Gendered Endings: Narratives of Male and Female Suicides in the South African Lowveld

School of Social Sciences, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB83PH, UK.
Culture Medicine and Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 1.29). 03/2012; 36(2):327-47. DOI: 10.1007/s11013-012-9258-y
Source: PubMed


Durkheim's classical theory of suicide rates being a negative index of social solidarity downplays the salience of gendered concerns in suicide. But gendered inequalities have had a negative impact: worldwide significantly more men than women perpetrate fatal suicides. Drawing on narratives of 52 fatal suicides in Bushbuckridge, South Africa, this article suggests that Bourdieu's concepts of 'symbolic violence' and 'masculine domination' provide a more appropriate framework for understanding this paradox. I show that the thwarting of investments in dominant masculine positions have been the major precursor to suicides by men. Men tended to take their own lives as a means of escape. By contrast, women perpetrated suicide to protest against the miserable consequences of being dominated by men. However, contra the assumption of Bourdieu's concept of 'habitus', the narrators of suicide stories did reflect critically upon gender constructs.

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