School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics

PhD Research Uses Biblical Character to Enable Conversations About Masculinity Construction

Dr Nozipho Dlodlo
Photos: Supplied
Dr Nozipho Dlodlo

Dr Nozipho Dlodlo was thrilled to receive her PhD in Biblical Studies in which she engaged the character of David in the Old Testament as a possible reflective surface to enable conversations about masculinity construction and coming of age in the contemporary faith context.

Her work is also embedded within the landscape of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the faith context where she asks important and timely questions about men, masculinity and GBV. Dlodlo recently presented her work at the Society of Old Testament Studies in Nottingham in the United Kingdom.

‘My focus on this topic results from an observation in the increasing Gender-Based Violence cases in the past few years. Some men who are religious leaders are involved in cases of GBV and this is concerning because faith spaces are becoming less of safe-havens, which means there is no respite for the communities affected. My study probes men to process their conceptual understanding vs. lived reality towards masculinity construction,’ said Dlodlo.

Her study found that masculinity construction is deeply rooted; that the male body is at the center of the navigation process of coming of age and owning and constructing the masculine identity. ‘My research zooms in on the role of culture and context where there are rituals and/or tasks that men must perform in the process of acquiring their masculine identity to successfully transition from boyhood to manhood. Some of these rituals/tasks are toxic. Yet men continue to do it in order to maintain the status-quo as men and to belong culturally and contextually,’ she explained.

Dlodlo believes that her research will ‘benefit society as it deals with GBV at the root and shows how we all need to revisit our expectations of men culturally and contextually if we are to begin to see a change and reduction of GBV.’

Speaking about some of the challenges she encountered during her studies, she said, ‘I did not receive any funding and this was difficult. It made me want to quit most of the time. It did teach me though to be an entrepreneur as I found ways of making a living while I pursued my dream. I did things such as being an au-pair to kids, cleaning people’s homes, doing laundry and later picking up kids after school and dropping them off at their homes. I did this to keep myself alive and assist my family.’

Reflecting on balancing studies with family life, Dlodlo said, ‘I missed my family, that’s why I had my grandmother move in with me. You miss out so much on family life as a student especially without funds to travel and be with family as often as you want.’

Dlodlo is grateful to her family, friends and supervisor, Professor Charlene van der Walt for being her support system.

Advising other scholars, she said, ‘Ask for help. Submit whatever you believe is your best to your supervisor. Remain open to learning and have a teachable spirit.’

Speaking of her plans, she said, ‘I am applying for post-doctoral fellowships and lecturer positions while also publishing articles. I am involved in pastoral care duties which is refreshing and at the core of who I am.’

Through her story of resilience, Dlodlo hopes to inspire other black female graduates to shatter the glass ceiling, especially in academia.