Negotiating scripts for meaningful sexuality an ethnography of youths in the Gambia

Nyanzi, Stella; (2008) Negotiating scripts for meaningful sexuality an ethnography of youths in the Gambia. PhD thesis, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. DOI:

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Sexuality is an ambivalent concept with multiple layers of meaning, touching upon diverse aspects of individual and social meaning-making systems. The nuances embedded within emic interpretations and appreciations of sexuality are shaped by complex contextual factors. Based on thirty months of ethnographic fieldwork, this thesis describes and analyses how youths in The Gambia negotiate meaningful sexualities in their day-to-day lives; thereby generating a grounded theory about their sexual scripts. The researcher's theoretical positioning is social construction: combining sexual scripting theory, symbolic interactionism, and critical social theories drawn from post-colonialism, African feminism, post-modernism (deconstruction). These theories informed the research design, and the lens through which interpretations were made, instead of being 'grand' theories backing the study. Based upon the grounded theory approach, the study investigated emit perspectives on sexuality, and explored lay frameworks of explanation(s) for ordinary performances of things locally labelled `sexual'. Research methods' triangulated ethnographic participant observation, qualitative semi-structured individual interviews, focus group discussions, participatory rapid assessment techniques, literature review. The researcher -a female Ugandan medical-anthropologist - was the main instrument of data generation. The research design was premised upon a feminist paradigm. The data collection process was highly flexible and responsive to contextual findings in the field. The analysis was largely inductive. Performances of youth sexualities in The Gambia were largely reflective of the main youth subcultures. Each subculture prescribed specific elements for its dominant sexual script. I suggest these youths negotiate five categorisations of sexual scripts: 1) Crescent script based on Islamic ethos, 2) Condom script based on biomedical sexual and reproductive health, 3) Cupid script based on Western notions of falling in love, romance and individual will, 4) Cultural-precedence script based on a reified notion of tradition - enacted within ethnic groupings, and supporting gerontocratic dictates, 5) Commoditisation of sexuality for exchange.

Item Type: Thesis
Thesis Type: Doctoral
Thesis Name: PhD
Contributors: Pool, R (Thesis advisor);
Additional Information:
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy
Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Health Services Research and Policy


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