Keynote: Crossing Patriarchal Borders: Researching Men, Masculinities and Women’s Rights in Mexico
Chris Harris, University of Liverpool
Drawing on a variety of illustrative and indicative Mexican texts and issues, and departing from some initial thoughts on the ‘Remember Them’ exhibition on femicide in Ciudad Juárez (Liverpool, 2013), this paper provides a reflection upon the problematics and possible future directions of language-based research into discursive constructions of masculinities while at the same time inviting genuine intellectual engagement with what bell hooks describes as the ‘social disease’ of patriarchy. In this way the intention is to call for deliberate and multiple crossings of patriarchal borders by academics and to offer for discussion and debate a broad position paper at the start of the ‘Border Masculinities’ conference that will be of relevance for researchers working in Masculinities Studies beyond its interfaces with Hispanism and Latinamericanism. The paper reconsiders and disagrees with Connell’s proposition that our object of knowledge is and should be gender relations; it reconsiders some of the main methodological and theoretical challenges involved in examining and writing about cultural representations of men and masculinities, including the role of deconstruction and the idea of posthegemony. The paper also attempts to identify a number of gender-related issues that require urgent attention from researchers such as rape culture and cybercultural feminist activism by men; and, finally, it proposes a possible way forward for the generation of collaborative and feminist-inspired knowledge exchange and impact projects.
BRITISH AND NORTH AMERICAN SPACES
Measuring the Distance: Wales, exile and masculinity in Raymond Williams’ Border Country Brian Baker, Lancaster University
This paper will analyse Raymond Williams’ novel Border Country (1960) in terms of motifs of exile and migration from Wales. The novel narrates the stories of Harry Price, a railway signalman who comes to the village of Glynmawr on the Welsh border in the early 1920s, and his son Matthew, who leaves the village to attend university and becomes a lecturer at the University of London. While bearing clear autobiographical elements, the novel is in part a meditation upon dislocation and loss through migration and mobility. Through the lens of masculinity and generational change, the paper will investigate the physical/ topographical space of ‘border country’ and its symbolic or poetic meanings as a space of change or potentiality.
‘This Used to be America’: Walking and Post-Apocalyptic Masculinities Andy Tate, Lancaster University
Concepts of American masculinity in the era of global capital are frequently defined by ideas of mobility and speed. In short, the most popular narratives of freedom in the US are associated with the open road and burning gas in a fast car. This paper will explore a number of fictions that imagine a post-catastrophe American landscape, a world in which devastation is signified in part by the scarcity of motorised transport. Who do we find on the road to nowhere? In such visions of a ruined future, walking, currently regarded with a degree of suspicion in a post-urban culture designed for carloads of consumers, becomes the default mode of movement. The paper will draw on Henry David Thoreau and Rebecca Solnit’s political exploration of the pleasures and pains of the ambulatory and compare walkers in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) and Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse (2007).
“‘So very oriental’: masculinity and the travelling body in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford” Charlotte Mathieson, University of Warwick
This paper explores the intersections between masculinity and nationhood forged through the body of the travelling subject in Victorian literature. Focusing on Peter Jenkyns’s journey to India in Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (1851-53), I look at how the body of the travelling subject provides a distinct site for thinking through the construct of, and challenges to, the British subject as he moves through spaces of Empire. Returning from his travels “tanned and retanned by the sun”, Peter Jenkyns is representative of a recurrent literary trope in which male travellers to the British Empire become sunburnt, tanned and bronzed by their journeying. Far from being an implicit, commonplace feature of travel, I suggest that the suntanned body is indicative of a deeper exploration of the borders of race, class and gender, and works to produce an alternative, malleable model of British masculinity as an effective force in the Victorian novel.
MASCULINITIES IN POLITICAL SPACES
Donkeys and Dictators: Political Masculinity in Cheik Aliou Ndao’s Mbaam dictateur (1997) Charlotte Baker, Lancaster University
Senegalese writer Cheik Aliou Ndao wrote his novel Mbaam Aakimuu in Wolof before publishing it in French with the title Mbaam Dictateur in 1997. The title refers to the dictator protagonist Wor, whose tyrannical rule over an unnamed African nation has led his people to turn to an occult practitioner to rid themselves of him. He transforms the dictator into a donkey, ‘Mbaam ngonk, l’âne énorme’ (Mbaam Ngonk, the enormous donkey) who, although mute, has lost none of his intellectual capacity or human emotion. My paper examines the representation of political masculinity in Ndao’s novel, and specifically that of the postcolonial African dictator. I explore the shifting masculinity of the dictator Wor as a means by which to examine where Ndao considers the responsibility for dictatorship lies in the African postcolony. I consider how, in changing Wor into a voiceless donkey, Ndao reveals the constructed nature of the hyper-masculinity of dictatorship and, in turn, raises questions about the role of the writer in the face of postcolonial regimes.
Between tradition and modernity in post-Revolutionary Mexico: José Vasconcelos, narcissism and the desire for recognition Mark Millington, University of Nottingham
José Vasconcelos (1882-1959), a Mexican politician and public intellectual, wrote his autobiography in the 1930s when in exile after being denied victory in the rigged presidential election of 1929. The autobiography was in part an attempt to maintain his public presence in Mexico and to underline his cultural and political values in opposition to the outlook of the current government. Underlying his opposition was a disagreement about Mexican identity and his commitment to the Hispanic tradition, in stark contrast to the modernising policies adopted in the wake of the Revolution of 1910-1917. Mexico was at a turning-point and he forthrightly rejected the attempt to reshape the country economically and culturally on the model of the United States. To underpin his recognisability and foster approval, Vasconcelos had recourse to an intense ego narrative. He constructed a portrait of his public persona by drawing on the nineteenth-century, Latin American model of the intellectual statesman and of his private persona by implicitly drawing on the Hispanic tradition of the fiercely independent and sexually adventurous ‘macho’. In short, Vasconcelos deployed significant features of Hispanic masculinity with striking elements of aggressively defensive narcissism in his attempt to sustain his position in Mexican public opinion.
Indigenous Masculinities and Contested Territorial Boundaries: Representing the Mapuche Autonomist Movement in Contemporary Chile Jo Crow, University of Bristol
This paper focuses on one particular spatial border – the Bio Bio River in southern Chile – and the violent conflict over lands beyond that border, lands that used to be indigenous Mapuche territory. It analyses the representation of indigenous masculinities in this context, most notably the figure of the contemporary Mapuche warrior. It asks what happens to that warrior figure outside the frontier zone? What happens to him in Santiago, Chile’s capital city, which is more than 700km from historic Mapuche territory? It also asks what role women play in the contemporary Mapuche struggle for self-determination.
LATIN AMERICAN SPACES
Last Man Standing: Crossing the Borders of Male Power Struggle in Gustavo Sainz’s Obsesivos días circulares (1969) Victoria Carpenter, University of Derby
This paper presents a comparative analysis of the power struggle between the male narrator and secondary characters in Gustavo Sainz’s novel Obsesivos días circulares (1969). I propose to examine in more detail the process of text control and the associated power struggle between males in the text by applying the theories of hegemonic masculinity and posthegemony to the analysis of the interaction between the male narrator and male personages. I will study the process of text appropriation by the narrator and the subordinate as a metaphorical power border crossing, and determine whether the process is unilateral or whether the power struggle over text ownership occurs regardless of the subordination process.
Border Masculinities and Central American Guerrillas: Reflections on the Possibility of an Anti-Patriarchal Response Cornelia Grabner (Lancaster University, via Skype from Mexico)
This paper presents an analysis of books by Francisco Goldman and Jennifer Harbury, which deal with ‘cataclysmic moments’ of recent Guatemalan history. The analysis explores gender relations in these books with reference to three themes: storytelling, communication and affective relationships. Conceptually I draw on the notions of decolonial love, the coloniality of gender, and the world gender order as categories of analysis. I take Chela Sandoval’s methodology of the oppressed as a guideline for my analysis, and look at the ways in which different types of storytelling perpetuate or question the coloniality of gender, at the consequences of intercultural misunderstandings produced by different readings of the coloniality of gender and the world gender order, and at the significance of a critical and liberatory practice of gender roles for decolonial love. The practice of decolonial love is an alternative to what Tzvetan Todorov has called ‘the dreadful concatenation’. This practice of love and knowledge of the Other is a result of cultural encounters during the conquest of the Americas. It conceptualizes as ‘love’ a feeling which sidesteps equality, an exercise in destruction and possession.
Saturday Night Fever in Chile: The Recycling of John Travolta in Pablo Larrain’s Tony Manero Amit Thakkar, Lancaster University
Pablo Larraín’s film Tony Manero is the first film in an ‘unintentional trilogy’ by the emerging young Chilean director Pablo Larraín. In this film, set in Chile 1978, the protagonist is a violent amateur dancer who seeks to imitate the character of Tony Manero (John Travolta) in Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977). The terms metaphor and allegory have been loosely applied to describe the film’s rhetorical strategy, not least by the director himself. This paper seeks to demonstrate that its principle technique is allegory, based on a repetitive narrative of violence and a related culture of importation and on the symbolic aura of John Travolta’s original Tony Manero. It also seeks to explore the relevance to Tony Manero, and to Larraín, of Idelber Avelar’s ideas concerning allegory and mourning.
Speakers and Participants
Brian Baker is currently a Lecturer in English at Lancaster University, UK. He has published books and articles on masculinities, science fiction and science fiction cinema, Iain Sinclair, Literature and Science and in a critical/ creative mode. Masculinities in Fiction and Film was published by Continuum in 2006 and a ‘sequel’, Contemporary Masculinities in Fiction, Film and Television will be published by Bloomsbury Academic in January 2015. The Reader’s Guide to Essential Criticism: Science Fiction will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in late 2014, and he is now working on Fuzzy Revolutions: Science Fiction in the 1960s for Liverpool UP.
Charlotte Baker is Lecturer in French at Lancaster University. A specialist in contemporary African literature written in French and English, Charlotte is interested in questions of power and marginality, disability and the body. She is the author of Enduring Negativity: Albinism in the Novels of Didier Destremau, Patrick Grainville and Williams Sassine (Peter Lang, 2011) and editor of Expressions of the Body: Representations in African Text and Image (Peter Lang, 2009). She is currently working on a monograph examining the critical engagement of post-independence West African writers with dictatorship and collaborating on a research project on multilingualism in the Francophone world.
Victoria Carpenter, PhD (Hull), is a Reader in Latin American studies at the University of Derby, UK. She specialises in XX-century Mexican literature, and her interests lie in the interrogation of the concepts of power and control from hegemonic and posthegemonic perspectives. Her publications include edited volumes A World Torn Apart (2007), (Re)Collecting the Past (2010), A World in Words, A Life in Texts (2011), a special section ‘Tlatelolco 1968 in Contemporary Mexican Literature’ (Bulletin of Latin American Research, 24:4), and a number of academic journal articles on modern Mexican and Argentinean literature and culture. Victoria Carpenter is the founder of Latin American Literary Studies Association (LALSA).
Joanna Crow is Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies at the University of Bristol. Her first monograph The Mapuche in Modern Chile: A Cultural History was published in 2013 by University Press of Florida. She has recently started a new research project on intellectual networks in Latin America, with a focus on Chilean-Peruvian intellectual encounters and exchanges.
Chris Harris is Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at the University of Liverpool, an Assistant Editor of the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, and currently Head of the Department of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies (CLAS: 2012- ). Before moving to Liverpool, he was the founding Lecturer in Spanish at the Universities of Ulster (Magee College) and Lancaster. He specialises in post-Revolutionary Mexican literature and politics and has published widely in this area with a monograph on Agustín Yáñez and articles on several authors including Mastretta, Castellanos, Azuela, Rulfo, Poniatowska, and González de Alba. He has also published on Borges. He has a particular interest in the afterlives of Mexico 1968 and has recently delivered a paper on ‘Rius, Los agachados and memorialisation of 1968’ at the ‘Specular Ghosts’ conference in London (September 2014) which was focused on trauma and memory in Mexican visual culture. He is also involved in ongoing collaborative research on discursive constructions of Latin American Masculinities with Dr Amit Thakkar (Lancaster). Their most recent publication is a special issue of the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research (2014). The issue explores the theme of men, power and liberation in Latin American cultures and it contains Chris’s article on the idea of feminist masculinity in Mastretta’s Arráncame la vida.
Cornelia Grabner researches on poetry and the public, and on poetry and activist politics. She focuses on the Poetics of Resistance and contemporary committed writing. Her research is comparative on Western Europe and the Americas. She is currently working on a monograph on committed writing and alternative globalisation. Further lines of research include poetic interventions into urban space; the intersections of culture and politics in mega-cities in the Americas; and politically committed performance poetry collectives. She holds a specialist interest in Mexican committed writing from the 1970s to the present, and in creative articulations of contemporary Mexican social movements.
Donna-Marie Kerslake grew up on the border between Washington State USA and British Columbia, Canada. She has lived in the UK for many years now as an adult. She received her BA last year, from the Open University, and is just starting the second year of an MA in Creative Writing here Lancaster with the distance learning programme. Her project is a novel, set in 1860s San Francisco, about a teenage boy who is forced to work in the sex trade. He falls for an older boy, promising him riches and a home, but this boy then leads him astray. One harrowing twist of fate leads to another then finally, he experiences a more stable home life. Leaving it all to rescue a good friend, he is betrayed by the older boy he once loved. Masculinity is a major theme in the novel, particularly roles of dominance and submission in male same-sex relationships. She is now reading papers relevant to gender roles, sexuality, child sex work in the 19th and early 20th century, and researching male sex work today.
Charlotte Mathieson is a Research Fellow at the University of Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Study. She researches nineteenth-century literature, with an interest in the intersections of gender, space and mobility in novels by authors including Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell. She has recently published Gender and Space in Rural Britain, 1840-1920 (ed. with Gemma Goodman; Pickering and Chatto, 2014) and “‘A brown sunburnt gentleman’: Masculinity and the Travelling Body in Dickens’s Bleak House” (Nineteenth-Century Contexts, September 2014). More about her research can be found at http://charlottemathieson.wordpress.com/
Maritza Carrasco-Marchessi is Teaching Associate in the Spanish School of Languages and Social Sciences Aston University. She has recently been awarded her doctorate in Hispanic Studies by University of Birmingham for Masculinities and nation: reading the compañero as national allegory in Antonio Skármeta´s narrative. Her principal areas of specialism focus on the gender issues, popular culture, and theories of the liminal, and the relationship between all three concepts in the fiction of Chilean postboom writers. She works particularly on narratives of masculinity published during the seventies, the Pinochet dictatorship, and throughout the transition to democracy in the late nineties and early 21st century. She has published three articles derived from her M.Phil. thesis, amongst them “Tangeando al macho, haciendo el chachachá: dos ilustraciones del simbolismo del tango y el chachachá en la literatura latinoamericana contemporánea”. (Salamanca, 2003). She is currently working towards the publication of her doctoral thesis.
Mark Millington is Professor of Latin American Studies at the University of Nottingham. His research interests focus on twentieth-century Spanish American literature and intellectual history. He has published books on Onetti, transculturation and the representation of masculinity in Latin American literature, and articles and chapters on Carpentier, Monterroso, Piñera, Fuentes, Peri Rossi, Güiraldes, Borges, García Márquez, Luis Zapata, Vasconcelos and Fernando Ortiz among others. Relevant publication: Hombres in/visibles: La representación de la masculinidad en la literatura latinoamericana, 1920-1980 (Bogotá: FCE, 2007).
Jana Naujoks has been working for International Alert’s Peacebuilding Issues programme for 7 years, initially in the coordination of the Initiative for Peacebuilding and the Foro Andino para la transformacion de conflictos socioambientales, which was active in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador. She is currently working on the Rethinking Gender in Peacebuilding project, including case studies on Uganda (published) and Nepal (forthcoming) as well as a short animation. Current research interests include gender and migration; the reintegration of ex-combatants; and the gender dimensions of natural resource management conflicts particularly around the extractive industries.
Andrew Tate is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English & Creative Writing at Lancaster. He is the author of Douglas Coupland (M.U.P, 2007), Contemporary Fiction and Christianity (Continuum, 2008) and, co-authored with Arthur Bradley, The New Atheist Novel (Continuum, 2010). His most recent co-edited volume is Literature and the Bible: A Reader (2013). He is currently working on a monograph on twenty-first-century apocalyptic literature.
Amit Thakkar is Senior Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at Lancaster University. He completed his thesis on Mexican fiction at the University of Liverpool. His book, The Fiction of Juan Rulfo: Irony, Revolution and Postcolonialism, was published in 2012 by Tamesis (Boydell and Brewer). He has published widely on the topic of masculinities in film and literature as well as co-editing, with Chris Harris (University of Liverpool), a special issue in the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies,: ‘Representations of Men and Masculinities in Latin American Cultures’. Another special issue, again co-edited with Chris Harris, is currently in press with the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies: ‘Men, Power and Liberation: Readings of Masculinities in Spanish American Literatures’. His research interests include masculinities and violence, non-violence, trauma studies, football and car crashes in Hispanic film and literature.