Original Research

Disability and masculinity in South African autosomatography

Ken J. Lipenga
African Journal of Disability | Vol 3, No 1 | a85 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v3i1.85 | © 2014 Ken J. Lipenga | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 August 2013 | Published: 01 April 2014

About the author(s)

Ken J. Lipenga, English Department, Chancellor College, University of Malawi, Malawi; English Department, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa


This article examines the representation of disability by disabled black South African men as portrayed in two texts from the autosomatography genre, which encompasses first-person narratives of illness and disability. Drawing on extracts from Musa E. Zulu’s The language of me and William Zulu’s Spring will come, the article argues that physical disability affects heteronormative concepts of masculinity by altering the body, which is the primary referent for the construction and performance of hegemonic masculinity. In ableist contexts, the male disabled body may be accorded labels of asexuality. This article therefore reveals how male characters with disabilities reconstruct the male self by both reintegrating themselves within the dominant grid of masculinity and reformulating some of the tenets of hegemonic masculinity.


disability; masculinity; memoir


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