Call for Abstracts for an edited collection titled Fashioning the Male Body, Performing Gender

Carmen Dexl's picture
Type: 
Call for Publications
Date: 
November 22, 2019
Subject Fields: 
African American History / Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Theatre & Performance History / Studies, Film and Film History

For our edited collection with an interdisciplinary and international focus we call for abstracts of contributions that look at constructions of the male body from multiple perspectives, such as Literary Studies, Theater and Film Studies, Performance Studies, Fashion Studies, Gender, Queer, LGBTQ+, and Critical Race Studies in line with the critical parameters and theoretical considerations of this book project: Adopting an innovative theoretical conception of the body at the intersection of social constructivist and new materialist discourse, our edited collection analyzes figurations of the male body and gender performances in various cultural arenas, including popular culture, literature, film, dance, theater, and performance art, and the fashion industry. With its special focus on how a wide variety of cultural productions construe the body as both a material and socially constructed discourse and envision its possibilities to engage in innovative acts of gender performance, the volume adds to Cultural Studies scholarship interested in the body, materiality, and performativity in general and contributes to the field of Masculinity Studies in particular.

Cultural Studies offer an especially suited perspective on the male body, as they allow at once a differentiated reading of the body as a material concept, cultural discourse, and performing agent that shapes cultural practices and negotiates changing societal norms and values. Moreover, it has, as a multidisciplinary field of inquiry, yielded some of the most productive approaches to materiality and embodiment.

While concepts of the male body and masculinity have been theorized as socially constructed and discursively produced within the poststructuralist paradigm, these theories have more recently been complemented and complicated by a (re)turn towards material aspects, with the two differing perspectives standing in stark tension with and contrast to each other. The rising interest in, yet still rather dispersed attempts of considering the materiality of the body for critical analyses after decades of its obfuscation is, as Diane Coole and Samantha Frost argue in New Materialisms (2010), due to the partial exhaustion of once radical constructivist approaches to the material world (cf. 6)[1] and of the belief in language as an adequate mediator of individual bodily experience – as Jean-Luc Nancy puts it: “[T]he body is the end of the signifier” (75).[2] That is, social constructivism has hit a brick wall in accounting for and reacting to contemporary challenges and social changes; putting it in the center of academic discourse has led to its naturalization and a concomitant failure to “theorize its limits” (Breu 6).[3] We maintain that understanding the body in the wake of the cultural turn as being shaped by discursive power formations needs not be superseded by but rather rethought and reconfigured through theories of the body that especially focus on material aspects. The materiality of the body has so far been underestimated and not been considered sufficiently for insights into the social experience of gendered, sexed, raced, or (dis)abled male bodies.

Taking the prolific research already done on constructions of men and masculinities in the fields of Masculinity Studies and Cultural Studies as basis, our project distinguishes itself from the existing scholarship in two main points:

a) It appreciates a form of critique that shifts attention from what queer studies scholar Eve Sedgwick has called a “paranoid” towards a “reparative” endeavor (1ff).[4] The benefits of this enterprise lie in moving beyond readings of representations of men and masculinity that are geared towards a critique of ideology only (and thus oftentimes predictable in their line of argumentation) towards an exploration of what male bodies and their gender performances can achieve for the cultural acknowledgment of more diverse concepts of the body and gender. In this vein, acknowledging the epistemological shifts of ‘knowing the body’ that poststructuralist and materialist theories have yielded serves as a starting point for inquiring into how the performing body can function as a creative impetus, a line of flight into more productive body politics.

b) It unites scholarly readings of ‘men’ in popular culture, literature, film, performance art, and the fashion industry that move beyond mere conceptualizations of the male body as a site where patriarchal norms are displayed, interrogated, and potentially reinforced on the one hand and a return to the body as supposed ‘raw’ material or factual biological entity on the other. Rather, it moves towards a notion of the male body that first of all acknowledges the body in its materiality, but a materiality that is itself subject to interpellations into discourses and systems, and then dares to inquire into the performative possibilities of the particular body. In this conceptualization, the body becomes a site of interrogation for alternative models of ‘masculinity’ and emerges as more reflexive, dynamic, and eventually more productive through its embrace of notions of performativity.

We call for scholarly contributions that look at constructions of the male body from multiple perspectives, such as Literary Studies, Theater and Film Studies, Performance Studies, Fashion Studies, Gender, Queer, LGBTQ+, and Critical Race Studies. Articles can, for example, address the following questions:

  • How do cultural productions construct the male body as both a material and socially constructed discourse?
  • What role does the body play for ‘male’ subjectivity/ies? To what extent is the material body of importance to conceptions of masculinity?
  • What repercussions do poststructuralist deconstructions have for marginalized masculinities and their need for social or political empowerment?
  •  
  • How can theory become practice and scholarly conceptions of masculinities be connected to lived experience and everyday practice or even to social and political activism in that field?

Authors interested in contributing to this edited collection should submit an abstract of 500 words to Dr. Carmen Dexl, carmen.dexl@ur.de and Silvia Gerlsbeck, silvia.gerlsbeck@fau.de. The deadline for abstract submissions is November 22, 2019. Articles that will be chosen should comprise 6,000–8,000 words and will be due by January 31, 2020.

 

[1] Coole, Diane and Samantha Frost. “Introducing the New Materialisms.” New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Eds. Diane Coole and Samantha Frost. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010. 1–43. Print.

[2] Nancy, Jean-Luc. Corpus. Transl. Richard A. Rand. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008. Print.

[3] Breu, Christopher. Insistence of the Material: Literature in the Age of Biopolitics. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2014. Print.

[4] Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, ed. “Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Introduction is About You.” Novel Gazing: Queer Readings in Fiction. Durham and London: Duke UP, 1997. 1–37.

Contact Info: 

Dr. Carmen Dexl
American Studies,
University of Regensburg, Germany

Silvia Gerlsbeck
English Literature and Culture
FAU Erlangen-Nuernberg, Germany

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