Imagining "whiteness" : an ethnographic exploration into fantasy and experience of young women (and men) seeking bazungu partners in Kampala, Uganda

Hugo, Nicola Mercia (2013-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In one of Uganda’s main national newspapers, the New Vision, women and men advertise that they seek ‘white’ partners. Using emergent design, this study set out to explore this yearning for local - ‘white’ relationships. I conducted exploratory and semi-structured interviews with 20 of these women and men. As I started conducting the interviews, it became clear that this was a topic which provoked emotionally charged responses and a great deal of ‘identity work’, with participants identifying with, or disidentifying from, particular groups and categories, notably ‘prostitutes’ and ‘traditional’, ‘cultural’ or ‘modern’ women and men. Engaging critically with post-colonial writings and contemporary feminist research, I argue that my respondents provided important insights into the broader dynamics of gender, sexuality, race and power, as well as processes of identity construction in post-colonial Uganda. I explore the fantasy constructions and stereotypes perpetuating beliefs in ‘white’ superiority and address the various influences upon which respondents draw to bolster constructions of ‘whites’ as superior. These are marked by explicit beliefs in racial hierarchy, as well as ‘modernisation’ and ‘developmental’ discourses which positively associate ‘modernisation’ with ‘Westernisation.’ I discuss respondents’ negative constructions of local, ‘black’ men and women born out of past experiences with local partners. Male respondents expressed frustration with Ugandan women, whom they constructed as ‘money minded’, whom they believe forfeit dignity, for love of money, in their search for modernity. ‘Tradition’ and ‘culture’ were often invoked by men against women, who were seen as failing to live up to presumed cultural standards of femininity. I also explore female respondents’ appeals to ‘tradition’ and ‘culture’ which they feel benefit Ugandan men to the detriment of women and romantic relationships. I show that female respondents draw on discourses of Western ‘modernity’ and human rights, to illustrate the extent of gendered inequalities in Uganda, and find that Western humanism, embodied in the ‘white’ male, is constructed as a solution to their relationship dilemmas.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In New Vision, een van Uganda se vernaamste nasionale nuusblaaie, plaas vroue, sowel as mans, advertensies waarin hulle aandui dat hulle op soek is na ‘wit’ metgeselle. Hierdie etnografiese studie steek voelers uit en probeer vasstel wat die motivering is om in verhoudings met ‘wit’ metgeselle betrokke te raak. Semigestruktuele onderhoude was met respondente (wat advertensies geplaas het) gevoer. Die studie vind dat respondente hul geslags- sowel as rasse-identiteit konstrueer. In sommige gevalle word dit gedoen deur identiteite te konstrueer waarmee hulle hulself nie wil assosieer nie. Deur bogenoemde in diepte te ondersoek, kry ons insig in die wyse waarop, in die kontemporêre Ugandese konteks, identiteitsvorming plaasvind. Ek ondersoek ook respondente se verbeeldingryke konstruksies en stereotipes wat die opvatting wil vestig dat ‘wit’ gelyk aan ‘superieur’ is. Ek spreek dan ook die verskeie beïnvloedingsvelde aan wat respondente gebruik en waarop hulle hul ‘wit is superieur’ opvatting bou. Ek dui aan dat die beïnvloedingsvelde dikwels gekenmerk word deur ‘n eksplisiete geloof in die bestaan van ‘n bepaalde hiërargie van ras. Diskoerse oor modernisering en ontwikkeling waarin ‘modernisering’ en ‘vooruitgang’ sterk geassosieer of gelykgestel word met verwestering is ook aan die orde van die dag. Voorts bespreek ek respondente se negatiewe konstruksie van plaaslike mans en vroue en die feit dat dit dikwels gebore is uit hul vorige (negatiewe) blootstelling aan plaaslike metgeselle. Manlike respondente spreek dikwels hul frustrasie uit met ‘geldgierige’ Ugandese vroue wat, volgens hulle, van hul eertydse waardigheid afstand doen in hul koorsagtige soek na modernisasie. Mans assosieer sterk met eie ‘tradisie’ en ‘kultuur’ en hulle voel dikwels dat vroue nie voldoen aan die mans se selfopgelegde kulturele standaarde van vroulikheid nie. Voorts ondersoek ek die pleidooie van vroue waarin hulle aanvoer dat sekere ‘tradisionele’ en ‘kulturele’ gebruike Ugandese mans onbillik bevoordeel. Ek dui aan dat vroulike respondente gebruik maak van redenasies oor Westerse modernisasie asook menseregte, in hul pogings om die mate van geslagsongelykheid wat in Uganda bestaan, uit te lig. Laastens vind ek dat Ugandese vroue Westerse humanisme (wat verpersoonlik word deur ‘wit’ mans) beskou as die oplossing vir hul verhoudingsprobleme.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80318
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