My postdoctoral project examines the re-negotiation of gender norms, images and roles in the broader context of objective violence (Žižek), i.e. violence emerging from economic and political systems and reverberating on a discursive level. Colonial violence and violence of political elites led and lead to civil war, clientelism and the deprivation of people's rights and resources. The global crisis of the reproduction of traditional forms of masculinities, as embodied in the popular notion of the toxic masculinity, manifests itself much stronger in the countries of the Global South. In light of the above, my research project explores the life paths and gendered self-conceptions of men in different social milieus (city and countryside/centre and periphery, LGBTIQ+ communities, sectarian communities, the military, the political elite, civil society protest and grassroots movements, etc.) as well as their personal approach to affective and physical intimacy.
The project wants to examine variations along different social axes, such as generation, class, sect and political affiliation. To discern the governing representation of masculinity, hegemonic male-coded discursive figures like the "father" state, the political leader, the family father or the revolutionary subject will be identified and located in relation to their embeddedness in various group identities.
Special attention will be given to the repercussions that the symptoms of objective violence (such as civil war, materially precarious living conditions, deprivation of basic civil rights, and the patriarchal nature of society) have on the lives of parents – especially mothers – and their sons. How does parents'/mothers' experience of violence and their coping patterns influence the relationship with their sons, their personal development and their (gendered) self-image? Psychoanalytically-oriented research has shown that attachment disorders – caused by experiences of violence – play a pivotal role in the transgenerational transmittance of violent experience.
To what extent does the parent-child relationship generate expectations that cannot be fulfilled, and experiences of frustration and injured self-esteem? How do mother-son relationships effect moments of closeness men experience in love relationships?
Since it is assumed that women's imaginaries contribute considerably to representations of masculinity, women in general will be asked about their conceptions and expectations of manhood.
Theoretically, the work draws on psychoanalysis, particularly the Freudian concept of the unconscious, but also on theories from social and cultural anthropology, as well as gender studies (socialisation theory, interactionism, and discourse analysis). The data to be analyzed consist of life stories, conversations and participant observations. The research methodology comprises a combination of discourse analysis and psychoanalysis (transference/countertransference, equally tempered attention, and free association), since the interlocutors are not conceived of as absolutely sovereign and conscious subjects. Whereas the subjects' speech is always regulated and limited by discourses that determine the space of the speakable, the unconscious arises in the ruptures of the speech, as for example in contradictions or slips of the tongue.
Author: Dr. Sarah El Bulbeisi