Anthony Simpson: “These days the number of ‘rounds’ doesn’t matter”: Responses to the voluntary medical male circumcision programme and its impact on gender relations among urban Zambian youth

Welcome to a lecture by Tony Simpson, followed by an open discussion. Dr. Anthony Simpson is a senior lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Manchester.

After the seminar, coffee and snacks are served in our lunch room. The event is open to all, no registration required.


Exploring young men’s perceptions of the introduction of medical male circumcision (branded by the World Health Organization as Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision [VMMC]) in Zambia, initially for HIV prevention, this paper reveals the apparent general acceptance of this recently scaled-up programme. The presentation analyses the reasons young men offer for their reported readiness to undergo the procedure and reports their anxieties around their peers’ sexual behaviour following circumcision. Drawing upon long-term fieldwork in Zambia on the social aspects of HIV and AIDS, I speculate about the possibility of a paradigm shift in gender relations in the area of sexual activity. The discussion identifies signs of “emergent masculinities” that may signal a significant change in attitudes towards female sexual partners among young urban Zambian men, revealing attitudes markedly different from those of their fathers’ generation, reported in my earlier work.


Dr. Anthony Simpson is a senior lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Manchester. His PhD thesis, based on his personal involvement in the day-to-day life of the mission boarding school where he taught English between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s, was published as “Half-London” in Zambia: Contested Identities in a Catholic Mission School (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003).  Drawing upon Michel Foucault's notion of the panoptic gaze, Simpson demonstrates how students are both drawn to mission education as a 'civilising process', yet also resist many of the lessons that the official institution offers, particularly with respect to claims of 'true' Christian identity and educated masculinity.

The ethnography “Boys to Men in the Shadow of AIDS” charts the lives of mission-educated men in Zambia and their search for meaning in the AIDS pandemic, as well as their responses to prevention and HIV testing. The ESRC funded research project on which this book draws was entitled "Men and Masculinities in the Fight against HIV/AIDS in Zambia". Book review by James Ferguson: "This book is a stunning demonstration of how ethnography can illuminate the vital issues of our time. With extraordinary sensitivity and deep understanding, Anthony Simpson shows us sides of Zambian men's intimate lives that we have simply never seen before (…). List of publications

Seminar contact: Keir James Cecil Martin

Published Feb. 2, 2017 9:58 PM - Last modified Apr. 7, 2017 10:45 AM