Africa / African / Men

What is Africa, who is African, why African men?

Along with what does being a man precisely entail,  and why is there a need to, borrowing from Biko, pump life into manhood, the question who is an African underlies this blog. It is to be expected then when the question, formulated in different ways, who is an African man, comes up when individuals learn about the New African Men blog.

The question can generate a great deal of debate. So it should. It is a question with many answers. Layers of stereotypes and prejudices abound.

Africa is, however, huge, dynamic, not only in regard to its geography, but also in respect of the complexity of its histories, temporalities, economies, politics, cultures, and ethnicities. Being African is therefore an endlessly complicated enterprise. You must be suspicious then of anyone who wishes to impose their rigid view of how you understand Africa, yourself as African, or African manhood and womanhood. Here, though, is one view about the meaning of Africa from Paul Tiyambe Zeleza.

Paul Tiyambe Zeleza

Paul Tiyambe Zeleza


The answer Zeleza gives is not directly to the question who is an African man. It is to the larger questions who is an African and what is Africa. You will note that his reflection on these questions appears within the field of interest in African diasporas.

What is “Africa” and who are “Africans” that constitute, when dispersed and reconstituted, “African diasporas”? As we all know, the idea of “Africa” is an exceedingly complicated one with multiple genealogies and meanings.

African identities, peoples, and cultures are often mapped, and differentiated, in racial, geo- graphical, historical, or ideological terms. Ironically, all of the seven sources of the term “Africa” originally referred to locations in the northern part of the continent, but now the term has become almost synonymous with sub- Saharan Africa.

and all such civilizational spaces. But it has a physical, political, psychic, and paradigmatic reality for the peoples who live within or are molded from its cartographic and cultural boundaries, who themselves are subject to spatial shifts and historical transformations.

“Africa,” I would submit, is more “African” today than it has ever been because it is increasingly a construct produced and consumed across the continent itself, from sports to television to politics, from the All-Africa Games to Big Brother Africa to the African Union. (Zeleza)

I find this to be a useful perspective on Africa. It is one which can be fruitful in thinking about men in and from Africa.

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