Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
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Masculinity and Money in Nigeria

In this project, Faculty Fellow Daniel Jordan Smith examines the growing importance of money in men’s lives in Nigeria, as it plays out across the life course and in just about every social sphere.

Characteristically, in talking about their lives, Nigerian men regularly describe the challenges of manhood with the expression “to be a man is not a one-day job.” Usually this proclamation is tied directly to anxieties about money. Whether commenting on the struggles to earn a living, the cash needed to maintain a girlfriend, the costs required to marry, the escalating fees associated with educating their children, or the financial burdens of burying their parents, refrains about monetary hardships are ubiquitous in contemporary Nigeria. But while men talk frequently about money, underlying their economic worries are broader concerns about the shifting meanings of masculinity, marked by changing expectations and practices of intimacy.

Building on 25 years of experience in southeastern Nigeria, much of it spent in the company of men, Smith’s research explores how money and intimacy are deeply bound together in men’s lives. Unraveling these connections will enable a better understanding of both masculinity and Nigerian society. Monetary pressures are placed on men by girlfriends, wives, children, extended families, friends, political clients, and even their churches. In addition, in Nigeria’s still-ubiquitous male-dominated social settings men reinforce among themselves the idea that “money makes a man.” Yet what seems to matter is not just how much money a man has, but how much he is willing and able to spend on others. Further, even as money is necessary for every relationship in a man’s life, it symbolizes suspicions about men’s motives, threatening both emotional intimacy and moral social relationships. This project examines the challenges of masculinity in Nigeria as men traverse the deeply intertwined arenas of economics and social relations, wherein the tyranny of money intersects inextricably with transformations of intimacy.

Smith’s ethnographic monograph resulting from this project, To Be a Man Is Not a One-Day Job: Masculinity, Money, and Intimacy in Nigeria, is forthcoming with University of Chicago Press and due to appear in November 2017.

Related Publications

2001 “Romance, Parenthood and Gender in a Modern African Society.” Ethnology 40(2): 129-151.

2001 “Kinship and Corruption in Contemporary Nigeria.” Ethnos 66(3): 344-364.

2002 “‘Man No Be Wood’: Gender and Extramarital Sex in Contemporary Southeastern Nigeria.” The Ahfad Journal 19(2): 4-23.

2004 “Burials and Belonging in Nigeria: Rural-Urban Relations and Social Inequality in a Contemporary African Ritual.” American Anthropologist 106(3): 569-579.

2007 “Modern Marriage, Men’s Extramarital Sex, and HIV Risk in Nigeria.” American Journal of Public Health 97(6): 997-1005.

2007 A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

2009 The Secret: Love, Marriage, and HIV. (Co-authored with Jennifer S. Hirsch, Holly Wardlow, Harriet Phinney, Shanti Parikh and Constance A. Nathanson.) Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

2010 “Promiscuous Girls, Good Wives, and Cheating Husbands: Gender Inequality, Transitions to Marriage, and Infidelity in Southeastern Nigeria.” Anthropological Quarterly 83(1):123-152.

2014 AIDS Doesn’t Show Its Face: Inequality, Morality, and Social Change in Nigeria. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.