Research Workshop - Paul Ocobock


Location: 119 O'Shaughnessy

An Uncertain Age: Making Manhood, Maturity, and the Elder State in Kenya

In this talk, I explore the growing importance of male circumcision in Kenya over the course of the twentieth century. Male circumcision was a crucial component of a host of initiation rituals, signifying the passage of boys into manhood. Yet the practice and experience of male initiation changed dramatically during the British colonial period. The colonial state tried, quite successfully at times, to harness the cultural power of male initiation to discipline rebellious young men, push mere boys out into the migrant labor market, and reward those who performed acceptable masculinities. By engaging with Africans in these very intimate cultural practices, the colonial state came to rely heavily on masculinity and age to authenticate and legitimize its authority; a process I call the elder state.

Presenter: Paul Ocobock, Assistant Professor of History

Bio: Paul Ocobock is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Notre Dame.  He received his Ph.D. in History from Princeton University.  His forthcoming book, An Uncertain Age: Making Manhood, Maturity, and the Elder State in Kenya, explores the importance of age and masculinity in the formation of the state in Kenya as well as everyday lives of young African men.  He focuses on young men’s experiences of migrant wage labor, street life, criminality, and organized violence as well as the state’s efforts to encourage, control, and discipline these activities.

April 17- 119 O’Shaughnessy - Noon

Gender Studies Research Workshop website

In order to advance the program’s commitment to inter-disciplinary research and inquiry into the subject of gender, the Gender Studies Program is pleased to announce an upcoming series of research workshops. The events will include presentations by advanced undergraduates majoring in Gender Studies as well as graduate students and faculty members from a variety of departments who work in the area of gender and sexuality. The workshop will begin with the week’s presenter giving a brief lecture on his or her current research in the field, followed by a seminar-style discussion.

If you would like to reserve a date for a presentation at one of the Research Workshops please contact either of our Research Workshop coordinators: Beatriz Carrillo or Angel Matos.