Manoeuvring Men: Masculinity as Spatially Defined Readability at the Grandes Manoeuvres of the Belgian Army, 1882–1883


Hoegaerts, Josephine. 2010. “Manoeuvring Men: Masculinity as Spatially Defined Readability at the Grandes Manoeuvres of the Belgian Army, 1882–1883.” Gender, Place & Culture 17 (2): 249–68. doi:10.1080/09663691003600330.

Author: Josephine Hoegaerts


This article uses the case study of the Belgian grandes manoeuvres of 1882 and 1883 to explore the ways in which self-defined ‘all male’ spaces can contribute to the study and deconstruction of historical masculinities. Using the manoeuvres of the Belgian army at the end of the nineteenth century as a theatre of (military as well as civilian) corporeal and discursive practices, the simultaneous enactment of masculinity and nation is analysed. The material spaces in which these military exercises took place are understood as contingent creators instead of passive containers of masculinity: that is, rather than as a passive background to soldiers' movements, the champ de manoeuvres appears as an active stage, aiding the construction of a gendered military identity, but also challenging dichotomous understandings of gender. Likewise, the gaze upon both landscape and soldiers by different audiences plays an active part in the story of the construction of masculinity and nation: the act of recognition, performed by male and female civilians, during and after the manoeuvres was crucial for the continuous repetition of the discourse that created and upheld notions of ‘man’ and of ‘Belgium’.

Keywords: masculinity, gender performance, military history, nation, Belgium

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Men, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militarism, Nationalism Regions: Europe, Western Europe Countries: Belgium

Year: 2010

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