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‘Men of the World’: Royal Historical Society / Ex-Historia symposium

26th May 2017 @ 15:00 - 17:00


Margaret Room 3, Queens Building


The Pursuit of the Rasik: Translating Masculinities in Early Modern South Asia, Sonia Wigh, University of Exeter. 

The urge to classify and define seems to be an innate human quality. Erotological texts propound a four-fold classification based on a particular part of the male anatomy. This classification, then becomes the basis for an elaborate discussion on physiognomy and masculinity. Hence, the issue of men’s sexuality in the context of South Asian history, in large part, is directly linked to the problem of physiology and semen, as distinct from a generalised symbolisation of power. This paper explores various ways to understand masculinity, for instance, it can be understood as ‘sexual power’, which is contextually different from its representation in the classical indo-Persian medical texts where the focus is on holistic development of the body. This paper explores the association of masculinity with semen, physiology, and reproduction, which is done by comparing medical and erotological literature produced in south Asia.

Alternative Settings of British Masculinity, 1689-1702, Owen Brittan, University of Cambridge

This paper examines multiple constructions of masculinity during the reign of William III (1689-1702), a period often overlooked by historians of masculinity. Scholarship on masculinity in early modern Britain has focused largely on the gender roles associated with the patriarchal household, although recently historians have turned their attention to cultures of politeness and civility in the public sphere. However, normative literature and autobiographical sources that illustrate how men dealt with and experienced the norms this literature portrayed demonstrate that masculinity in this period was more diverse than these prominent models allow. Exploring male attempts to negotiate the normative expectations of five primarily homosocial alternative spatial and institutional settings—the military, public service, commerce, religion, and the periphery—highlights numerous ways of establishing manhood. Analysing these settings on their own terms, rather than solely in relation to a normative patriarchal model, demonstrates the ambiguities of trying to situate all masculinities in relation to one dominant ‘hegemonic masculinity’. Moreover, grounded upon men’s experience recorded in their own words in diaries, journals, and memoirs , this analysis of negotiation demonstrates the variability of masculinity as an identity that is both subjective and socially contingent. Constructing such models of masculine identity answers the recent call of historians to make a partial retreat from the cultural turn and return to a socio-historical agenda that analyzes how different men related to broad cultural codes both individually and in groups and cohorts.

Organsied by Sexual Knowledge unit member Sonia Wigh.


26th May 2017
15:00 - 17:00
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University of Exeter
Exeter, EX4 4QH + Google Map

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