Although it took several months, Amira eventually joined Ibrahim in Dearborn as his wife. But after a year of living together, with sex almost every day, Amira was not getting pregnant. Haunted by his sexual past, Ibrahim suspected that he might be infertile. He came alone to the Dearborn IVF clinic, where he underwent a semen analysis. I happened to meet Ibrahim soon after he had received the devastating news of his very low sperm count. Ibrahim lamented to me: I was shocked. I cried, ’cause I want a baby. I feel upset. I feel like I’m not a normal person. She [Amira] is the strong one. She said, “I don’t care, as long as I have you. We do our best, and that’s it.” But, especially among Arab people, I feel like I’m not a man. It’s a bad feeling. I don’t know where it comes from, but I feel this.

At this point, I wanted to offer Ibrahim some kind of solace, so I told him, “But it’s just a medical condition like any other condition.” He then replied, “Well, this helps to calm me down. I am beginning to feel like that—like some people are born and don’t have nice hair. It’s just something I’m born with.” Whether Ibrahim truly believed that his male infertility was a medical condition and not God’s punishment for his past, it was telling that when I met him he was seeking medical therapy, hoping to activate his sperm production by taking medication. Although the Lebanese doctor could offer him no such miracle cure, Ibrahim was attempting to achieve reproductive success. His most ardent desire, he told me, was to father one or more test-tube babies. To that end, Ibrahim was trying to earn money at a local Arabowned computer firm, while also finishing his computer science degree at a local community college. However, he made only $1,500 a month—not enough to cover his household expenses and the re-


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mittances his large Iraqi family expected him to send back to his home country. Furthermore, his employer offered no health insurance, leaving him uninsured for the past four years. When Ibrahim was told that he would need a $15,000 cycle of ICSI with accompanying medications, he was shocked. “I could do it if it costs $5,000,” he explained, “because I might be able to save the money or borrow the money from a friend. But $15,000, no way.” Indeed, unless and until Ibrahim’s fortunes somehow changed, he and Amira were living in a state of reproductive exile, effectively banished from the world of test-tube baby making, with no way for Ibrahim to achieve fatherhood or a sense of atonement for his feelings of having sinned. The Third Story: Sadiq and Fatima and Their Search for a Test-Tube Baby Like Ibrahim, both Sadiq and Fatima had grown up in Basra and had been forced to flee with their families during the failed Shia intifada against Saddam Hussein. Having spent their formative preteenage years in a Saudi refugee camp, Sadiq and Fatima eventually moved with their families to Lincoln, Nebraska, the city that granted them asylum. When I asked Sadiq and Fatima why they were resettled in America’s heartland, Sadiq replied, “I don’t know why. Why there? They just picked Lincoln, Nebraska, I guess.” Fatima added, “Now Nebraska is supposed to be a good place for Iraqis. But when we were there, back in the early nineties, there were very little, not too many Arabs.” For that reason, Fatima’s family left Lincoln for Philadelphia within a year but decided to move permanently to Dearborn, with its growing Iraqi refugee population. Sadiq’s family stayed in Lincoln for several years, and Sadiq was somewhat nostalgic about his early days in Nebraska. Although he had not been able to go to high school or to learn English fluently, Sadiq was able to obtain meaningful employment in Lincoln’s Kawasaki factory, which manufactured all-terrain vehicles. “I never looked for a job. The job looked for me!” Sadiq exclaimed. But then he added quietly, “Now I look for it, but I can’t find it.” As I soon discovered, Sadiq was currently unemployed. When he had moved with his family to Dearborn seven years earlier, he had begun working as a baker in a Lebanese restaurant before landing a factory job in a company making plastic parts for the local automotive industry. As good factory jobs with accompanying benefits were hard to find in Michigan’s depressed economy, Sadiq had been lucky to secure this kind of stable employment. He used his job to

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save money for his marriage. He also took a second night job in a Lebanese-owned gas station. Through connections in the local Iraqi community, Sadiq met Fatima and married her on a cold winter day in January, shortly before he turned thirty. Sadiq was attracted to Fatima not only for her beauty but because she was smart and was one of the few Iraqi refugee women attending the local branch of the University of Michigan. Fatima applied herself to her studies and was well on her way to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in information technology management. In addition, Fatima had obtained a coveted government position at the state’s unemployment agency. Being fully bilingual, Fatima was able to help local Arab refugees and immigrants fill out their unemployment forms. Fatima’s position provided her with health insurance benefits and allowed her to pay her own way through college, as her father could not afford the tuition bills. Sadiq and Fatima began their marriage with the highest of hopes. They both had good jobs with benefits. Fatima was on track to graduate from college. And in a depressed housing market with low interest rates, the couple was able to buy a small house on a treelined street in a mostly Lebanese Shia neighborhood. Living apart from their large families for the first time in their lives, Sadiq and Fatima also had some measure of marital privacy. Like most Arab newlyweds, they started trying to make a family from the first day of marriage. But a year and a half later, the couple’s plans had gone terribly awry. Metro Detroit was in an economic freefall. Sadiq’s factory job, reliant on the local GM and Ford factories, swiftly disappeared due to downsizing. Furthermore, Sadiq was disturbed by the fact that he had not been able to impregnate Fatima, who was being scrutinized by women in the community for not becoming pregnant. Although Sadiq’s wages as a gas station attendant were meager, he encouraged Fatima to make an appointment for both of them at the local infertility clinic. Although the Lebanese IVF physician explained to Sadiq and Fatima that they might eventually become pregnant without the help of IVF or ICSI, they were anxious to start a family. Throwing caution to the wind, they decided to put all of their remaining savings—$10,000, to be exact—into the purchase of a single IVF cycle, a procedure that was not covered by Fatima’s health insurance plan. Furthermore, Fatima lost that plan when she decided to cut back to half-time employment. With the daily blood tests, ultrasounds scans, and hormone injections, fitting her medical appointments into a full-


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time work schedule was too difficult. Moreover, Sadiq lost his gas station job soon after Fatima began the IVF cycle. But because they were already committed—and had paid fully for the IVF—they decided to press forward. The IVF cycle seemed to be going well. Because Fatima was still young, in her late twenties, she produced twenty-six healthy eggs, a considerable number, which were retrieved from her ovaries in an outpatient procedure that was performed under general anesthesia. However, two days later, when Fatima was scheduled for the transfer of the embryos back into her uterus, she began to feel unwell. Her abdomen became extremely bloated, and she found herself gasping for breath. In addition, severe pain and cramping in her lower abdomen and legs meant that she could not walk, or even stand, on her own. Realizing that something was terribly wrong, Sadiq rushed Fatima to the emergency room of the local Dearborn hospital, where she was admitted for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). OHSS is a rare but potentially fatal complication resulting from some forms of fertility medication, and Fatima’s case was severe. She experienced marked abdominal bloating above the waist and shortness of breath due to pleural effusion, or the buildup of excess fluid in her lungs. Fatima described the medical emergency—and the unpaid hospital bill totaling thousands—to me in this way: This is the worst time ever in both of our lives. I never got that much sick before. This was the toughest time I’ve ever had. And I had spent a lot of time coming for ultrasounds and bloodwork. It was costly, painful, and also time-consuming. Every other day, I was doing treatment. But no one knew, not even the family. It was too personal, and I wanted to keep this to ourselves. Also, I had been working full time for the state. But because we wanted to start a family, I cut to part time and lost my state benefits. We started treatment from our own pockets. But when we left the hospital, the hospital bill was still unpaid. We’re going to have to ask a charity to help pay for our hospital bills. It’s a charity in the hospital. They will pay for the stay, but you have to prove that you’re low income or not working. I wasn’t expecting that I’m going to get sick when I saved just enough money for the in vitro. The IVF was maybe $10,000, all totaled with the medicine. At least that is paid for. But now we’re so broke that I can’t go back to school in the fall. . . . I was planning to graduate on time, but this is never going to happen.

Because Fatima had revealed their financial woes to me, I asked the couple if their families could help provide them with any form of

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financial support. Sadiq was the first to respond, explaining how the Michigan economy was sinking: Businesses around here keep laying people off. So there are not that many people who can help us in our families. If we have no choice, then I’ve got to go to my family. But first, I must try my best. We just bought a house, but now she’s sick, and I never thought this would happen.

Moreover, Sadiq and Fatima had just received totally unexpected news that very afternoon—namely, Fatima was pregnant, even though none of her IVF embryos had been transferred to her womb in the midst of her life-threatening OHSS emergency. Although I was happy for this young Arab refugee couple—who had faced a perilous journey and so many subsequent difficulties—I was confused about Fatima’s “mystery” pregnancy. Fatima explained to me that the doctor had told them to refrain from sex during the IVF cycle. But, once again, they had thrown caution to the wind. One episode of unprotected sex had resulted in an unplanned pregnancy—a “natural” pregnancy that had withstood the rigors of IVF hormonal stimulation and a severe case of OHSS. As the clinic was about to shut its doors for the weekend, I asked Fatima how she was feeling about the pregnancy. “I didn’t know I was pregnant,” she explained. “It was a surprise, an unexpected surprise!” Sadiq added, “Oh yeah, it was the lucky nine, the lucky shot!” Fatima was still feeling sick and distended from the OHSS. Sadiq was still unemployed with no idea where he would find another job. The couple’s mortgage and hospital bills were unpaid, and they were now facing the real risk of bankruptcy and housing foreclosure. In fact, they were stuck—pregnant and sick, unemployed and broke. Still, on that summer afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice that Fatima and Sadiq were beaming. They had each other. They had a miraculous pregnancy. And they now had hopes and dreams of a future baby—to be born safe but poor on the margins of Detroit.

Conclusion The goal of this chapter is to render visible the overwhelming problems faced by many Arab refugees who come to the United States in their darkest hour of need. I attempt to link issues of refugee resettlement, structural vulnerability, and reproductive exile through


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a focus on the plight of infertile refugees—and particularly the travails of Iraqi refugee men—who were attending the Arab-serving IVF clinic where I conducted my study in Arab Detroit. Despite their many hardships, most of these Iraqi refugee men were reproductively agentive, doing the best they could to overcome their infertility problems. Yet, for most, the solution to their infertility, IVF or ICSI, was out of reach. Thus, the men and women in my study were caught in a state of reproductive exile—unable to return to war-torn countries, yet unable to gain access to the promises of American reproductive medicine. Unable to go “back home” but unable to feel entirely “at home” in America as impoverished, childless refugees, my interlocutors existed in a kind of liminal state, which I characterize in this chapter as reproductive exile. For Iraqi refugee men who have suffered so much—including war, torture, and flight—their search for love and test-tube babies is an existential quest, an attempt to make meaning and new life in the aftermath of all that has been lost. Thus, for them, reproductive exile is a tragic condition of liminality—of being “stuck” betwixt and between two countries, in an unwanted, untreatable state of barrenness, in a cultural and social world where children mean so much.

Marcia C. Inhorn is the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs in the Department of Anthropology and the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University. A specialist on Middle Eastern gender, religion, and reproductive health issues, Inhorn has conducted research on the social impact of infertility and assisted reproductive technologies in Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Arab America over the past thirty years. She is the author of six award-winning books on this subject, including The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East, Cosmopolitan Conceptions: IVF Sojourns in Global Dubai, and her latest, America’s Arab Refugees: Vulnerability and Health on the Margins.

Notes This chapter was originally published as Inhorn, Marcia C. (2017), “Searching for Love and Test-Tube Babies: Iraqi Refugee Men in Reproductive Exile on the Margins of Detroit.” Medical Anthropology (DOI:10.1080/01459740.2 016.1276904). Reprinted with permission.

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1. I have written a great deal about the profound desire for children among Arab populations in a variety of Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates (Inhorn 1996, 2012, 2015). In Arab Detroit, I found the same ardent “child desire” among infertile couples who were often desperate to conceive. Those who did not often faced social scrutiny within the community. 2. The Middle East as a whole hosts a flourishing IVF industry (Inhorn 2003, 2012, 2015). However, the Iraqi IVF sector was destroyed by war, leaving only one functioning clinic in Iraqi Kurdistan.

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Franklin, Sarah. 1997. Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception. London: Routledge. Gutmann, Matthew. 2007. Fixing Men: Sex, Birth Control, and AIDS in Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press. Human Rights Institute. 2009. “Refugee Crisis in America: Iraqis and Their Resettlement Experience.” Georgetown University Law Center. Retrieved from cgi?article=1001&context=hri_papers. Inhorn, Marcia C. 1996. Infertility and Patriarchy: The Cultural Politics of Gender and Patriarchy in Egypt. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ———. 2003. Local Babies, Global Science: Gender, Religion, and In Vitro Fertilization in Egypt. New York: Routledge. ———. 2012. The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ———. 2015. Cosmopolitan Conceptions: IVF Sojourns in Global Dubai. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. ———. 2016. “Medical Cosmopolitanism in Global Dubai: A Twenty-FirstCentury Transnational Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) Depot.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 31(1): 5–22. Maraniss, David. 2015. Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story. New York: Simon and Schuster. Myntti, Cynthia, Abir Ballan, Omar Dewachi, Faysal El-Kak, and Mary E. Deeb. 2000. “Challenging the Stereotypes: Men, Withdrawal, and Reproductive Health in Lebanon.” Contraception 65: 165–70. Quesada, James, Laurie Kain Hart, and Philippe Bourgois. 2011. “Structural Vulnerability and Health: Latino Migrant Laborers in the United States.” Medical Anthropology 30: 339–62. Sadik, Sabah, Sarah Abdulrahman, Marie Bradley, and Rachel Jenkins. 2011. “Integrating Mental Health into Primary Health Care in Iraq.” Mental Health in Family Medicine 8: 3–49. Schopmeyer, Kim. 2011. “Arab Detroit after 9/11: A Changing Demographic Portrait.” In Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade, ed. Nabeel Abraham, Sally Howell, and Andrew Shryock, 29–63. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Sheppard, C. 2011. “Hard Time for Iraqi Refugees in Weak US Job Market.” 3 March. Retrieved from 26LD20110303. Svab, Petr. 2013. “110,000 Iraqi Refugees in US, Where Are They?” The Epoch Times, 31 January 31. Retrieved from https://www.theepochtimes .com/110000-iraqi-refugees-in-us-where-are-they_1233545.html. Taylor, Eboni M., Emad A. Yanni, Clelia Pezzi, Michael Guterbock, Erin Rothney, Elizabeth Harton, Jessica Montour, Collin Elias, and Heather Burke. 2014. “Physical and Mental Health Status of Iraqi Refugees Resettled in the United States.” Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health 16: 1130–37.


agriculture, Tanzania, 248, 249 “Ahlān Fīk bil-Mukhayyamāt” (Welcome to the Camps), 29 Ahmed, Abu, 40 A Aktobe, Kazakhstan, 156, 164 absence of the state, 226–33 alcohol, 197 abstinence, sexual, 197 Alevi-Bektashi sect, 271 Abu-Lughod, Lila, 6, 132 ALICE (asset limited, income Abuya, Willice O., 252 constrained, employed), 302 Adely, Fida, 7, 8, 95 Al-Qaeda, 1 affairs, 57 Alsultany, Evelyn, 201 Affordable Care Act, 304 ancestral roots, curiosity about, 167 affordable housing, 139 ANNIDA (magazine), 95 Afghan civil war (1992–1996), 70 Afghan Community Center (Athens, antipoaching guards, 227 antireligious campaigns, 161 Greece), 265, 269 Arab Detroit, 299, 300–2; infertile Afghanistan, 15, 271; burial refugees, 302–5; infertility practices, 276; Jalabad, 74; treatment, 305–8; male Kabul, 64, 66; migrant reproductive agency, 308–17. men living in Greece, 267; See also Detroit, Michigan migration, 279 Arab Gulf, 55 Afghan Pashtun men, 63–84; Arabic-speaking immigrants (in Baryalay, 74–9; decisionBrazil), 185 making, 77; ethics, 64; gender relations, 68–9; love, 66; moral Arab League, 15 Arab masculinity, 86, 87 values, 64; Rahmat, 70–4; Arab sense of self, 132 Rohullah, 63–6, 66–8; view of Arab Spring (2011), 15 women, 70, 71, 72; violence, Arafat, Yasser, 30 66 the Arctic: asylum in Norway, agency, 5; among Afghan Pashtun 280–2; displacement in, 282– men, 63–84; gender, 294; male 3; education, 286–7; life in reproductive agency, 308–17 Norway, 283–4; reasons for aghas, 148, 149 Note: page references with a t will be found in tables


migrating to Norway, 284–5; role of fathers, 288–93; seasonal adjustments, 285–6; Syrian refugee men in, 279–97 arrangements, marriage, 72, 73 art, Museum of Islamic Art and Culture, 189 Ashwin, Sarah, 172 Asif (South Asian Muslim men), 209–13 assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), 299 asthenozoospermia, 303 atheism, 157 Athens, Greece, 265, 269 austerity measures in Greece, 266, 268, 270 authenticity, search for (Kazakh men), 164–71 authority of women, 72 autopsies, 274 ʾayyām al-thawra (the days of the revolution), 28 azoospermia, 303 B Bachelard, Gaston, 289 badal (revenge), 73 Bangladesh, India, 14; South Asian Muslim men in Barcelona, Spain, 209–13 bapak (“father,” male leader), 93 Barcelona, Spain, 14; employment in, 202; South Asian Muslim men in, 200–17; South Asian population in (2015), 203t Baryalay, 74–9 Basso, Keith, 289 Beasts of No Nation model, 238 Begim, Ainur, 13 Beirut, Lebanon, 8, 17 Besós Mar, Spain, 208 Bharadwaj, Aditya, 119 the big guys (les grands), 235 Birmingham, England, 208 birth certificates (in CAR), 226 birth control: male, 3 biznes (business), 156, 173


Bloch, Ernest, 292 blood-related kin (mahram), 68 Boddy, Janice, 19, 290 bodies: idealization of, 36; repatriation of, 272–7 Boko Haram, 1 Bourdieu, Pierre, 130, 137, 293 Bourgois, Philippe, 306 boyhood: behavior in Java, 90; passage from, 28 Brazil, 14; Curtiba, 183; history of Islam in, 184; morals in, 198; Muslim men caring for each other in, 187–96; Muslim men in, 182–99; Muslims in, 183–7; religious affiliations in, 183; Rio de Janeiro, 183, 186, 195; São Paulo, 184; socialization in, 194; Sunni Mosque of Rio de Janeiro, 190 Brazil Mosque (Mesquita Brasil), 184 bride price (mahr), 50 burial rituals (Islam), 270 burial traditions (Kazakhstan), 164, 165, 166 business (biznes), 156, 173 Butler, Judith, 32, 269 C Cairo, Egypt, 17, 47–62, 129 Cairo Agreement (1969), 30 call to marriage, 6 Camp Wars, 34 care, 16; for the dead, 265–70; definition of, 12; ethics of, 131–3; to labor, 138–41; for the living, 265–70; migrant men living in Greece, 262– 78; modalities of, 133–7; monetizing, 223; Muslim men caring for each other in Brazil, 187–96; Muslim men in Brazil, 182–99; politics of (in Kazakhstan), 156–81; South Asian Muslim men in Barcelona, Spain, 200–17 career women (wanita karier), 95


caregiving, 12; for elders (Kazakhstan), 168, 169, 176; Naguib, Nefissa, 259 caretakers, Muslim men as, 9–14 caring masculinity, 132 Catholic education, 190 cattle herding (in CAR), 226 cemeteries, 272. See also burial rituals (Islam) Central African Republic (CAR), 17, 221, 223; absence of state, 226–33; cattle herding, 226; employment in, 227; France in, 224; independence of, 224; national identity cards in, 225; overview of, 224–6; politics, 223; rebel humanitarians, 233–9. See also Tarzan, General (Trumaine Ndodeba) Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), 49 Chad, 224 Chagas, Gisele Fonseca, 14 Charlie Hebdo, 187 childlessness (in India), 108 children: reasons for migrating to Norway, 284–5; recruited as soldiers, 239; reproduction (in Detroit, Michigan), 298–320; UNICEF, 234, 238 Chiovenda, Andrea, 8 Christianity: in African countries, 222; in Brazil, 190, 193; in Central African Republic (CAR), 228; “March for Peace,” 238 Cinnirella, Marco, 201 circumcision (jandoo ceremony), 256 citizenship, Middle East, 147 city of students (kota pelajar), 87 Clark, Katerina, 172 classes: definitions of, 48; distinctions in India, 119; links to gender, 130 Clifford, James, 293 O Clone (The Clone), 185


The Clone (O Clone), 185 coaching, 241; as a leadership skill, 237; monetizing care as, 223; soccer, 234, 235. See also Tarzan, General (Soumaine Ndodeba) coconut trees, 251, 252 collectivism, 147 commitment, 5 common wisdom, 64 communal prayer (maghrib), 202, 206 communication technologies, 135 companionate love, 57 companionate marriage, 6, 119–21 companionate partners, 98–100 companionship, focus on (in India), 118 conflicts, 14. See also wars conjugal bonds, 57 conjugal connectivity, 10 conjugality, 5, 111 conjugal privacy, 118 connectivity, 10, 11 Connell, R. W., 35, 86, 171 conservative Muslim and Islamist models, 93–8 consumerism (in Egypt), 139 Convention on the Exchange of Populations (1923), 270 coping strategies, 11 cosmopolitan class, 48 costs: bride price (mahr), 50; of marriage, 49 courting, 56. See also engagements creativity, 5 cultural idioms among Afghan Pashtun men, 63–84 cultural intimacy, 197 culture: Islam as, 158; Museum of Islamic Art and Culture, 189 Curtiba, Brazil, 183 D Dacko, David, 224–5 da Gama, Vasco, 245 daily prayer in Kazakhstan, 158, 164



the days of the revolution (ʾayyām al-thawra), 28 Dearborn, Michigan, 301 death: burying the dead, 270–2; care for the dead, 265–70; moving the dead across borders, 272–7; rituals (Kazakhstan), 164–6 decent man (gad’a), 133 decision-making, 77 deeds, 33 democracy, return to electoral (Java), 89 Democratic Republic of the Congo, 229 De Munck, Victor, 6 descending individualism, 147 Detroit, Michigan, 18; infertility treatment, 305–8; Iraqi refugee men in, 298–320; male reproductive agency, 308–17 diasporic communities, Muslim men in, 4 disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) program, 231 discussion meetings (ijtima), 204 displacement in the Arctic, 282–3 dispossession, 245–61 divorce, 49, 253. See also marriage Djotodia, Michel, 231, 232 domestic apprenticeships, 169 donations (for burials), 273 Durban, South Africa, 207, 208

school (sanawiya ‘amma), 142; quitting school, 138; Syrian refugee men, 286–7; in Tanzania, 253; women in India, 110 Egypt: Cairo, 17, 129; companionate marriage, 6; delays in marriage, 7; food provision, 3; Haitham, 52–7, 58, 59; love and marriage in, 47–62; masculinity, 48; tension with Turkey, 140; workingclass men in urban, 129–43 elders, caring for, 168, 169, 176 electricity, 246 embassies, Pakistan, 273 emergent masculinities, 2, 3, 87, 120, 171, 172, 196, 201 employment: in Barcelona, Spain, 202; in Central African Republic (CAR), 227; job hunting, 140; self-employment, 156. See also unemployment engagements, 49, 54. See also marriage England: Birmingham, 208 entitlements, 222 erotic passion, 57 ethics: of care, 131–3; Pashtun men, 64 ethnicity, 150, 151, 294 European Union (EU), 227, 264 Ewing, Katherine Pratt, 201 extremism, 162

E economic crisis in Greece, 266, 268 economic liberalization (in India), 109–11 economies, state of, 49 The Economist, 16, 17 economy of Soviet Union, 172 education: Catholic, 190; Kazakh men, 168; in Kazakhstan, 174; national exams, 142; in Norway, 286–7; public high

F Fábos, Anita Hausermann, 201 Facebook, 135, 265 fairness, 66 faith, Muslim men in Brazil, 182–99 fajr (morning prayer), 205 families: Muslim family life, 9–14; shifts in formation of, 7 familism, 92 farming, 252. See also agriculture fasting, 53



(in Shatila, Lebanon), 27–9; fatherhood, 18; Syrian refugee men, shabāb’s burden, 36–40; 279–97; working-class men (in supportive masculinities (in urban Egypt), 138–41 India), 107–26; theorizing “father,” male leader (bapak), 93 power, 31–3; troubles in Fawzi, Abu, 28, 33, 34 Shatila, Lebanon, 27–46; femininity as attainment, 31 Western ideologies, 69 feminism, 32, 130 gendered habitus, cultivation of, 130 feminization of masculinity, 107 Gendered Paradoxes: Educating fertility: polycystic ovary syndrome Jordanian Women in Nation, (PCOS), 115; women, 108. See Faith, and Progress (Adely), 7, 8 also infertile refugees genocide, 15, 144 fidāʾiyyīn (resistance fighters), 27, Gerzon, Mark, 35 28, 29, 30, 33–6, 38 ghairat (masculine virtue of Finnmark, Norway, 280, 283 defending one’s own family’s First Gulf War, 298, 309 respectability), 64, 70, 73 Fischer, Edward R., 51, 57 Ghannam, Farha, 12, 50, 95, 133, Five Pillars of the Islamic faith, 157 138, 201 Flint, Michigan, 300 Gilligan, Carol, 131 food insecurity, 245–61 Gilsenan, Michael, 2, 32, 33 food provision, 3 girls, behavior in Java, 90 forbidden love stories, 185 global class identity, 48 Ford, Michele, 85 globalization, 51 Ford Rouge automobile factory, 300 Golden Dawn, 272 foreign Islam, 162, 163 “golden years for Kazakhstan,” 156–7 Foreign Policy, 14 government compensation France in Central African Republic (Tanzania), 253 (CAR), 224 les grands (the big guys), 235 French Foreign Legion, 227 Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922), funerals (Kazakhstan), 164–6 270 Greece: Athens, 265, 269; austerity G measures in, 266, 268; burying gad’a (decent man), 133 the dead, 270–2; caring for the gay movement in North America, living, 265–70; Lesvos Island, 32 265, 267; migrant men living gender: agency, 294; companionate in, 262–78; moving the dead partners, 98–100; conservative across borders, 272–7; social Muslim and Islamist models,  unrest in, 264; tragedies at sea, 93–8; ideologies in Java, 92; 262, 263 inequality, 91; interaction, Greek Orthodox religious practices, 197; links to class, 130; 275 Palestinian marches, 29–31; Greek Refugee Asylum office, 268 precedents (soft patriarchs), Growth of the Soil (Hamsun), 295 89–91; performativity, 32; public-private gender divide, H 3; relations (Afghan Pashtun Haddad, Fanar, 151 men), 68–9; resistance fighters Hadith, 94, 271 (fidāʾiyyīn), 33–6; romance


Haitham: a man looking for love, 52–4; standards of, 58; topic of sex, 54–7; understandings of Islam, 59 haj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, 204 Hamid (South Asian Muslim men), 206–9 Hamsun, Knut, 295 Hanafi legal school, 161 harems, 35 Harris, Olivia, 288, 289 Harvard University, 289 Hassan, Abu, 29 health care, 139 healthcare system (United States), 299 Heartfield, James, 39 hegemonic hypermasculinity, 36 hegemonic masculinity, 35, 38, 39 hegemonic models of manhood, 85–6 hegemony, 171 Hegland, Mary, 148 Herzfeld, Michael, 32 heteronormative frameworks, 201–2 heteronormative masculinities, 85 heterosexuality, 32, 86 hierarchies, 33, 120 hijabs, 53, 54 Hirsch, Jennifer, 51 history of Islam in Brazil, 184 Hizbut Tahrir, 89 Hobbes, Thomas, 2 homosexuality, 32, 85, 192 homosocial environments, 201–2 honor, Palestinian, 36 honor killings, 149 hubb (love), 12 human dignity, 268 humanitarianism, 221–44 “human potential agenda,” 234 Hussein, Saddam, 144, 150 hypermasculinity, 85 hypocrisy, religious, 163 I Ibrahim, Barbara, 6


ijtima (discussion meetings), 204 Imam Ali Talib Mosque, 188 incest taboos, 68 incomes of Iraqi refugee men, 301, 302 India: Bangladesh, 14; class distinctions in, 119; companionate marriage, 119– 21; economic liberalization in, 109–11; managing PCOS, 114–17; methodology in study of PCOS, 112–14; middle classes in, 107; Mumbai, 112; new lifestyle standards in, 110; supportive masculinities in, 107–26 Indonesia, 85; Islamic revival in, 88, 89; religious schools in, 91 inequality, gender, 91 inferiority of women, 73 infertile refugees, 302–5 infertility, male, 108 infertility treatment, 305–8 Inhorn, Marcia C., 2, 18, 51; alternative gender dynamics, 201; Arab masculinity, 86, 87; classes in India, 119; conjugal connectivity, 10; emergent masculinities, 120, 171, 172, 196, 201; hegemonic masculinity, 39; masculine hope technology, 303; new picture of Arab men, 290; state of Middle Eastern masculinity, 132 Institut Agama Islam Negeri (IAIN), 100 internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, 149 International Committee of the Red Cross, 240 International Organization for Migration ( IOM), 264 international peacebuilders, 229 intimacy: cultural, 197; roles of, 4 intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), 303, 304, 309, 318 intrauterine insemination, 115


in vitro fertilization (IVF), 115, 116, 302, 304, 305. See also reproduction Iran, 7 Iraqi Kurdistan, 13 Iraqi refugee men, 144, 298–320; Arab Detroit, 300–2; ethnicity, 150–1; incomes, 301, 302; infertile refugees, 302–5; infertility treatment, 305–8; male reproductive agency, 308–17; migration, 279 Iraqi refugees, 18 ISIS, 1 Islam, 53, 86; after socialism, 161– 4; burial rituals, 270; Five Pillars of, 157; foreign, 162, 163; gender definitions in, 202; goal of society (Haitham), 54; history of Islam in Brazil, 184; Kazakh practice of, 168; in Kazakhstan, 157, 159–64; Muslim men in Brazil, 182– 99 (see also Muslim men); populations of, 161; revival in Java, 88, 89; romantic love, 47; scripturalist interpretations of, 170; under socialism, 160–1; state policies, 224 Islamic State, 149 Islamic terrorists, 1 Isotalo, Riina, 201 Italy, 264 J Jackson, Michael D., 288, 293 Jalabad, Afghanistan, 74 jandoo ceremony (circumcision), 256 Jankowiak, William R., 51, 57 Jaspal, Rusi, 201 Java: companionate partners, 98–100; conservative Muslim and Islamist models, 93–8; gender precedents (soft patriarchs), 89–91; kinship, 90, 91; marriage in, 88, 90; masculinity in, 85–106; New Order hegemonies


(state fathers), 92–3; return to electoral democracy, 89; Yogyakarta, 87, 97 les jeunes (the young), 235 jins (sex), 31. See also gender job hunting, 140 Jordan, women in, 95, 96 Joseph, Suad, 10, 131 K Kabul, Afghanistan, 64, 66 Kamat, Vinay R., 17 Kapur, Ratna, 201 Karim, Wazir-Jahan, 91 Kazakh men: ancestral roots, curiosity about, 167; education, 168; elders, caring for, 168, 169; Islam in Kazakhstan, 159– 64; performance of masculinity, 171–6; politics of care in, 156–81; search for authenticity, 164–71 Kazakhstan, 13; Aktobe, 156, 164; daily prayer in, 158; education in, 174; Islam in, 157, 159–64; as model for welfare state, 176; oil in, 174; private enterprise in, 174. See also Kazakh men keibuan (motherliness), 97 Kesatuan Aksi Mahasiswa Muslim Indonesia (KAMMI), 89, 94 Khost University, 74 King, Diane E., 13 kinship, 90, 91, 144 Kirkenes, Norway, 280, 283 Kleinman, Arthur, 12, 290 Kluckhohn, Clyde, 289 kodrat, 92 kota pelajar (city of students), 87 Kugle, Scott, 201 Kurdish men: as doting family members, 149–50; masculinity of, 144–55; as refuge granters, 147–9; as romantics, 150–3 Kurdistan, 145, 146 Kurdistani political order, 13 Kurdistan Regional Government, 149


Kurdistan Region of Iraq ( KRI), 144, 145, 149 L labor: care to, 138–41; migration, 200, 213; working-class men (in urban Egypt), 129–43 lad (shāb), 28 land dispossession, 245–61 Lanzer, Toby, 230 laws, personal status, 5 leadership skills, coaching as, 237 Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), 27, 30, 300 Lebanon, 2, 14, 189; Beirut, 8, 17; gender troubles in Shatila, 27–46; Palestinian marches, 29–31; Palestinian Resistance Movement, 28; populations in Detroit, Michigan, 300, 301; resistance fighters (fidāʾiyyīn), 33–6; romance in, 27–9; shabāb’s burden, 36–40; theorizing power, 31–3; unemployment, 29 legal codes, 151 lesbian movement in North America, 32 Lesvos Island (Greece), 265, 267 Leviathan (Hobbes), 2 LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/ transsexual, intersex and queer/ questioning), 40, 41 Liebenow, J. Gus, 248 life-cycle rituals, 163 Life within Limits: Well-Being in a World of Want (Jackson), 288–93 lineages, protection of, 147, 148 the list (el qaima), 49 lived emergencies, 288 Lombard, Louisa, 17 loneliness, overcoming, 202 Lords of the Lebanese Marches (Gilsenan), 2, 32 Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), 236


Louw, Maria, 163 love: Afghan Pashtun men, 66; companionate, 57; concept of, 50–1; Haitham (a man looking for love), 52–4; Muslim men in, 5–9, 47–62; platonic types of, 54; and responsibilities, 58; romantic, 47, 51; study of, 51–2; topic of sex, 54–7; unhappiness and, 57–8. See also marriage love (hubb), 12 “Love and Marriage in a Sri Lankan Muslim Community” (De Munck), 6 “Love Makes a Family: Globalization, Companionate Marriage and the Modernization of Gender Inequality” (Hirsch), 51 love stories, forbidden, 185 Lyons, Lenore, 85 M maghrib (communal prayer), 202, 206 mahr (bride price), 50 mahram (blood-related kin), 68 Makande men, 245–61; ethnographic context, 249– 50; food security, 250–2; life stories, 252–8; Mtwara Region (Tanzania), 247–9; social transformation, 250–2 male birth control, 3 male infertility, 108, 303 male reproductive agency, 308–17 males: as attractive suitors, 48; managing PCOS, 114–17; patriarchy, 10. See also Muslim men manhood: hegemonic models of, 85–6; nonhegemonic models of, 86; passage to, 28; stereotypes of, 54 Mankekar, Purnima, 111 Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park, 228


manual work. See labor Maraba people, 248 “March for Peace,” 238 marriage, 3, 28, 38; affairs, 57; arrangements, 72, 73; call to, 6; companionate, 6, 119–21; compromise in, 56, 57; costs of, 49; delays in, 7; expectations of, 55; incest taboos, 68; intimacy, 4; in Java, 88, 90; Muslim men in love and, 5–9, 47–62; temporary marriage (mut’a), 193; working-class men (in urban Egypt), 138–41 Martín-Sáiz, Guillermo, 14 Marx, Karl, 145 masculine hope technology, 303 masculine trajectory, 135 masculine virtue of defending one’s own family’s respectability (ghairat), 64, 70, 73 masculinity, 5; Afghan Pashtun men, 63–84; assertion of, 190; as attainment, 31; caring, 132; companionate partners, 98– 100; conservative Muslim and Islamist models, 93–8; in crisis, 31; crisis of, 39, 41; definitions, 201; Egypt, 48; emergent masculinities, 2, 3, 87; gender precedents (soft patriarchs), 89–91; hegemonic, 35; heteronormative masculinities, 85; in Java, 85–106; Kazakh men, 158; Kurdish men, 144–55; links to productivity, 130; Makande men, 245–61; Muslim men (see Muslim men); New Order hegemonies (state fathers), 92–3; performance of (Kazakh men), 171–6; supportive masculinities (in India), 107–26 Massad, Joseph, 35 Matambwe, 248. See also Makande men Mazzarella, William, 111


McBrien, Julie, 161 Mecca, pilgrimage (haj) to, 204 medical military airlifts, 232 megafauna (in CAR), 228 mentalization, 79 Mesquita Brasil (Brazil Mosque), 184 Messick, Brinkley, 147 Michigan: Dearborn, 301; Detroit, 18 (see also Detroit, Michigan); Flint, 300 middle classes in India, 107 Middle East, 15, 144, 147 migrant men living in Greece, 262–78; burying the dead, 270–2; caring for the living, 265–70; moving the dead across borders, 272–7; tragedies at sea, 262, 263 migration, 279; labor, 200, 213; reasons for migrating to Norway, 284–5 Mijikenda people, 252 militarism, 86 modalities of care, 133–7 monetizing care, 223 Montgomery, David, 166 Moore, Henrietta, 288, 292 moral codes, 151 morals, 38; in Brazil, 198; of Pashtun men, 64 morning prayer (fajr), 205 Morocco, 7, 232, 271 Morsi, Muhammad, 47 mosques: Brazil Mosque (Mesquita Brasil), 184; Imam Ali Talib Mosque, 188; Sunni Mosque of Rio de Janeiro, 190 Mosul University, 152 motherliness (keibuan), 97 Mtwara Region (Tanzania), 247–9, 251 Mumbai, India, 112 musallas (prayer rooms), 183, 187, 191 Museum of Islamic Art and Culture, 189


“Muslim ban,” 1 Muslim Charitable Society of Paraná, 188 Muslim Charitable Society of Rio de Janeiro, 186 Muslim foreigners, 241 Muslim men: Afghan Pashtun men, 63–84; as attractive suitors, 48; in Brazil, 182–99; as caretakers, 9–14; caring for each other in Brazil, 187–96; caring for the living, 265–70; challenges of, 4; companionate partners, 98–100; conservative Muslim and Islamist models, 93–8; in diasporic communities, 4; gender precedents (soft patriarchs), 89–91; Haitham (a man looking for love), 52–4; Hamid, 206–9; heteronormative frameworks, 201–2; homosocial environments, 201–2; Iraqi refugee men, 298–320; Kazakh men, 164–76; Kurdish men, 144–55; learning responsibility, 135; in love and marriage, 5–9, 47–62; Makande men, 245–61; managing PCOS, 116–17; masculinity, 183; masculinity in Java, 85–106; migrant men living in Greece, 262–78; New Order hegemonies (state fathers), 92–3; patriarchy, 10; in precarious times, 14–19; South Asian, 14; South Asian men in Barcelona, Spain, 200–17; South Asian Muslim men, 201–17; stereotypes, 290; stereotypes of, 3; Syrian refugee men, 279–97; Tariq, 202–6; Tarzan, General (Soumaine Ndodeba), 221–44; tragedies at sea, 262, 263; unhappiness, 57–8; workingclass men (in urban Egypt), 129–43


Muslims: in Brazil, 183–7; in Central African Republic (CAR), 228; in Kazakhstan, 157; “March for Peace,” 238; in name only, 163; selfhood, 170; Shia, 301, 309, 320 Muslim world: family life in, 4; Western portrayals of, 1 mut’a (temporary marriage), 193 Myanmar, 15 Mzanaki tribe, 252 N Nagel, Joane, 35 Naguib, Nefissa, 3, 18, 50, 58; alternative gender dynamics, 201; caregiving, 259; men’s stories, 183; undomesticated Arab Muslim men, 132 Naji, Abu, 34, 35 national exams, 142 national identity cards (in CAR), 225 nationalism, 33 natural gas, 246, 255, 256 Ndodeba, Soumaine. See Tarzan, General Ndonde people, 248 networks of support, 213–14 new lifestyle standards (in India), 110 new Muslim migrants, 271. See also migrant men living in Greece New Order government, 87, 88, 92–3 Nigeria: burial practices, 276; migrants, 273 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), 15, 69, 74, 76, 230, 234 nonhegemonic models of manhood, 86 Norbakk, Mari, 8 North Africa, 144 North Pole, 280 Norway: displacement in, 282–3; education, 286–7; Finnmark, 280, 283; Kirkenes, 280, 283;


memories of war in, 282; reasons for migrating to, 284– 5; refugee life in, 283–4; role of fathers, 288–93; seasonal adjustments, 285–6; Syrian asylum in, 280–2 nurturance, 5 Nurturing Masculinities: Men, Food, and Family in Contemporary Egypt (Naguib), 3 Nyerere, Julius, 253 O Obama, Barack, 304 Obeyesekere, Gananath, 65 oil in Kazakhstan, 156, 174 old Muslims, 270–2. See also Greece oligozoospermia, 303 oppression, 132 Orientalism (Said), 2 Ortner, Sherry, 68, 146 Osman, Magued, 7 Ottoman Empire, 270 ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome ( OHSS), 316, 317 P pachas, 74, 75 Pakistan, 14, 70, 271; burial practices, 276; embassies, 273; men in Barcelona, Spain, 202– 6; South Asian Muslim men in Barcelona, Spain, 206–8 Palestine, 2, 28; honor, 36; Palestinian marches, 29–31 Palestinian Resistance Movement, 28 Palivos, Tina, 18 parda rules, 69, 73 partners, companionate, 98–100 Pashto language, 66 Pashtun men: Baryalay, 74–9; decision-making, 77; ethics, 64; gender relations, 68–9; Rahmat, 70–4; Rohullah, 63–6, 66–8; view of women, 70, 71, 72; violence, 66


passion, 57 paternity, controlling, 145 Pathak, Gauri, 9 patriarchy, 10; gender precedents (soft patriarchs), 89–91; legitimacy of, 86 patrilineality, 86 patriliny, 145, 151 patrilocality, 86 patrogenesis, 145 “Peaks of Yemen I Summon”: Poetry as Cultural Practice in a North Yemeni Tribe (Caton), 2 perfectionism, 70–4 performativity, gender, 32 the periphery. See Mtwara Region (Tanzania) personal status laws, 5 physical relationships, 54–7. See also sex piety of South Asian Muslim men, 200–17 pilgrimage (haj) to Mecca, 204 poaching, antipoaching guards, 227 Poetics of Manhood (Herzfeld), 32 poetry, 2 politics: of care (in Kazakhstan), 156–81; Central African Republic (CAR), 223; Kurdistani political order, 13; vernacular, 11 Pollard, Lisa, 51, 52 polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), 9, 107, 108, 120; in contemporary India, 111–12; managing, 114–17; methodology in study of, 112–14 polygyny/hypervirility, 86 pornography, 192, 197 post-Suharto period (Java), 94 power, theorizing, 31–3 power sources, 246 prayer, daily prayer in Kazakhstan, 158, 164 prayer rooms (musallas), 183, 187, 191


pregnancy, 316. See also reproduction The Principle of Hope (Bloch), 292 prisons, 33 privacy, conjugal, 118 private enterprise in Kazakhstan, 174 Privratsky, Bruce, 160 productivity, links to masculinity, 130 Prophet Muhammad, 6, 194, 195, 196 Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), 94 public high school (sanawiya ‘amma), 142 public-private gender divide, 3 Q el qaima (the list), 49 Qur’an, 75, 94, 196, 207, 271 R raaha nafsiyya (sense of security and serenity), 140 Radhakrishnan, Smitha, 110 radicalism, 162 Rahmat, 70–4 Ramadan, 53, 157, 209 Rasanayagam, Johan, 169, 170 Rashad, Hoda, 7 Rassemblement Patriotique pour le Renouveau de la Centrafrique (RPRC), 231 “real men,” 197 rebel humanitarians, 233–9 rebellion, 222–3, 229, 230, 236 Refugee Board of Canada 2013, 151 refugees, 1, 4, 18; Afghanistan, 267; infertile, 302–5; Iraqi refugee men, 18, 298–320; Lebanese, 300, 301; Palestinian in Lebanon, 30; Syrian refugee men, 279–97; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 264 Refugees Welcome to Norway (RWTN), 280 refuge granters, Kurdish men as, 147–9


relational selfhood, 131 relationships, 54–7. See also sex relief organizations, 150 religious hypocrisy, 163 religious schools: in Indonesia, 91 religious teacher (ustad), 96 reproduction, 298–320; infertility treatment, 305–8; in vitro fertilization (IVF), 302, 304, 305, 318 resistance fighters (fidāʾiyyīn), 27, 28, 29, 30, 33–6, 38 respect, 66 responsibilities, love and, 58 revenge (badal), 73 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 183, 186, 190, 195 rituals: burial (Islam), 270; death (Kazakhstan), 164, 165, 166; life-cycle, 163 Robinson, Kathryn, 91, 92 Rohinga Muslim, 15 Rohullah, 63–6, 66–8 roles: among men, 33; caregiving, 12; of intimacy, 4 romance, 5, 6, 27–9 romantic intimacy, 4 romantic love, 47, 51 romantics, Kurdish men as, 150–3 Rosenblatt, Bernard, 75 Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Clifford), 293 rules, parda, 69, 73 Russia, 160, 280. See also Soviet Union Russians in Kazakhstan, 159 S sadaka (a voluntary contribution or act of charity), 157, 163, 168 Sahlins, Marshall, 292 Said, Edward W., 2 Sami people, 282 sanawiya ‘amma (public high school), 142 Sandler, Joseph, 75 sandwich generation, 111


al-Sanusi, Mohammed, death of, 224 São Paulo, Brazil, 184 Sapir, Edward, 65 satellite television, 109 Saudi Arabia, 133 sayyids, 74 Schneider, David, 144 Schwab, Wendell, 169 scripturalist interpretations of Islam, 170 seasonal adjustments, 285–6 Second Gulf War, 298 Sectarianism in Iraq (Haddad), 151 secularism and the Soviet Union, 160 Seleka, 231, 236 self, sense of, 132 self-care, 182 self-employment, 156 selfhood, Muslim, 170 selfhood, relational, 131 semen loss, 107 sense of security and serenity (raaha nafsiyya), 140 September 11 (9/11), 2001, 1, 304 sex, 31, 54–7. See also gender sexual abstinence, 197 sexual desire (in India), 111 sexual impropriety, punishment for, 147 sexuality, female, 146 shāb (lad), 28 shabāb, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 36–40 Shatila, Lebanon: gender troubles in, 27–46; Palestinian marches, 29–31; resistance fighters (fidāʾiyyīn), 33–6; romance in, 27–9; shabāb’s burden, 36–40; theorizing power, 31–3 shezhire (genealogical reckoning), 167 Shia Muslims, 301, 309, 320 shoe workshop (warsha), 138 Singerman, Diane, 6, 7 “Situational Kazakh” (Tasibekov), 165 slave trade, 248, 249


Smith, Robertson, 144 Smith-Hefner, Nancy J., 9 soccer, 234, 235 social change, 67 socialism: Islam after, 161–4; Islam under, 160–1 socialization in Brazil, 194 social media, 135, 265 social status, 223 social transformation (in India), 109–11 sogym (traditional stocking away of meat for winter), 157 solidarity, 11 Somalia, 15 South Africa (Durban), 207, 208 South Asian Muslim men, 14; Asif, 209–13; in Barcelona, Spain, 200–17; Hamid, 206–9; heteronormative frameworks, 201–2; homosocial environments, 201–2; masculine formations, 107; Tariq, 202–6 Southeast Asia, 86 South Sudan, 15, 224, 229 Soviet Union, 13; antireligious campaigns, 161; disintegration of, 156, 159, 172; economy of, 172; secularism and, 160 Spain: Barcelona (see Barcelona, Spain); Besós Mar, 208; South Asian Muslim men in, 200–17 State Islamic University, 96 stereotypes of Muslim men, 3, 54, 290 Still Life: Hopes, Desires and Satisfactions (Moore), 292 Stone, Linda, 147 subfertility, 108 subjectivity among Afghan Pashtun men, 63–84 Sudan, 224, 271 Suharto, 89, 92; fall from power, 94; New Order government, 87 Sukarnoputri, Megawati, 95 Sunni Muslims (in Brazil), 185, 186 support, networks of, 213–14


supportive masculinities (in India), 107–26 Swahili coast (Tanzania), 245–61 symbols, subjectification of cultural, 65 Syria, 2, 14, 33, 264, 279 Syrian refugee men: in the Arctic, 279–97; asylum in Norway, 280–2; displacement in, 282– 3; education, 286–7; life in Norway, 283–4; reasons for migrating to Norway, 284–5; role of fathers, 288–93; seasonal adjustments, 285–6 Syriza Party, 272 T Taliban, 267. See also Afghanistan the Taliban, 1 Tanzania: agriculture, 248, 249; education in, 253; ethnographic context, 249– 50; food security, 250–2; government compensation, 253; life stories, 252–8; Makande men, 245–61; Mtwara Region, 247–9; natural gas, 246, 255, 256; social transformation, 250–2 Tariq (South Asian Muslim men), 202–6 Tarzan, General (Soumaine Ndodeba), 221–44; absence of state, 226–33; rebel humanitarians, 233–9 Tasibekov, Kanat, 165 television, satellite, 109 temporary marriage (mut’a), 193 temptation, 38 terrorism, 304; Charlie Hebdo, 187; September 11 (9/11), 2001, 1 The New Arab Man: Emergent Masculinities, Technologies, and Islam in the Middle East (Inhorn), 2 theoretical metonyms, 35 the young (les jeunes), 235 torture, 33


traditionalism, 161 traditional stocking away of meat for winter (sogym), 157 traditions: burial (Kazakhstan), 164, 165, 166; Islam as, 158 transgenderism, 85 Treaty of Peace (1923), 270 tribalism, 86 tribes, 35 Trump, Donald, 1 Tsipras, Alexis, 272 Turkey, 11, 15, 140 Turner, Victor, 289 U UMMI (magazine), 95 unemployment, 29, 30, 49 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), 228 UNICEF, 230, 234, 238, 239 unilineal descent privileges, 145 Union des forces pour la démocratie et le rassemblement (UFDR), 228, 229, 230, 231, 235 United Nations (UN), 230, 240 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 264 The United Republic of Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics, 248 United States, 150, 299 Universitas Islam Negeri (UIN), 100 UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Refugee Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), 34 U.S. Census Bureau, 300 U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, 298 ustad (religious teacher), 96 Uzbekistan, 160 V values, instilled by parents, 133 van der Geest, Sjaak, 12 vernacular politics, 11


Viber, 265 violence, 70; Afghan Pashtun men, 66; contradictions, 66, 67; Rohullah, 66–8. See also wars virginity (female), 146 voluntary contribution or act of charity (sadaka), 157, 163, 168 W Wamakonde people, 258 wanita karier (career women), 95 wars, 15; Afghan civil war (1992– 1996), 70; Camp Wars, 34; First Gulf War, 298, 309; Greco-Turkish War (1919– 1922), 270; Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), 27, 30, 300; memories of in Norway, 282; Second Gulf War, 298; World War II, 1 warsha (shoe workshop), 138 weddings, 48. See also marriage Welcome to the Camps (“Ahlān Fīk bil-Mukhayyamāt”), 29 welfare states, Kazakhstan as model for, 176 Wentzell, Emily A., 171, 172, 201 West Africa, 15 Western psychological theories, 131 WhatsApp, 135, 265 White, Jenny, 11 Wieringa, Saskia, 93 Williams, Raymond, 3, 87, 171 Wittfogel, Karl A., 145 Wolf, Eric, 145


women: authority, 72; fertility, 108; freedom of, 78; in India, 110; inferiority of, 73; in Jordan, 95, 96; managing PCOS, 114–17; men’s view of weakness, 70, 71, 72; objectification of, 53; polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (see polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)); polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in India, 111–12; responsibility of children’s work habits, 130, 131; virginity, 146 work habits, 130, 131 working-class men (in urban Egypt), 129–43; care to labor, 138–41; ethics of care, 131–3; modalities of care, 133–7 World War II, 1, 144, 283 Y Y chromosomes, 303 Yemen, 15 Yezidis, 149 Yogyakarta, Java, 87, 97 Z Zaghloul, Saad, 52 Zaghloul, Safiyya, 52 Zakaria, Damane, 230 al-Zawiya al-Hamra (Cairo, Egypt), 130, 133–7 zheti-ata (names of seven patrilineal ancestors), 167

Fertility, Reproduction and Sexuality General E ditors : Soraya Tremayne, Founding Director, Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group and Research Associate, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. Marcia C. Inhorn, William K. Lanman, Jr. Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, Yale University. Philip Kreager, Director, Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group, and Research Associate, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and Institute of Human Sciences, University of Oxford. Volume 1 Managing Reproductive Life: Cross-Cultural Themes in Fertility and Sexuality Edited by Soraya Tremayne Volume 2 Modern Babylon? Prostituting Children in Thailand Heather Montgomery Volume 3 Reproductive Agency, Medicine and the State: Cultural Transformations in Childbearing Edited by Maya Unnithan-Kumar Volume 4 A New Look at Thai AIDS: Perspectives from the Margin Graham Fordham Volume 5 Breast Feeding and Sexuality: Behaviour, Beliefs and Taboos among the Gogo Mothers in Tanzania Mara Mabilia Volume 6 Ageing without Children: European and Asian Perspectives on Elderly Access to Support Networks Edited by Philip Kreager and Elisabeth Schröder-Butterfill

Volume 7 Nameless Relations: Anonymity, Melanesia and Reproductive Gift Exchange between British Ova Donors and Recipients Monica Konrad Volume 8 Population, Reproduction and Fertility in Melanesia Edited by Stanley J. Ulijaszek Volume 9 Conceiving Kinship: Assisted Conception, Procreation and Family in Southern Europe Monica M. E. Bonaccorso Volume 10 Where There Is No Midwife: Birth and Loss in Rural India Sarah Pinto Volume 11 Reproductive Disruptions: Gender, Technology, and Biopolitics in the New Millennium Edited by Marcia C. Inhorn Volume 12 Reconceiving the Second Sex: Men, Masculinity, and Reproduction Edited by Marcia C. Inhorn, Tine Tjørnhøj-Thomsen, Helene Goldberg, and Maruska la Cour Mosegaard

Volume 13 Transgressive Sex: Subversion and Control in Erotic Encounters Edited by Hastings Donnan and Fiona Macgowan Volume 14 European Kinship in the Age of Biotechnology Edited by Jeanette Edwards and Carles Salazar Volume 15 Kinship and Beyond: The Genealogical Model Reconsidered Edited by Sandra Bamford and James Leach Volume 16 Islam and New Kinship: Reproductive Technology and the Shariah in Lebanon Morgan Clarke Volume 17 Childbirth, Midwifery and Concepts of Time Edited by Christine McCourt Volume 18 Assisting Reproduction, Testing Genes: Global Encounters with the New Biotechnologies Edited by Daphna BirenbaumCarmeli and Marcia C. Inhorn Volume 19 Kin, Gene, Community: Reproductive Technologies among Jewish Israelis Edited by Daphna BirenbaumCarmeli and Yoram S. Carmeli Volume 20 Abortion in Asia: Local Dilemmas, Global Politics Edited by Andrea Whittaker Volume 21 Unsafe Motherhood: Mayan Maternal Mortality and Subjectivity in Post-War Guatemala Nicole S. Berry

Volume 22 Fatness and the Maternal Body: Women’s Experiences of Corporeality and the Shaping of Social Policy Edited by Maya Unnithan-Kumar and Soraya Tremayne Volume 23 Islam and Assisted Reproductive Technologies: Sunni and Shia Perspectives Edited by Marcia C. Inhorn and Soraya Tremayne Volume 24 Militant Lactivism? Attachment Parenting and Intensive Motherhood in the UK and France Charlotte Faircloth Volume 25 Pregnancy in Practice: Expectation and Experience in the Contemporary US Sallie Han Volume 26 Nighttime Breastfeeding: An American Cultural Dilemma Cecília Tomori Volume 27 Globalized Fatherhood Edited by Marcia C. Inhorn, Wendy Chavkin, and José-Alberto Navarro Volume 28 Cousin Marriages: Between Tradition, Genetic Risk and Cultural Change Edited by Alison Shaw and Aviad Raz Volume 29 Achieving Procreation: Childlessness and IVF in Turkey Merve Demircioğlu Göknar Volume 30 Thai in Vitro: Gender, Culture and Assisted Reproduction Andrea Whittaker

Volume 31 Assisted Reproductive Technologies in the Third Phase: Global Encounters and Emerging Moral Worlds Edited by Kate Hampshire and Bob Simpson Volume 32 Parenthood between Generations: Transforming Reproductive Cultures Edited by Siân Pooley and Kaveri Qureshi Volume 33 Patient-Centred IVF: Bioethics and Care in a Dutch Clinic Trudie Gerrits Volume 34 Conceptions: Infertility and Procreative Technologies in India Aditya Bharadwaj

Volume 35 The Online World of Surrogacy Zsuzsa Berend Volume 36 Fertility, Conjuncture, Difference: Anthropological Approaches to the Heterogeneity of Modern Fertility Declines Edited by Philip Kreager and Astrid Bochow Volume 37 The Anthropology of the Fetus: Biology, Culture, and Society Edited by Sallie Han, Tracy B. Betsinger, and Amy K. Scott Volume 38 Reconceiving Muslim Men: Love and Marriage, Family and Care in Precarious Times Edited by Marcia C. Inhorn and Nefissa Naguib