Por e para que falar de masculinidades?
Why and to what end speak about masculinities?
It is with this question that we opened the first session of the free-standing course and discussion group at UNIperiferias in the favela of Maré in Rio de Janeiro.
Through the months of September to December, GlobalGRACE Brazil in partnership with Promundo, Observatório de Favelas, Instituto de Relações Internacionais/PUC-Rio, Centro de Estudos Sociais/Universidade de Coimbra, and Instituto Maria e João Aleixo´s UNIperiferias has launched a free-standing course and discussion group on rethinking gender through the lens of masculinities. Bringing together artists, researchers, professors, and community organizers, these Wednesday night exchanges aim to open space to dialogue about intersectional expressions of masculinities, as a structuring force of the contemporary gender order, so often ignored and unnamed as the other side of gender relations. IMJA´s UNIperiferias is a university in construction in the favela of Maré in Rio de Janeiro, which seeks to broaden our perspectives and renew modes of learning, teaching, and research.
In and through this process, we have experimented with collaborative mapping processes of prevalent debates, practices, organizations, demands, and narratives that cut across this field that seeks to deal with gender inequities through expressions and dialogues about masculinities. Breaking with conventional subject/object positions in academic modes of knowledge production, we are working at creating spaces and conditions of partnership, whereby mapping becomes a means of accompanying processes, not from a far off perspective, but as a processual registering of pathways collectively traversed. In the context of these encounters, we will continue to deepen these registers and refine methodologies for the artistic residencies to be launched next year at Galpão Bela Maré, where the final exhibition -- opening up the question, Let´s talk about masculinities? -- and accompanying artistic and educational workshops will be carried out with a wider public.
The program traverses topics from hegemonic masculinities and anti-gender discourses taking hold in global conservative waves, to the racial pacts that sustain masculinities and imbricated gender orders, to intersectional expressions and dialogues about masculinities. Throughout the encounters, a space for exchanging knowledges and practices is being set up, and a sketchbook will be distributed to each participant so that they can register the movements and dialogues, to be sewn together in a collective writing and artistic production during our last encounter in December, facilitated by IMJA/UNIperiferias ́ artists and researchers.
What will be made of these spaces and processes of our Wednesday night encounters in Maré will depend on the diverse group of people who have come together to make it happen. Largely young people, with gender and racial parity, majority from the peripheries of the city, more than a third identifying as teachers and educators, another third as artists, with varying insertions in the formal education system, all seeking to transform the worlds we inhabit, many involved in social movements and civil society organizations.
When in the enrollment forms asked as to why they are interested in taking part in this process (a key tool for documenting mappings of interests, demands, and varied projects), many responses spoke to motivations in terms of their work in schools, businesses, and organizations that strive to deal with the subject matter or to work with internal training processes. Beyond these responses that seek resources to implement projects of the most varied sorts -- from early childhood education to public health to varied dimensions of public policy formation to the production of cultural spaces through practices of art education -- a number of the participants registered an ongoing search for general knowledge and personal development, identifying the impacts of the reproductions of the prevailing gender order, notably in LGBT+ spaces and peripheral/marginal spaces at large. Also in the group are a number of filmmakers endeavouring to produce documentaries on the topic, journalists, people working in favela movements, and local youth undergoing pre-university training.
[Credit: Veri Vg, Imagens do Povo]
Within the first twenty minutes of the first encounter, one of the students mobilized a Whatsapp group to share resources and experiences, and the day after, while writing this post, already some two dozen messages had been exchanged in the hopes of opening up a debate so seldom addressed and that has implications for each and every one of us. As it is in the masculine that we have learned to speak of and categorize our humanities, thus “mankind” must be named, genderized, provincialized, disputed, and transformed as the claimed neutral standard and normative ideal of living, knowing, and being human.