Pablo Dominguez Andersen, Simon Wendt. Masculinities and the Nation in the Modern World: Between Hegemony and Marginalization. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. VI, 277 S. $105.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-137-53609-9.
Reviewed by Kristoff Kerl
Published on H-Soz-u-Kult (April, 2016)
P. D. Andersen u.a. (Hrsg): Masculinities and the Nation
As sociologist Joane Nagel pointed out, the formation, structure and hierarchical organization of the nation-state is strongly connected to gender in multiple ways. Joane Nagel, Nation, in: Michael S. Kimmel / Jeff Hearn / R. W. Connell (eds.), Handbook of Studies on Men & Masculinities, Thousand Oaks 2005, pp. 397–413. Consequently, the gendered character of nation-states constitutes a promising object of investigation for historians who are interested in the processes of nation-building as well as in the gendered stratification of modern societies. To date, a number of historians have done research on this topic. Whereas most of them have focused on the connection between the nation and women / womanhood, the linkage of the nation and nationalism with masculinities has, despite some highly informative studies, attracted less scholarly attention. See for example: Gail Bederman, Manliness & Civilization. A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880–1917, Chicago 1995; Ute Frevert, "Mann und Weib, und Weib und Mann". Geschlechter-Differenzen in der Moderne, München 1995; Karen Hagemann, "Männlicher Muth und teutsche Ehre". Nation, Militär und Gesellschaft zur Zeit der antinapoleonischen Kriege Preußens, Paderborn 2000; Mark E. Kann, A Republic of Men. The American Founders, Gendered Language, and Patriarchal Politics, New York 1998.
To enhance the current state of research on this topic is the aim of the anthology “Masculinities and the Nation in the Modern World” edited by Pablo Dominguez Andersen and Simon Wendt. The edited volume scrutinizes “the complex interdependencies between hegemonic and marginalized masculinities in nation-building processes in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa between the 1830s and the 1960s” (p. 3). However, despite this wide-ranging (geographical) orientation a significant number of essays in this volume (six out of twelve contributions) approach historical processes and actors in the United States of America, most of them deal with topics which have scarcely received scholarly attention before. The variety of topics in these chapters range from masculinity and nation-building in the Confederate States of America (Craig Thomson Friend) to the relation between racial / religious marginalization, masculinity and the nation (Steve Estes, Brian D. Behnken, Claudia Roesch) and the relationship between masculinity and imperialistic U.S.-American activities in Nicaragua (Andreas Beer) to the connection between nationhood, the family and eugenic concepts of masculinity (Isabel Heinemann). In addition to these contributions dealing with U.S.-American history the anthology also contains articles dealing with the masculinization of hysteria (Anna Loutif), masculinity and fatherhood in fascist Italy (Martina Salvante), and martial masculinities in Japan (Denis Gainty). Additionally, other contributions examine topics like hegemonic masculinity in the Dominican Republic during the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo (Maja Horn), headgear and modern masculinity in the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey (Katja Jana), as well as nationalism, masculinity, and marriage in Nigeria in the first half of the twentieth century (Saheed Aderinto).
Though the thematic variety may create the impression that the anthology fails in producing coherence, the opposite is true. Mainly, two characteristics are responsible for that: First, although the volume is characterized by a diversity of topics, the different chapters are convincingly linked to each other by their common focus on the interconnectedness between modern nations and configurations of masculinity. Second, as the subtitle of the anthology indicates, the different contributions refer to the same theoretical framework to examine their object of study: the concept of hegemonic masculinity developed by Australian sociologist R. W. Connell and, especially, the debates which evolved around questions of agency of (marginalized) masculinities. Therefore, although the different chapters vary in their application of this concept and sometimes challenge some facets of it (e.g. Denis Gainty), the common reference to Connells concept produces linkages and commonalities between them.
In the following, I will briefly discuss some individual chapters which stand out either by focusing on topics not yet examined or by deepening historiographical insights. To put my focus on the three selected articles is not to say that the other nine chapters do not contain interesting and important insights in the interconnectedness between configurations of masculinity and the modern nation-state. In “Mormom Manhood and Its Critics” historian Steve Estes examines a topic widely disregarded by historians: the attacks by non-Mormon mainstream society on polygamist practices exercised by Mormon men during the second half of the nineteenth century in the U.S. He argues that the deviant sexuality of (some) Mormon men was understood as a challenge to hegemonic masculinity as well as a threat to the nation-state. In the course of anti-Mormon campaigns during the last decades of the nineteenth century non-Mormon politicians and cartoonists often constructed Mormon men as less virile. In 1887 these campaigns led to the Edmund-Tucker Act, a law composed by George F. Edmunds, a Republican senator from Vermont, and John Randolph Tucker, a Democratic senator from Virginia, which among others enacted that voters, jurors, and judges had to swear that they did not practice or support polygamy and forced wives to testify against their husbands if they engaged in polygamist relationships. Thus, as Steven Estes convincingly demonstrates, the crusade against Mormon polygamy did not only contribute to stabilize hegemonic masculinity by constructing Mormon men as an antitype. It was also conducive to the reconciliation between Northerners and Southerners by creating a common enemy.
The article of historian Martina Salvante puts the focus on a different geographical region. By analyzing fictional texts, Mussolini’s speeches, welfare provisions, police measures as well as legislation, Salvante scrutinizes how masculinity, male sexuality, and fatherhood were entangled with notions of demographic policy in Fascist Italy. Rooted in ideas that circulated in nineteenth-century Italy, fascist masculinity, against the backdrop of experiences of World War I, emphasized the sexual and military prowess of males to strengthen the nation. Classifying the prosperity of the nation above the well-being of the individual the fascist regime adopted legislative and legal measures to discriminate against non-reproductive men and stimulate population growth. Therefore, as Salvante points out, during the regime of Benito Mussolini fatherhood served as a threshold to get access to full citizenship and connected entitlements like social welfare.
Transnational dimensions of the configurations of Dominican masculinity during the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo (1930–1961) are the subject of Maja Horn’s contribution. In “The Transnational Origins of Hegemonic Dominican Masculinity” she describes how the U.S. occupation (1916–1924) shaped notions of Dominican masculinity and femininity. In reaction to the U.S. presence, which was understood as emasculating, Dominicans linked the desired recovery of the nation to a virile type of masculinity. These gendered perceptions of national crisis paved the way for Trujillo to erect and legitimate his dictatorship as a measure to re-masculinize the nation. Paradoxically, though the dictator used his virile masculinity to reconstitute the autonomy of the nation, Trujillo’s performance of masculinity was deeply influenced by U.S. military values which he had adopted through his contact with U.S. Marines. As Horn argues, the gendered rhetoric and politics of Trujillo have had an impact on Dominican society still visible today and generated a specific male subjectivity: the tíguere.
“Masculinities and the Nation in the Modern World” is a highly informative and interesting anthology which significantly contributes to the understanding of the diverse linkages between modern nations and masculinities. Furthermore, by examining and discussing aspects of agency of masculinities the volume also tries to elaborate Connell’s highly important concept of hegemonic masculinity. Only the significant overrepresentation of U.S. history seems to be problematic. Although every single article on US-American history is absolutely worth reading, a geographically more balanced composition of the chapters would be desirable. By focusing on U.S. history the anthology reinforces an already existing imbalance in historiographical research which highlights the histories of Western societies and neglects those of other parts of the world. But despite this small reservation “Masculinities and the Nation in the Modern World” constitutes an important contribution to the history of the nation as well as to the history of masculinities. Especially against the backdrop of the frightening advance and radicalization of nationalistic worldviews nowadays, which as racist notions about “male immigrants” show are clearly gendered, it is to hope that the anthology will receive a broad audience.
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Kristoff Kerl. Review of Andersen, Pablo Dominguez; Wendt, Simon, Masculinities and the Nation in the Modern World: Between Hegemony and Marginalization.
H-Soz-u-Kult, H-Net Reviews.
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