Socialist Masculinities. Men in Eastern Europe – Ruptures, Transformations, and Continuities in the 20th Century

Peter Hallama's picture
Call for Papers
January 31, 2017
Subject Fields: 
Eastern Europe History / Studies, German History / Studies, Russian or Soviet History / Studies, Sociology, Women's & Gender History / Studies

Socialist Masculinities. Men in Eastern Europe – Ruptures, Transformations, and Continuities in the 20th Century


International workshop, Paris, 15-16 September 2017

Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Centre d’étude des mondes russe, caucasien et centre-européen (CERCEC)


For several decades now, scholars have taken an interest in analysing the socialists’ attempt to transform traditional gender arrangements and to revolutionise the family. However, these studies have concentrated almost entirely on women and women’s “liberation” through their integration into the labour market and the socialisation of housework and childcare. The extensive research on the making of “new” women – better educated, economically independent and enjoying more legal freedom – has not been accompanied by an analysis of the impact that the creation of “new” women had on the constructions of masculinity and fatherhood. In contrasting the ideal of women’s emancipation with the everyday experience under socialism, previous studies have demonstrated the limits of the socialist “solution” to “the woman question.” Yet, in adhering rather to a women’s history than to a gender history, these studies have overlooked the issue of masculinity and, very often, reproduced an ahistorical vision of men’s domination over women. Different approaches aim at rethinking gender studies in order to include the question of masculinities. Men’s Studies have provided important inputs in challenging the essentialist understanding of patriarchy and in proposing to substitute “patriarchy” with a performative and dynamic perspective on power and gender hegemonies. Following these suggestions, scholars have started to historicize the “patriarchy” in questioning the interactions, dynamics, and negotiations that are at the heart of families’ everyday life. Thus, analysing masculinities helps us to write a truly relational, interactive, and dynamic gender history.


However, only rarely are issues of masculinity and fatherhood applied to the history of socialism in Eastern Europe. Some studies deal with the artistic representations of masculinity, or with postsocialist transformations of masculinity. They examine the impact of political ruptures on masculinities and discuss the “crises” of masculinity, be it in the 1920s, after the Second World War, or at the end of the 1980s. Other scholars have analysed socialist homosexualities. Geographically, the majority of research is done into the history of the Soviet Union and Russia. The workshop aims, therefore, to gather scholars working on socialist masculinities in Central and Eastern Europe in order to reconsider the state of the art and discuss new ways for writing a history of masculinities under socialism. We wish to engage in a transdisciplinary discussion, involving historians, sociologists, anthropologists, demographers, art historians, political scientists, and scholars from neighbouring fields of research.


The central questions of the workshop are: Which role were men and fathers to play in the construction of a “new” socialist family? How where masculinities transformed in socialist movements and state-socialist countries? The workshop is interested, on the one hand, in the ideologies and the utopian reflexions of the place of men in a future communist society. On the other hand, it aims at questioning the everyday life of socialist men and fathers, as well as the everyday life of men and fathers living under socialism.


The workshop has two major objectives. First, it will consider the state of the art of previous and ongoing research on masculinities and fatherhood in state-socialist Central and Eastern Europe. Second, it will discuss the possibilities as well as the obstacles and limits of studying masculinities and fatherhood under socialism. It will deliberate upon the added value of research on masculinities for our understanding of gender arrangements under socialism. The empirical contributions should, therefore, always comprise a theoretical dimension, reflecting the (pragmatic, methodological, and theoretical) difficulties as well as the benefits of applying Men’s Studies and the history of masculinities to the study of socialist movements and countries. The different contributions will address the three following aspects:

  • the socialist reflections about masculinity and fatherhood (the utopias, the theory);
  • the manifold representations of masculinity and fatherhood in the media, the arts, in cinema, television, etc.;
  • masculinities and fatherhood in everyday life (in the family, at work, at sport, in the army, etc.).

The international workshop will focus on the state-socialist countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, more general or comparative contributions, as well as proposals focusing on other countries or regions that match the stakes of the workshop, are welcome too. We are inviting those interested in delivering twenty-minute presentations to submit abstracts of no more than 400 words, along with a brief academic CV, to Peter Hallama: by 31 January 2017. Abstracts can be submitted in English or French. The papers can be given in French or English. We especially encourage advanced doctoral students and young scholars from a wide range of disciplines (history, gender studies, sociology, anthropology, demography, etc.) to apply. Conference participants will receive accommodation and limited funding for travel expenses.


Confirmed speakers:

Rebecca Kay (Professor of Russian Gender Studies, University of Glasgow)

Ewa Mazierska (Professor of Contemporary Cinema, University of Central Lancashire)



Peter Hallama, post-doctoral researcher at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Centre d’étude des mondes russe, caucasien et centre-européen (CERCEC)


Scientific committee:

Alain Blum (Research Professor, INED / Research Professor, CERCEC, EHESS)

Mona Claro (PhD candidate, CEMS & IRIS, EHESS / INED)

Juliette Rennes (Associate Professor, CEMS, EHESS)

Régis Schlagdenhauffen (Associate Professor, IRIS, EHESS / Labex EHNE)



Contact Info: 

Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS)

Centre d’étude des mondes russe, caucasien et centre-européen (CERCEC)

44, rue de l'Amiral Mouchez

75014 Paris

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