‘Life is Not Designed to be Easy for Men’ : Masculinity and Poverty Among Urban Marginalized Kenyan Men

Data Science Program

  • September 2018
  • Journal Articles

Current analyses of poverty and economic marginality in relation to masculinity continue to ignore the direct perspectives of men whose lives form the crux of such investigations. I draw on interview and ethnographic data from two slums in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city to address poor men’s constructions and performance of manliness in relation to poverty. Men acknowledged economic adversity as both a major constraint to their masculinity and a significant dynamic in their own evolution and development into ‘proper’ men. In striving for locally valued masculine identities, particularly breadwinner hood, Nairobi’s poor men advanced new values, narratives and strategies that both projected them as socially respectable men and reconstituted their normatively ‘un-masculine’ actions as macho. Ironies suffuse masculinity in the slums of Nairobi, and are, in large part, driven by the critical and complex social dynamics and popular subjectivities, which poor men navigate while seeking to make valued masculinity both notionally and practically accessible for themselves.