This thesis looks into manifestations of identity and sense of belonging among young men who constituted a socially, economically and physically mobile stratum of urban Harare, Zimbabwe.
Most of them were returnees to Zimbabwe. They had spent years abroad studying or working, and had returned for various reasons. The event of returning constitutes one major feature of identity common within this group of men. Confronted or reconfronted by new surroundings, these men reflected upon and juxtaposed their newly acquired experiences with their individual past experiences. The thesis examines various arenas wherein searches and reflections occurred. The manners and arenas of search were not coincidental, but arose from interaction within Harare. I believe their searches would have different configurations in other settings. The searches investigated here, came to have a particular Hararean coloring.
The thesis explores different areas wherein such searches were conducted, and relates searches to the constitution and maintenance of gendered identities. Chapter 1 presents contexts of Zimbabwe's political and social developments having relevance in present times, and certain aspects important for men's present conduct. Chapter 2 deals with men's past boarding school days, and their present usage of this experience to acquire a sense of belonging in the present. Chapter 2 also deals with various present places within Harare, men's movements between them, and usage and understandings of them. Chapter 3 concerns the importance of cars, and how movement had a central importance in constitutions and maintenance of identities and belonging. Chapter 4 examines alcohol consumption in the construction of male identities and belonging. Chapter 5 examines men's relationships with and reflections on women. Chapter 6 examines men's work and career developments. Chapter 7 deals with men's understandings of places and movement, and men's comparisons of these places with Harare.
Relevant identities were situationally conditional, but linked with aspects such as economical position, color, their place within the national context, and each man's experiences and background. Identities and senses of belonging were thus sphere-crossing and interlinked.
Searches for identity and sense of belonging were conducted through retrospection, reflection on the present, and contemplation on their future situations and whereabouts. Men of this study were involved in an on-going self-reflexive process, and this was manifested both through actions, interactions with fellow men and women, emotional states and verbalized thoughts. A significant feature of men's construction and maintenance of an individual yet male gendered identity, and a more generalized sense of belonging within a Hararean context, was found in their creation and negotiation of self image through exchanging versions of their past history and reflecting on their current position. Engendering was manifested and maintained both through cognitive and embodying activities, and one central aspect of these activities was movement in various forms. The thesis concerns itself with aspects constituting male gendered identities: what it entailed to be an urban, Zimbabwean man in 1996, and what became important to them.
Cohen has written: "This impulse to reassert oneself is an expression of the compelling nature of identity: the need to impress oneself on society rather than just passively to receive its imprint. For some, the need is expressed through the medium of a collectivity; for others, it is a highly individualised matter" (Cohen 1993:8). The thesis deals with both aspects. Men's engendering and search for identity and belonging occurred both as they became parts of collectivities, sensing sameness; and, through their respective reflections, their separation as individuals, their sense of differences. Collectivity and individuality were not exclusive means through which men could see and construct themselves as men. The sense of collectivity or individuality could even take place within the same event or situation, and both means were processual and not static.