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amaXhosa Circumcision: Stories of Manhood and Mental Health

Prologue: My ethnographic journey—Into isithethoEncountering ethnographyA naïve feminist scholarWomen in betweenEncountering a biomedical patriarchyEncountering an amaXhosa patriarchyWomanism and anthropologyThe lone anthropologistReferencesOverview: amaXhosa circumcision—Performing the ordinaryIntroductionGender theory and amaXhosa manhoodA hegemonic masculinityConsidering the universalAn ethnographic substrateA short history of amaXhosa circumcisionEthnography and engenderingMaking distinctions for amaXhosa manhoodHolding to orthodoxyA link between circumcision and psychosisThe making of unconscious distinctionsConclusionReferencesNegotiating patriarchy: Biomedical patriarchy—amaXhosa orthodoxyIntroductionSpinning patriarchal discourses in a pivotal momentMoments of orthodoxyFragility and resilience in amaXhosa orthodoxyA muddy bottom to human consciousnessCultural eclecticism in cosmopolitan Cape TownEclecticism in autonomy and agencyCautiously engaging cultural eclecticismFears of brokenness in amaXhosa orthodoxyConclusionNotesReferencesResounding resilience in amaXhosa circumcision: Incorporating orthodoxyIntroductionamaXhosa circumcisionAge of circumcisionChoosing to go for circumcisionTaken by the father for the patrilineagePreparationCutting in circumcisionCuttingThe beginning of an altered stateMaking cognitive distinctions in namingHlonipha and re-namingSeclusionPhase one – Wound healingPhase two – Learning to become a manWhite clayInstructions for a safe rite of passageThose who do not returnComing outNever looking backMeeting fertile womenSix months of apprenticeshipConclusionReferencesamaXhosa women in circumcision: Dropping the potIntroductionWomen, symbol, and metaphor in circumcisionDropping the potWomen’s place in burial ritualsCircumscribing isiXhosa-speaking womanhoodConfrontation in reciprocity relationsMother’s withdraw for men’s withdrawalSexuality, contamination and role reversalsWomen’s intimacy and becomingBecoming oneself in amaXhosa womanhoodReciprocity in patriarchyGendered relations as shifting reciprocityFathers make men, mothers affirm womanhoodConfrontation as contestationConclusionReferencesEmbedding pain in memory: Instigating amaXhosa manhoodIntroductionCircumcising pain into a man’s bodyInstigating pain: The cutEmbedding pain in memory: The seclusionResolving pain in social relatednessThe denial of pain: Coming-outInstantiating pain in memoryGoffman’s ‘Saving Face’ amongst amaXhosa menSilencing painPain, blood, resilience, and the ancestorsPain as symbolic referenceSilencing pain beyond the circumcision groundUnacceptably remembered painConclusionReferencesCircumcision, manhood and psychosis: Testimonies of engendered sufferingIntroductionA phenomenological linkDelayed circumcision, failure and psychosisYouth in crisisDelayed circumcisionSelf-circumcisionCircumcision, failure, and the onset of psychosisOverwhelming psychological stress in new menBeliefs of failing circumcisionPsychosis and the contortion of amaXhosa cosmological symbolsResonances of childhood and circumcision in symbolic imageInner voices that inappropriately overwhelmA threat to oneself and othersDissolving cognitive kinship tiesDeath in symbolic imageThe link between circumcision and mental illnessDisintegrating distinctionsAligning agency and authorityamaXhosa idioms of distress and mental illnessamaXhosa landscapes, mind, manhood, and mental illnessConclusionReferencesamaXhosa metaphor in psychosis: Chasa’s story—A symbolic nexusIntroductionTracing back Chasa’s storyOn admissionUndertaking his callingOrthodox rituals – A missing digit, circumcision, and ukuthwasaResilience through ritual – Chasa’s storyCultural symbols threading distinctionsConclusionReferencesNegotiating harm: Holding to orthodoxyIntroductionA question of harmGoing aloneBecoming aloneBecoming dysfunctionalMr Gebe’s explanation for mental illness in circumcisionChallenging circumcisionA brief historical perspectiveSurgical penile scarringUnravelling harmThe working through of harmHeld pain versus painful traumatic injuryThe circumciser’s cut and surgical transplantationConclusionReferencesWomen’s advocacy: Re-describing gendered dispositionsIntroductionWomen shaping amaXhosa consciousnessThe story of Lindelo’s motherTranslating one mother’s crisis into advocacyWork-shopping crises in circumcisionXhosa men’s accusations – voices and agencyWomen reply – Agency and voiceInterpreting women’s advocacyA defining custom for pure circumcisionThe subversion of amaXhosa engenderingCo-existence in amaXhosa philosophyConclusionReferencesIntroductionHolding to orthodoxyInstantiated resilienceCutting as a metaphor for pain into orthodoxyInstitutional spaces for orthodox practicesCompeting metaphors in an orthodox practiceMounting concerns for an orthodox practiceConclusionReferences

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