☆☆☆ "Appropriate & subvert the patriarchal semiotic hegemony of the hetero-normative dyad!" ☆☆☆

Monday, December 14, 2015

Masculinities, Performativity, and Subversion:

Let's post this link . . .


Having only skimmed the abstract; which contains all my essential buzz words.

Chris Brickell lectures in gender studies and sociology at the University of Otago, New Zealand.
His published work in Gender, Place and Culture, Sexualities and Journal of Consumer Culture
examines sexuality, liberalism, and space, as well as postwar fashion and gendered bodies in New Zealand.

Associate Professor Chris Brickell
Dept. Sociology, Gender, Social Work 
BA(Hons) PhD(Well)
Gender Studies Co-ordinator
Research Interests
The connections between sexuality, gender and identity, drawing on sociological and historical approaches. Other interests include consumer culture, cultural politics, citizenship, and the history of adolescence.
I am continuing my work on the history of male same-sex sexuality and intimacy in New Zealand, with more journal articles in the pipeline. A new project explores the cultural history of adolescence and young adulthood in New Zealand between 1800 and 1965. This book, under contract with Auckland University Press, is provisionally titled 'Teenagers: A New Zealand History'. Further details of my research projects can be found at www.brickell.co.nz.
GEND 102 Bodies, Sexualities and Selves
GEND 206/ 306 Gender, Work and Consumer Culture
GEND 207/ 307 Masculinities
GEND 401 Debates in Gender and Sexuality
Brickell, C. (2012). Manly affections: The photographs of Robert Gant, 1885-1915. Dunedin, New Zealand: Genre Books, 207p.
Brickell, C. (2008). Mates & lovers: A history of gay New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: Random House, 430p.
Brickell, C. (2013). On the case of youth: Case files, case studies, and the social construction of adolescence. Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, 6(1), 50-80. doi: 10.1353/hcy.2013.0006
Stock, P. V., & Brickell, C. (2013). Nature's good for you: Sir Truby King, Seacliff Asylum and the greening of health care in New Zealand, 1889–1922. Health & Place, 22, 107-114. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2013.03.002
Brickell, C. (2012). Queens Gardens, 1949: The anxious spaces of post-war New Zealand masculinity. New Zealand Geographer, 68(2), 81-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7939.2012.01231.x

Masculinities, Performativity, and Subversion: A Sociological Reappraisal

Chris Brickell, Ph.D.
University of Otago, New Zealand

The study of masculinities has not escaped the influence of Judith Butler’
s writings on gender, performativity, and subversion. However, this article suggests that Butler’s
formulations of performativity and subversion express a lack of clarity and engender a
number of problems with respect to agency, action, interaction, and social change. This
article argues for reformulating performativity and subversion in a more explicitly sociological frame to render the concepts more useful for examining agency and subjectivity in the study of masculinities. The writings of Erving Goffman suggest ways to reclaim the socially constructed agency of “performance” from the mire of “performativity,” with
the latter’s apparent disappearance of subjective action. This article suggests reworking
subversion away from parody and resignification toward a consideration of resources for
subjectivity and challenges to prevailing social structures. In this way, performativity
and subversion may be set more convincingly within a sociologically informed study of masculinity.

Key words:
Judith Butler; Erving Goffman; performance; performativity; subversion;
hegemonic masculinity; sociology

Judith Butler’s writings on gender, performativity, and subversion have
by now attained a wide purchase across a number of humanities and social science disciplines, and the study of masculinities is no exception. For example, Butler’s theorizing has been explored in studies of the anxieties induced by the continual and forcible production of masculinity within social interaction

(Buchbinder 1998), alcohol consumption in the construction of rural masc-
ulinities (Campbell 2000), young men’s language use and conversational
styles (D. Cameron 1997), the development of heterosexual identities by
young men at school (Redman 2001), and masculinity and masochism in
cultural production (Savran 1998).

Author’s Note:
For many suggestions and discussions on earlier versions of this article,
I am grateful to Marny Dickson, Myra Hird, Mo Rahman, Philip Knight, Thérèse Quin, Rebecca
Stringer, and Ben Taylor. Two anonymous referees also provided a number of very thoughtful and
helpful comments.

It may be that as it stands, Butler’s theorizing of performativity and sub-
version proves rather more well-suited to literary analysis than to socia
l theory. One might investigate how particular texts interpellate masculinit
y, femininity, and heterosexuality or homosexuality and may or may not subvert t
he logics of prevalent symbolic forms and conventions. Following the “cultural
turn,” it has been implied that strategies for reading texts may be employed in reading social life more generally. Once we concern ourselves with agency, action, interaction, and institutionalized social practices, however, the inadequacy of a culturalist perspective becomes apparent (Edwards 1998).

At the root of some of the trouble lies the question of agency and subjectivity. Butler’s writing displays a range of responses to this question. Performativity generally refers to the discursive mode through which the acting subject is installed. In places, there is “no doer behind the deed” but merely an illusion of a subject constituted by discourse. Agency, including subjective performances of gender, is disallowed. Elsewhere, the subject comes into view and appears to possess a real existence on some level and occasionally exercises varying degrees of agency.

I have argued that we need to move beyond such ambiguity toward an
understanding of performance informed by Goffman’s writing. Performances are always performed by some one(s), although those ones’ selves are reflexively constructed with reference to others and to the symbolic resources provided by the surrounding culture and social structures. The
capacity for action does not depend on a self that is already fully existent, so
our sense of ourselves as gendered in particular ways is both constituted and
constituting simultaneously. In this way, we can reclaim the social action and
interaction central to the notion of gender performance without slipping
back into essentialist assumptions about the performers. Meanwhile, we can draw
on Butler’s writing as we investigate how particular constructions of gender
are systematically taken as authentic and immutable and, subsequently, ontologically privileged on that basis.

While Butler’s account of subversion includes various constellations of parody, repetition, resignification, displacement, and destabilization, it is rather impressionistic. The omission of an account of social action and structure allows no real understanding about the contexts and constraints under which subversion might take place. Instead, if we understand the symbolic
in terms of the cultural resources and materials with which selves are constructed, we can explore its influence on subjectivity, action, interaction, and social structure. The possibility of subversion arises within the dynamic interplay of these aspects of social life, where each influences the others.

Strategic breakages or disruptions in the recursive chains linking subjectivity, social structure, action, and social interaction may effect what we can call subversion, and in this sense, we might talk of subversive performance. Meaningful subversion of dominant forms of masculinity will remain difficult, given their privileging within current social arrangements. However, fissures within hegemonic patterns do permit acts and cultural forms that leave the way open for a reconfiguring of selves and their contexts, initially at the microlevel of society. What we do in our own particular social settings
may be capable of ultimately picking at loose threads in the tapestry of domination. There are varying politics at our disposal here, some of which may be said to be subversive

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