Culture, Society & Masculinities: Areas, Scales and Angles in Masculinity Research

By Janssen, Diederik | Culture, Society and Masculinities, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Culture, Society & Masculinities: Areas, Scales and Angles in Masculinity Research


Janssen, Diederik, Culture, Society and Masculinities


I am most pleased to introduce The Men's Studies Press's fifth scholarly periodical, entitled Culture, Society & Masculinities. CS&M proposes a wide angle focus on men and masculinity, engaging with the full spectrum of social, cultural and international studies. The Men's Studies Press specifically invites papers discussing questions and problems of scale and context in research and theory formation. This purview is to resonate with the enduringly transdisciplinary as well as increasingly cross-contextual scope of "men/masculinities" as a research area. Indeed this resonance is likely to partake in the area debate that has characterized the theme from the late 1970s to date, as well as in the qualitative, reflective, and critical momentum of most of its theorizing.

The nation state as well as international relations, particularly, have been central dimensions in the study of male genders. Specifically, social geography, transnational institutions, international conflict studies, and anthropology have become well-established academic frameworks within which the particulars of male genders have been pursued. This academic dispersion in part suggests, in part requires, that gender questions are to be asked across many different settings worldwide, if a healthy querying of the transatlantic genealogy of many of these questions is to be achieved. A recent bibliographic exploration (Janssen, 2008) suggests this critical work is now well under way. However, with transatlantic genealogy we do not mean to say that there have not been fundamental dissonances between and within West-European and American ways of thinking men; indeed, here lies an ongoing historical project falling securely within the scope of CS&M.

How questions of scale relate to theoretical mobility remains a highly interesting topic for discussion as well. Raewyn Connell, one of the leading theorists of masculinity as a plural formation, has proposed a macro-sociological appraisal that would have to move "beyond" what had been the field's "ethnographic moment" in the 1990s, and "proceed" with increasingly global topographies of institutions and networks- exemplified by the transnational corporation of late capitalism. Yet globalization, or more broadly the worlding of ideas, narratives and opinions, continues to intrigue sociologists, anthropologists, and economists of gender, thus inviting ongoing dialogue and critique on how it should or may relate to theoretical ambition. Connell's recent work on Southern Theory (2007) in fact caters very well to this question of theoretical plurality, and Connell agrees there is "no single formula that accounts for men and globalization" (2005, p. 1805). Others including Charlotte Hooper (2000) signal that internationalism necessarily translates to "multiple masculinities." To anthropologists, moreover, "masculinity" pertains to profound as well as subtle variability in how local semantics of gender are thought to coagulate with global political discourses around and about genders. To proceed, then, may require an enduring attempt to map theory formation and mundane identity practices onto each other, to see at what scale both may (and perhaps: should) operate. That is to say, querying masculinity will refer as much to theories of culture as to cultures of theory. "Rather than assuming that universal theories can be translated across different cultures, we need to appreciate within a globalised world that we must engage with cultural, religious and spiritual traditions," writes Victor Seidler (2006, p. …

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