Gender Construction, Representation, Contestation and Maintenance: a Case Study of Ekegusii Discourse
This study is an investigation of gender construction, representation, contestation and maintenance in Ekegusii discourse premised on the view that Gusii is largely a patriarchal community. It investigates the discourse resources that the community employs to construct, contest and maintain gender representations. The research is informed by the Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) theory as postulated by practitioners such as Fairclough (1989, 1995, 2001) and Van Dijk (1997, 1998a, 2008). The study examines three types of discourses: the discourse that accompanies birth and naming, the portrayal of men and women in proverbs and the speeches made during wedding ceremonies. Data for the study was collected through interviews and video recording. Data was also obtained from secondary sources on Ekegusii language and culture. The data is analyzed qualitatively and the findings presented in narrative form. The findings from the study demonstrate that discourse that accompanies birth and naming constructs gender and presents men and women differently depending on their gender roles. Proverbs are analyzed in a bid to establish if they maintain the gender representation as constructed during birth and naming ceremonies. The study established that these special ocassions maintain, construct and show contestation of gender representations. The study also examines gender contestation by analyzing speeches made during wedding ceremonies. Contrary to Foucault‘s assertion that there will be contestation where there is power, this study reveals that contestation is not automatic as it is influenced by some demographic variables such as the relationship between the speakers and the bride or the bridegroom. It also emerges that contestation can be overt or covert. In addition, the study shows that the group that appears underprivileged may use this status to their advantage. Although gendering is a lifelong phenomenon, the study exposes instances of ambivalence in its construction, representation, contestation and maintenance. While the researcher is aware that discourse in other genres such as narratives, songs and riddles have gender nuances; the current study deliberately chose not analyze them for they were beyond our research scope. Subsequently, an analysis of gender representation in these genres is recommended as well as an investigation of the discourse that accompanies other socialization processes such as circumcision and death. Other variables such as one‘s level of education need investigation to establish whether this has an impact on gender contestation.
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