Wignall, “From Swagger to Serious”

Wignall, Ross.  2016. From Swagger to Serious: Managing Young Masculinities between Faiths at a Young Men’s Christian Association Centre in The Gambia.  Journal of Religion in Africa 46(2-3): 288-323.

Abstract: A renewed focus on studies of masculinity in Africa has so far failed to account for the growing importance of nonproselytizing Faith-Based Organisations (FBOs) in the gendering process. This article seeks to address this issue through a case study of the Gambian branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). YMCA leaders generate a culture of dynamic leadership that equates to a form of ‘hegemonic masculinity’ based on love, self-sacrifice, and obligation. This article shows how this process is implicated in a series of tensions between the young men and their peers, families, elders, and leaders. While many young men want to ‘have swagger’, they are called ‘stubborn’ and urged to ‘get serious’. Through an ethnographic portrait, the author uses these tensions to explore how YMCA ideals of manhood may be superimposing forms of Euro-American, Christian masculinity onto Muslim Gambian men, replicating colonial modes of control, inequality, and oppression.