Masculinity as Assemblage: Tensions and Potentials
The panel presents the work and findings of the research project Medicine Man: Media Assemblages of Medicalized Masculinities funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark (2018-23). With focus on contemporary theories of masculinities the papers in the panel explore medicalized masculinity as media assemblages in relation to popular culture, social media, news, and online health sites. We ask how everyday cultures and perceptions of middle age men’s bodies unfold when masculinity is increasingly medicalized.
While the female body traditionally is the subject of medical interventions and beauty-enhancing treatments, and the young male body has been exposed to regulation, discipline and increased medical diagnostic intervention, the midlife male body has until recently escaped regulatory intervention. Today, however, the middle-aged male body is subjected to treatments and modifications, rejuvenating products and treatments, medicine and performance enhancing substances, including an intensified medicalization of sexual practices, as well as a reconfiguration of men’s middle age from a cultural (“midlife crisis”) to a medical paradigm (“men’s menopause”).
Following assemblage theory, we understand masculinity as a negotiated position deriving from a variety of positions established in relation to each other, rather than as solely originating from the male body. Assemblage theory provides the opportunity for complex analytical approaches including discursive and nondiscursive, structural, imaginaries, as well as human and nonhuman elements; in this case masculinity emerging from both gendered and medicalized technologies. Viewing masculinity as dynamic and everchanging assemblages allows us to acknowledge gender as performative and contextual and to examine masculinities as unstable connections in their specific contexts. Thus, we argue that assemblage theory is well suited to analytically tease out tensions and potentials related to contemporary notions of masculinity.
Karen Hvidtfeldt is a professor at the Department for the Study of Culture at the University of Southern Denmark and head of "Center for Køn og Diversitet" (Center for Gender and Diversity). She works with cultural understandings of health and illness, reproduction, gender and age as embodied, social, and affective aspects of audio-visual, digital and social media as well as in literature and art. She heads the research project Medicine Man: Media Assemblages of Medicalized Masculinity funded by the Danish Research Council on the Humanities (2018-2023) and together with Professor Charlotte Kroløkke also the research project Endocrine Economies. The Cultural Politics of Hormones funded by The Velux Foundations (2021-25).
Michael Nebeling Petersen is an associate professor at the Center for Gender, Sexuality and Difference at The Department of Nordic Studies and Linguistics at The University of Copenhagen. His research centres gender, race, nation and sexuality, in particular homosexual culture and citizenship, new technologies of reproduction, and kinship as well as digital media and mediated cultures of intimacy.
Camilla Bruun Eriksen is an assistant professor in the Department for the Study of Culture at the University of Southern Denmark. Using critical disability, feminist, and affect theory, Camilla pays special attention to the ways bodies are shaped in and by popular culture. She has written on the intersections of fatness, embodiment, narrativity, and power exploring intersections of body norms and politics, health, gender, and medicalization.
Kristian Møller is an assistant professor in communication at Roskilde University. He researches how LGBTQ intimacies are mediated, platformed and infrastructred, drawing mainly on queer theory, affect, and assemblage. He has published on the mediated negotiation of non-monogamous relationships, reproduction of HIV stigma in dating/hook-up apps, sexualized drug use on video conferencing services like Zoom, the algorithmic production of porn genres and sexual publics, as well as digital mobile ethnography and ethics.
Mie Birk Jensen is postdoc at the Department for the Study of Culture, University of Southern Denmark. Her research is situated in the cross field between gender, sexuality and drugs, exploring how the consumption and promotion of medicine and intoxicants influence gendered embodiment, sexual discourse and practices. Engaging with feminist theory, affect theory and experimental methodologies, she has recently explored the promotion of sexuopharmaceuticals for men in spam and news media, men’s use of social media when navigating illness, as well as young people’s experiences of sex and consent in relation to alcohol use.
Signe Rom Rasmussen is a PhD student at the Department for the Study of Culture, University of Southern Denmark. Her research centers on men´s cosmetic appearance work in the context of men´s increasing use of cosmetic treatments and surgeries. She examines how the male body is framed and produced as enhanced with in the marketing of cosmetic medicine in online contexts, and how masculinity is re/negotiated in relation to embodiment in men´s everyday uses of e.g., Botox.