Socialist Masculinities. Men in Eastern Europe: Ruptures, Transformations, and Continuities in the 20th Century

Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Centre d'études des mondes russe, caucasien et centre-européen (CERCEC)
15.09.2017 - 16.09.2017
Peter Hallama

For several decades now, scholars have taken an interest in analysing the socialists' attempt to transform traditional gender arrangements and to revolutionise the family. However, these studies have concentrated almost entirely on women and women's "liberation" through their integration into the labour market and the socialisation of housework and childcare. The extensive research on the making of "new" women – better educated, economically independent and enjoying more legal freedom – has not been accompanied by an analysis of the impact that the creation of "new" women had on the constructions of masculinity and fatherhood. In contrasting the ideal of women’s emancipation with the everyday experience under socialism, previous studies have demonstrated the limits of the socialist "solution" to "the woman question." Yet, in adhering rather to a women's history than to a gender history, these studies have overlooked the issue of masculinity and, very often, reproduced an ahistorical vision of men’s domination over women. Different approaches aim at rethinking gender studies in order to include the question of masculinities. Men’s Studies have provided important inputs in challenging the essentialist understanding of patriarchy and in proposing to substitute "patriarchy" with a performative and dynamic perspective on power and gender hegemonies. Following these suggestions, scholars have started to historicize the "patriarchy" in questioning the interactions, dynamics, and negotiations that are at the heart of families' everyday life. Thus, analysing masculinities helps us to write a truly relational, interactive, and dynamic gender history.

However, only rarely are issues of masculinity and fatherhood applied to the history of socialism in Eastern Europe. Some studies deal with the artistic representations of masculinity, or with post-socialist transformations of masculinity. They examine the impact of political ruptures on masculinities and discuss the "crises" of masculinity, be it in the 1920s, after the Second World War, or at the end of the 1980s. Other scholars have analysed socialist homosexualities. Geographically, the majority of research is done into the history of the Soviet Union and Russia.

The workshop, therefore, concentrates on different aspects that are important for the study of masculinities: labour, music, political dissent, homosexuality, family and fatherhood, death, and the various representations of masculinities in cinema and litterature. The workshop has two major objectives. First, it will consider the state of the art of previous and on-going research on masculinities in state-socialist Central and Eastern Europe. Second, it will discuss the possibilities as well as the obstacles and limits of studying masculinities and fatherhood under socialism. It will deliberate upon the added value of research on masculinities for our understanding of gender arrangements under socialism. Thus, the workshop will reflect the (pragmatic, methodological, and theoretical) difficulties as well as the benefits of applying Men's Studies and the history of masculinities to the study of socialist movements and countries.


15 September 2017 (Salle M. et D. Lombard, EHESS, 96 bd Raspail 75006 Paris)

1:00 pm: Welcome

1:30-2:30 pm: Introduction
Chair: Fabrice Virgili (CNRS, UMR SIRICE; Labex EHNE)

Rebecca Kay (University of Glasgow, UK): Heroes or Villains? Transforming (post-)Socialist Masculinities

Francisca de Haan (Central European University, Budapest, Hungary): Comment

2:30-3:00 pm: Coffee break

3:00-4:30 pm: Labour & Socialist Masculinities
Chair: Isabelle Ohayon (CNRS, CERCEC)

Kateryna Burkush (European University Institute, Florence, Italy): Exploring Soviet Masculinities: A Case of Provincial Seasonal Migrant

Olga Isupova (Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia): Being a Man in the Russian North: Lived Experiences and late Soviet and Post-Soviet Masculinity

Marina Yusupova (University of Manchester, UK): “Golden Hands” or Masculinity and Do-It-Yourself-Culture: Soviet Masculinities in the Post-Soviet Space

4:30-5:00 pm: Coffee break

5:00-6:30 pm : Alternative Masculinities
Chair: Régis Schlagdenhauffen (EHESS, IRIS ; Labex EHNE)

Christian Werkmeister (Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany): Masculinity in Soviet Rock Music Scenes

Shaban Darakchi (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences / European Association for the Defence of Human Rights, Bulgaria): Strategic Homosexual Masculinities during Socialism in Bulgaria

Dietlind Hüchtker (Leibniz Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig / Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany): Lech Wałęsa – or the Absent Fatherhood – Opposition, Subculture and Cultural Reproduction in Poland

16 September 2017 (Salle 11, EHESS 105, bd Raspail 75006 Paris)

9:00-10:30 am: Men in Everyday Life
Chair: Christine Castelain Meunier (CNRS, CADIS)

Natalia Jarska (Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland): Men in Family Life in post-war Poland: Towards New Masculine Identities?

Eva Schäffler (Institute of Contemporary History, Berlin, Germany): (Post-)Socialist Masculinities between Work and Family Life: (Dis-)Continuities in Czechoslovakia/the Czech Republic from the 1970s to the 1990s

Iva Šmídová (Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic): Men, Death and Grief in the Czech Context

10:30-11:00 am: Coffee break

11:00 am-12:30: A Crisis of Socialist Masculinity?
Chair: Anne Isabelle François (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3)

Libora Oates-Indruchová (University of Graz, Austria): Socialist Masculinities in Czech Culture during the Perestroika

Mathieu Lericq (Aix-Marseille Université, France): Facing a blocked normality. Problematic cases of Socialist masculinities within Polish cinema (1948-1989)

Alex Boican (University College London, UK): Socialism and the Crisis of Masculinity: Patriarchy and the Critique of Modernity in Romanian Fiction during Communism

12:30-1:00 pm: Conclusion
Peter Hallama (EHESS, CERCEC Paris)


Peter Hallama

54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris

Socialist Masculinities. Men in Eastern Europe: Ruptures, Transformations, and Continuities in the 20th Century, 15.09.2017 – 16.09.2017 Paris, in: H-Soz-Kult, 12.09.2017, <>.