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Mediterranean masculinities (12th – 17th century)

In: Genesis. Rivista della Società italiana delle Storiche, XX/1, 2021 (Edited by Denise Bezzina and Michaël Gasperoni)

The journal Genesis is welcoming proposals for a monographic issue dedicated to Mediterranean masculinities between the late Middle Ages and Early Modern times.

Scholarship has long established that one cannot speak of masculinity in the singular, as if it were a unique, fixed and ahistorical model. Rather, the notions, perceptions, representations and behaviours associated with masculinity are the result of multiple and interweaving factors (cultural, social, religious, but also specific historical contingencies, etc.). It is therefore indisputable that over the centuries different and at times divergent forms of masculinity have existed, which varied from context to context.

The study of these multiple masculinities has piqued the interest of scholars since the 1990s, but in the last decade this strand of research has gained increasing momentum. The theme has been investigated from different points of view: from the construction of male models and identities, to the perception of masculinity in the secular and ecclesiastical worlds, to sexuality, and fatherhood, with studies that have dealt with the most diverse contexts. In this sense, the Mediterranean represents a privileged field of observation, due to both its great (cultural and religious, social, political and economic) diversity and the intense circulation and constant mobility not only of goods and people, but also of ideas and models.

This monographic issue therefore intends to contribute to a growing area of research but which, despite its inherent potential and vivid interest it attracts, has not been equally considered by the different national historiographies. More specifically, for what concerns the period under scrutiny, the study of masculinity remains substantially confined to Anglophone scholarly literature, while very little research has been done on this subject for the central Middle Ages, leaving the field open to new inquiries.

The aim is to investigate the multiple and changeable masculinities that existed or coexisted in the different Mediterranean (geographical, cultural, political or religious) contexts and the ways in which these were negotiated (paying attention to different social and age groups) throughout the late medieval and early modern centuries. We are particularly interested in the following research topics, which can be tackled simultaneously:

•    The spaces where masculinity is constructed and expressed. Masculine identities can develop and be negotiated in several “spaces”: within the family and at home (fathers, husbands, sons); in workshops (masters/employers, apprentices); in public places (lay and ecclesiastical); and in commercial and socializing venues. Can peculiar male behaviours be detected? How are gender relations translated? How did religious spaces and practices influence the construction of male cultural and social identities?

•    Material culture and male physical appearance. How did practices and objects distinctive of the male gender contribute to the construction/representation of male identities and to the creation of gender distinctions? How and by whom were these objects transmitted (families, wills, gifts, etc.)? How did the perception of the body, and standards and discourses on male beauty develop and change? Can differences and peculiarities be identified in the diverse Mediterranean areas?

•    Masculinity and power. During the centuries under scrutiny (political and ecclesiastical) power was exercised almost exclusively by men. It is therefore necessary to consider how the masculinity-power axiom has been constructed. How were male models of power represented and negotiated within the various social groups? Can particular terms be identified that were commonly used to associate masculinity with power? Did particular rites or practices exist that emphasized/strengthened the connection between masculinity and power?

•    Masculinity and the law. In pre-modern times the law was not the same for everyone. Gender in particular determined not only the rights an individual could enjoy, but also how each person was judged and punished. So what are the laws that affected only males? How are men represented in legal texts? How did law contribute in creating/strengthening masculinity, or vice versa how could established models of masculinity influence the introduction of new laws?

•    Family and sexuality. The Mediterranean area stands out in particular in view of the diversity in religious regulations on education, married life and sexuality. While the monogamous model was adopted in the Christian area, polygamy and polygeny, even if controlled by the competent authorities, were not formally forbidden by Jewish and Muslim laws. In addition to these issues, which could be studied comparatively, papers may address the issue of celibacy, adultery or other sexual practices (homosexuality, bisexuality).

•    The masculinity of the “minorities”. In a geographical area characterized by intense exchange and circulation (wars, pilgrimages, trade, etc.), how was “otherness” represented (for example, Christian minorities in Muslim lands or Jewish minorities in Christian lands or on the opposite shore of the Mediterranean)? How were the “other” masculinities stereotyped or even stigmatized in different cultural and religious spheres?

Proposals of original articles in Italian, French, English or Spanish, must reach the editors of the issue, Denise Bezzina (denisebezzina (at) hotmail.com) and Michaël Gasperoni (michael.gasperoni27 (at) gmail.com), not later than 31.05.2020.

The proposals must include:
•    An abstract of about 3,000 characters (400 words) which must also contain an indication of the sources and some bibliographical references.
•    A short bio-bibliographical note of the author.

The articles selected for publication, which will be communicated by 30.06.2020, must not exceed 50,000 characters (8,000 words), spaces and footnotes included, and must be sent to the editors by 31.10.2020. A limited number of articles may be written and published in the original language (French, English or Spanish). Contributions will be subject to editorial reading and a double blind peer review. The issue XX/1 issue of the journal will be published in June 2021.