Seminar: Waste/Wastage: The Danger of Single Men in Heteropatriarchal Africa

Gibson Ncube considers what it means to be a single man in heteropatriarchal societies like Southern Africa, the stigmatisation and marginalisation of men who choose to be single and non-conformist

This seminar will also be available on Zoom,  using this  link: 

The place of singles studies in feminist and gender discourses’ seminar series co-hosted by University of Leeds’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies and Centre for African Studies.


The emergent field of singles/singlehood studies has focused on the singleness of women. The work of leading singles studies scholars like Bella DePaulo has made significant headway in making sense of “single ladies”. The study of women’s singleness/singlehood has highlighted the anxieties associated with their (re)productive capabilities especially in the face of what I term their “biological expiration dates".

Although men do not have to grapple with the anxieties of an expiration date to their reproductive potential, they must also deal with diverse forms of discrimination.  In this paper, I consider what it means to be a single man in heteropatriarchal societies such as those of Southern Africa, of Zimbabwe in particularly. Examining my own personal experiences as well as diverse filmic and literary documents, l examine the stigmatisation and marginalisation of men who by choosing to be single refuse to conform to the dominant social norms on masculinity, marriage, and family life.

I want to especially argue that the refusal to perform the socially desired forms of masculinity represents a queering of singles studies. I bring into conversation zethu Matebeni’s use of queer as a “critical space that pushes the boundaries of what is embraced as normative” and Tomasz Sikora’s work on “queer/waste” to demonstrate that male singleness, in heteropatriarchal logics represents a waste/wastage of masculinity in that it represents a way of being that is socially and sexually unproductive and useless. I want to think through what unproductivity and uselessness do and mean in heteropatriarchal societies where masculinity is synonymised with activity, (re)productivity and aggressivity.


Gibson Ncube lectures French modules at Stellenbosch University where he earned his PhD. He has held fellowships supported by the Africa Oxford Initiative, the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, the National Humanities Center (USA) and Leeds University Centre for African Studies (UK), the American Council for Learned Societies as well as the National Research Foundation of South Africa.

He has published widely in the fields of comparative literature, gender and queer studies as well as cultural studies. He co-convened the Queer African Studies Association (2020-2022) and was the 2021 Mary Kingsley Zochonis Distinguished Lecturer (African Studies Association UK).

He currently sits on the Editorial Boards of the following journals: Journal of Literary Studies, the Canadian Journal of African Studies, the Nordic Journal of African Studies as well as Imbizo: International Journal of African Literary and Comparative Studies. He is currently the Assistant Editor of the South African Journal of African Languages and the French Book Review Editor of the Canadian Journal of African Studies. He is the author of the books La sexualité queer au Maghreb à travers la littérature (2018) and Queer Bodies in African Films (2022).