- Manly PosesIdentities, Politics, and Lived Experience in the History of Masculinity
In a 2002 assessment of recent work on the history of masculinity in Britain, Martin Francis noted the influential role that John Tosh and others have played in developing this important area of study. With specific reference to Tosh's methodological admonitions to historians working in the field and to the scholarly development of an increasingly vibrant subdiscipline, Francis asserted: "John Tosh's insistence that the history of masculinity must be more than the history of homosocial manliness has made possible a more fully rounded exploration of male lives and subjectivities than that which previously existed."1 As indicated by the presence of review articles (such as Francis's) and, now, compilations of the most influential scholarship in the field, this area of study has indeed evolved since Natalie Davis first articulated, in a 1976 essay in Feminist Studies, the desirability of exploring women's and men's lives, concurrently, as fundamentally gendered experiences.2 [End Page 187] In the late 1980s, when Joan Scott alerted readers of the American Historical Review to the possibilities contained in the use of gender as a category of analysis, historians of numerous countries and regions began, in earnest, to take up the subject of masculinity.3 In its earliest incarnations, much of this work focused, somewhat uncritically, on all-male environments and paid little attention to gender as a relational construct or interactions between men and women; effectively privileging prescriptions over experiences and discourse over identities.
The past two decades have witnessed a dramatic expansion of the field as scholars working in a variety of disciplines have explored, in articles and popular and academic books, distinctive aspects of the masculine experience. Historians of Europe and North America have taken up subjects as diverse as honor and dueling, sport and athleticism, and war and violence.4 More nuanced studies of associational life that pay particular attention to the relational aspects of gender have also begun to appear over the past two decades as historians have returned, with renewed vigor, to the exploration of single-sex institutions and contexts to illustrate how these organizations incorporated gendered discourses and concepts of space into their structures and cultural practices.5 Among some of the most exciting work in this field is scholarship that has examined the relationship between gender and national identities, race, and imperialism in a variety of geographical and institutional contexts.6 Equally innovative approaches have been employed by those interested in exploring the intimate lives of men in the domestic realm or myriad experiences of same-sex and opposite-sex desiring men in varied urban settings.7 As the field has evolved, it has also spurred on several attempts at synthesis reflected, most notably, in the work of scholars like Michael Kimmel and Robert Nye.8
The works under consideration in this essay, each full of intriguing insights into the multifaceted histories of masculinity in, respectively, the United States, Canada, and Israel, all build on these developments. By offering new perspectives, many of the authors examined here seek to dismantle, with varying degrees of success, paradigms that have dominated the field over the past two decades. Among the...