Providing women, kept men: Doing masculinity in the wake of the African HIV/AIDS pandemic

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27 Scopus citations


This article draws on ethnographic and interview-based fieldwork to explore accounts of intimate relationships between widowed women and poor young men that emerged in the wake of economic crisis and a devastating HIV epidemic among the Luo ethnic group in western Kenya. I show how the co-optation of widow inheritance practices due to the presence of an overwhelming number of widows during a period of economic crisis has resulted in widows becoming providing women and poor young men becoming kept men. I illustrate how widows in this setting, by performing a set of practices central to what it meant to be a man in this society-pursuing and providing for their partners-were effectively doing masculinity. I also show how young men, rather than being feminized by being kept, deployed other sets of practices to prove their masculinity and live in a manner congruent with cultural ideals. I argue that, ultimately, women's practice of masculinity in large part seemed to serve patriarchal ends. It not only facilitated the fulfillment of patriarchal expectations of femininity but also served, in the end, to provide a material base for young men's deployment of legitimizing and culturally valued sets of masculine practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-363
Number of pages23
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Gender Studies


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