Young Men, Masculinities and Spirituality: An Introduction to a Special Issue of JMMS

Article excerpt

Young men have emerged as an important topic of inquiry in the past few decades in understanding masculinities. As Anoop Nayak and Mary Jane Kehily (2008) argue, exploring young men's gender identities and performances "can be seen as a site of fissure with the past while simultaneously holding onto many issues of continuity" (p. 37). Young men, hence young masculinities, are characterized as "in crisis" or "in transition" from old masculinities to new, modern masculinities and gender identities. Young men, therefore, offer an extraordinary area of inquiry in understanding this crisis of masculinity.

This special issue focuses exclusively on young men and explores their masculinities, particularly in conjunction with spirituality. This is a truly interdisciplinary collection, bringing together scholars from a wide range of social sciences including sociology, political science, history and anthropology. Scholars from around the world, working on men and masculinities share their unique perspectives, theories and methods of studying young men.

Overview of the articles

The papers in this special issue all focus on young men, their masculine identities and spirituality. While the topics they focus on, the literature they borrow from and the theorists they build on show similarities, their approaches and tools differ inordinately. They all focus on young men, masculinity and spirituality, however the ways they define these terms differ greatly. Especially in defining spirituality, while some focus on the role of religions in shaping these masculine identities, others focus on the performative and ritual aspects of spirituality. Similarly, they employ a wide range of methods, both qualitative and quantitative, in studying young men. However, all papers in this special issue express interdisciplinary, comparative sensibilities in varying degrees in understanding young men.

The first paper, "Changing the Subject: Abortion and Symbolic Masculinities among Young Evangelicals" approaches the question of young men's masculinities from a quantitative perspective. Daniel R. Cassino looks at the political views of young evangelical Christian men, particularly towards abortion. R. W. Connell shows that when hegemonic masculinity is threatened by rigorous attempts to achieve gender equality, it often results in a crisis of masculinity. Borrowing from R. W. Connell, Cassino argues that for evangelical Christian men, this crisis of masculinity is reflected in the area of politics. He argues that young men employ symbolic tropes in challenging hegemonic masculinities, particularly political ones, in recapturing their masculine identities. He focuses, particularly, on their attitudes towards abortion, in reconstructing their threatened masculine identities.

The second article focuses on an important part of young men's lives--male initiation rituals--in understanding young men and masculinities. …