From a Habit to a Husband: Representation of the Intersection between Religion and Masculinities in John Ruganda’s Play, The Burdens (1972)

Danson Sylvester Kahyana


This paper examines how John Ruganda represents the intersection between religion and masculinities in his play, The Burdens (1972), which imagines an ex-Catholic nun marrying and bringing up a family. It argues that literary texts are an important avenue through which the intersection between religion and gender can be explored, leading to a rich harvest of nuanced insights. Data is collected through a close reading of the play under analysis, within the socio-political context in which it was written and produced, that is, the politically turbulent decade following Uganda’s flag independence in 1962, characterised – among others – by events like the abolition of kingdoms by the Prime Minister, Milton Obote, and his ouster in a military coup by his army commander, General Idi Amin, on 25 January, 1971. The analysis of the text is guided by insights drawn from selected scholars of masculinities featured in Helen Nabasuta Mugambi and Tuzyline Jita Allan’s edited volume, entitled Masculinities in African and Cultural Texts (2010).

Full Text:



Boyle, Patrick M. “Beyond Self-Protection to Prophecy: The Catholic Church and Political Change in Zaire.” Africa Today 39, no.3 (1992): 49-66.

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity 2nd Edition. London and New York: Routledge, 1999. [1990]

Carline, Anna. “Women who Kill their Abusive Partners: From Sameness to Gender Construction.” Liverpool Law Review 26 (2005): 13-44.

Da Silva, Meyre Ivone. “African Feminists towards the Politics of Empowerment.” Revista de Letras 44, no.2 (2004): 129-138.

Easteal, Patricia, Lorana Bartels, Noni Nelson, and Kate Holland. “How are Women who Kill Portrayed in Newspaper Media? Connections with Social Values and the Legal system.” Women’s Studies International Forum 51 (2015): 31-41.

Getman, Eliza Jane. “‘Extending the Table’: Eucharist as a Model for Feminist Food Justice.” Journal of Gender and Religion in Africa 23, no.2 (2017): 24-42.

Gikandi, Simon and Evan Mwangi. The Columbia Guide to East African Literature in English Since 1945. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Hills, Helen. “The Veiled Body: Within the Folds of Early Modern Neapolitan Convent Architecture.” Oxford Art Journal 27, no.3 (2004): 271-290.

Huddleston, Trevor. “The Christian Churches in Independent Africa.” African Affairs 68, no.270 (1969): 42-48.

Husum, Hans and Odd Edvardsen. “Poverty as Trauma: Methodological Problems When Reality Gets Ugly.” In Disability and Poverty: A Global Challenge, edited by Arne H. Eide and Benedicte Ingstad, 207-223. Bristol: Bristol University Press, 2011.

Kiyimba, Abasi. “Men and Power: Masculinity in the Folktales and Proverbs of the Baganda.” In Masculinities in African Literary and Cultural Texts, edited by Helen Nabasuta Mugambi and Tuzyline Jita Allan, 35-49. Oxfordshire: Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited, 2010.

Imbuga, Francis Davis. “Thematic Trends and Circumstance in John Ruganda’s Drama.” PhD diss., University of Iowa, 1991.

Imbuga, Francis Davis. “An Introduction to John Ruganda, the Playwright.” In Uganda: The Cultural Landscape, edited by Eckhard Breitinger, 250-261. Kampala: Fountain Publishers, 2000.

Mugambi, Helen Nabasuta. “Masculinity on Trial: Gender Anxiety in African Song Performances.” In Masculinities in African Literary and Cultural Texts, edited by Helen Nabasuta Mugambi and Tuzyline Jita Allan, 78-94. Oxfordshire: Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited, 2010.

Mujaju, Akiiki B. “The Political Crisis of Church Institutions in Uganda.” African Affairs 75, no.298 (1976): 67-85.

Nazareth, Peter. “The Social Responsibility of the East African Writer.” Callaloo 8/10 (1980): 87-105.

Ojaide, Tanure. “Deploying Masculinity in African Oral Poetic Performance: The Man in Udje.” In Masculinities in African Literary and Cultural Texts, edited by Helen Nabasuta Mugambi and Tuzyline Jita Allan, 66-77. Oxfordshire: Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited, 2010.

p’Bitek, Okot. Artist the Ruler: Essays on Art, Culture and Values. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers Ltd., 1986.

Ruganda, John. The Burdens. Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Salih, Sara. Judith Butler. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.

Schulz, Dorothea and Marloes Janson. “Introduction: Religion and Masculinities in Africa.” Journal of Religion in Africa 46, no.2/3 (2016): 121-128.

Silberschmidt, Margrethe. “Have Men Become the Weaker Sex? Changing Life Situations in Kisii District, Kenya.” The Journal of Modern African Studies 30, no.2 (1992): 237-253.

Silberschmidt, Margrethe. “Disempowerment of Men in Rural and Urban East Africa: Implications for Male Identity and Sexual Behaviour.” World Development 29, no.4 (2001): 657-671.

Sundkler, Bengt and Christopher Steed. A History of the Church in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Strier, Roni. “Gendered Realities of Poverty: Men and Women’s Views of Poverty in Jerusalem.” Social Service Review 79, no.2 (2005): 344-367.

Tamale, Sylvia. When Hens Begin to Crow: Gender and Parliamentary Politics in Uganda. Kampala: Fountain Publishers, 1999.

Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza, Lilian. Women’s Violent Crime in Uganda: More Sinned Against than Sinning? Kampala: Fountain Publishers Limited, 1999.

Verriour, Patrick. “The Reflective Power of Drama.” Language Arts 61, no.2 (1984): 125-130.

Wahman, Jessica. “Drama as Philosophical Genre.” The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 28, no. 4 (2014): 454-471.

Wasike, Chris J. C. “Feminization of the Ugandan nation in John Ruganda’s The Floods, The Burdens and Black Mamba.” Postcolonial Text 5, no.3 (2009): 1-15.

Zucker, Marilyn Sluttzky. “Killing the Pimp: Firdaus’s Challenge to Masculine Authority in Nawal El Sadaawi’s Woman at Point Zero.” In Masculinities in African Literary and Cultural Texts, edited by Helen Nabasuta Mugambi and Tuzyline Jita Allan, 237-249. Oxfordshire: Ayebia Clarke Publishing Limited, 2010.



  • There are currently no refbacks.