Masculinities Aging Between Cultures: Methods and Concepts in Dialogue
Mobility is one of the crucial, perhaps even the prototypical experience of our time. In the current context of an “economically fashioned global society” (Jürgen Habermas) mobility has become an aggregate of individual and collective, real and imagined processes. Millions of migrants, refugees, exiles, diasporans, are representative of this principally endless, global mobility, they even seem to embody it. “Embody” is a keyword here because it reminds us of the oftentimes overlooked fact that migrants bring with them not only their customs, traditions, values, in short their culture, but also bring with them their bodies, which come to represent what “they have left of their home continent […]: their hands, their eyes, their feet, shoulders, bodies, what they wear, and what they pull over their heads at night to sleep under” (John Berger). These bodies are impacted by the experiences of dislocation, especially as they are growing older. And gender is a crucial factor here.
Focusing on migration and aging masculinities in the context of European and Anglophone cultures, this workshop intends to investigate different generations of migrants and the ways in which they have shaped cultural practices in the societies into which they have moved. Beginning in the postwar years with labor migrants mainly from Southern Europe and Turkey, the so-called ‘guest workers’ were predominantly male. As they are now transitioning into old age, their bodies are becoming the sites where competing political, social and cultural scripts of masculinity are being played out. In reaction to the shifts in Eastern and Western European countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, a different kind of migration has taken place with its specific cultural and gender implications. The most recent movement of refugees from non-European countries all over the world has again introduced its specific political and social repercussions with a focus on young and educated male migrants.
With reference to the aging male migrants, and also the younger and middle-aged writers among them, introducing cultural difference into European societies, we intend to explore mobility between cultures and generations from the joint perspectives of age and masculinity studies. The structure of inquiry follows different concerns: We want to address methodological issues of these different areas of cultural research in order to explore their connection with postcolonial and transcultural approaches, environmental studies and ecocriticism, genre theory and gender/feminist studies in a comparative framework.
In order to bring these different methodological concerns into critical dialogue we invite contributions related to the following conceptual themes:
(1) RELATIONALITY [RELATIONALITÄT]
As an alternative to binary constructions of subjectivity that foreground the autonomous, rational self, relational approaches have been developed in many different disciplinary contexts in order to highlight, instead, attempts to come closer to the other person (Paul John Eakin), the reversibility of subject positions in narratives (Mieke Bal), the ethical codes for narrating and representing ‘vulnerable subjects’ (Thomas Couser) and performative notions of selfhood or personhood. These alternative conceptualisations of the self can serve as a reference frame for exploring aging masculinities between cultures.
(2) CARE [FÜRSORGE]
The gendered relationship structure of care has been widely recognized. Historically encoded as feminine, care has been reconceptualized first in a feminist ethic of care as a “mode of thinking that is contextual and narrative rather than formal and abstract” and that conceives the activity of care as centered around “the understanding of responsibility and relationships” (Carol Gilligan). In the related contexts of ageing, masculinities and the environment, care becomes a crucial issue that subverts traditionally gendered reference frames.
(3) KINSHIP [VERWANDTSCHAFT]
The notion of kinship brings up the context of familial and generational relationships. More broadly, kinship refers to relationships traditionally accepted in a culture and the rights and obligations which they involve. In cultural gerontology, the term ‘fictive kin’ describes living arrangements of older people, where spatial closeness becomes a substitute for ‘blood relations’ highlighting the potentialities of ‘inventing generational models’ (Kathleen Woodward). When the British poet John Burnside writes about “kinship of flesh with flesh” he acknowledges relationships within the natural world. Kinship, then, can be explored further as a configuration of shifting relationships within different conceptualizations of the ‘cultural’ and ‘natural’.