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Manlighetens flytande gränser. Om manlighet som analytisk kategori i historiska analyser.
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies.
2008 (Swedish)In: Scandia, ISSN 0036-5483, Vol. 74, no 1, 83-103 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [sv]

Exactly what does masculinity refer to in historical analyses? And how is it to be separated from other analytical categories like class and ethnicity? The aim of this article is to discuss how the concept masculinity – ”manlighet” – has been applied in some recent historical studies by Swedish historians. Masculinity plays a central role in Christopher Collstedts doctoral thesis Justice and the duellist: Crimes of duelling and Perceptions of Masculinity in the Final Phases of Sweden’s Period as a Great power (2007). One central point in Collstedt’s study is that indicted duellists were not afraid to base their narratives of defence on behaviours, emotions and physical states of helplessness and despair which were traditionally associated with unmanliness, but on the contrary often referred to themselves as peaceful, meek and in need of protection. Collstedt links this to an early modern fluidity of masculinity and the repertoire of a Christian virtuous lifestyle, which was prescribed for both men and women. Christian virtues permitted men to be meek without giving up on their masculinity. But Collstedt also goes one step further and argues that Christian virtues like meekness were attributed to masculinity in relation to crimes of duels. How this was done is however not demonstrated by the author. The question of the historian’s criteria for labelling descriptions of attitudes and behaviour as expressions of masculinity is brought to a head. This becomes even more obvious in Kekke Stadin’s Gender and estate in Sweden’s Age of Greatness (2004). After describing several different ”masculinities” in early modern Swedish society, the author states that in the eyes of the 17th century, only ”warriors” could be manly, referring to the contemporary usage of the Swedish term ”manlig” as synonymous with brave. In the absence of a clear definition of masculinity as an analytical category, the risk is that the historian in this way will limit the analysis either to what is expressively labelled ”manly” in the source material, or expand the concept to descriptions of whatever men do and say which could be taken as normative or prestigious. A more precise definition of masculinity should start from an understanding of gender as the continuous establishment of cultural meanings for (what is recognized as) the fundamental bodily differences between the sexes in a given historical culture. Exactly what is brought forth as the essential differences and how these have been understood has varied over time, but the fact that such differences are recognized and ascribed specific qualities as masculine and feminine respectively, comprise the elementary logic of gender and thus also of masculinity. This means that the historian must be able to show that a connection (immediate or metaphorical) was made by contemporaries between a described ideal, attitude or behaviour and (what was held as) specific qualities, physical attributes and abilities of male bodies, before labelling the phenomenon as an historical expression of masculinity. The article ends with some suggestions for a rhetorical perspective on masculinity and an alternative interpretation of possible connections between excessive violence and unmanliness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Lund: Historiska institutionen , 2008. Vol. 74, no 1, 83-103 p.
Keyword [en]
History research Sweden, masculinity, gender, 17th century, 18th century, duel, cultural history, aristocracy
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-10727ISI: 000257342800005OAI: diva2:150398

The fluid limits of masculinity. On masculinity as an analytical category in historical analyses.

Available from: 2008-10-27 Created: 2008-10-27 Last updated: 2016-03-01Bibliographically approved

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Liliequist, Jonas
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