ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

50 – Building sustainable masculinities? Sports, outdoor activities and the crafting of male bodies and identities in late colonial South Asia (c. 1870-1950)

In the Indian subcontinent, as elsewhere, the decades between c. 1870 and 1950 witnessed profound changes in the ways in which gender identities were conceived and represented. Whereas much has been written about the proverbial ‘woman’s question’, we still know comparatively little about the reconfiguration of male identities during the epoch under purview.

Convenor

Harald Fischer-Tine - ETH-Zurich, Institute of History, Zurigo, Switzerland

Long Abstract

In the Indian subcontinent, as elsewhere, the decades between c. 1870 and 1950 witnessed profound changes in the ways in which gender identities were conceived and represented. Whereas much has been written about the proverbial ‘woman’s question’, we still know comparatively little about the reconfiguration of male identities during the epoch under purview. One conspicuous aspect of the forging of new masculinities was the emergence of different ideals of the male body and the global spread of a variety of novel knowledges and techniques how to train it. Imported ‘Western’ sports and training methods played a crucial role in this, but local South Asian traditions of physical culture as well various forms of novel and ‘traditional’ outdoor activities (such as hunting, cycling or scouting) were equally important. These developments were obviously linked to the broader social, economic and political, transformations of the time, such as the emergence of an Indian middle class, the increasing circulation and authority of scientized discourses on health and the body, the spread of an advertisement industry advocating new patterns of consumption and, last but certainly not least, the rise and growth of anticolonial nationalism.

Against this backdrop, the six contributions assembled in this proposed double panel will explore such issues from a variety of different angles. The aim is to provide the platform for a broad interdisciplinary discussion on shifting South Asian masculinities in late 19th and early 20th centuries, bringing together scholars from history, cultural and literary studies, film and media studies, gender studies and other disciplines.