Queer Masculinities Summer School Promotes International Collaboration in Gender Studies

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A new point of departure in Gender Studies is being paved through the inaugural Queer Masculinities Summer School. Currently underway (25-29 March), the Summer School is a groundbreaking collaboration between the University of Fort Hare (UFH) and Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB) in Germany.

Spearheaded by the UFH SARChI Chair in Sexualities, Genders, and Queer Studies, Prof zethu Matebeni and Prof Dr. Henriette Gunkel from the Institute for Media Studies and the Marie Jahoda Centre for International Gender Studies at RUB, this innovative initiative aims to explore and redefine notions of masculinity within the context of queer studies.

A diverse cohort of scholars from Germany, South Africa and Brazil have converged in Chintsa, a village in the Wild Coast region of the Eastern Cape for the week-long programme.

The participants include 14 postgraduate media studies and/or gender studies students from RUB and 12 postgraduate students working in the fields of masculinities and queerness broadly that were carefully selected from various South African universities, including UFH.

Also in attendance are Dr Asanda-Jones Benya from the University of Cape Town and Prof Osmundo Phino from the Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia in Brazil, two scholars who have significantly contributed to the conversation about queer masculinities.

According to Prof Matebeni, "The core objective of the Summer School is to interrogate questions around queerness in relation to masculinities, exchange ideas, learn together and to create different kinds of scholarship.”

The Summer School is a continuation of a long-standing partnership between the SARChI Chair and the Marie Jahoda Centre for International Gender Studies that saw one of its postgrads, Dr Princess Sibanda having a fellowship at the Centre earlier this year.

Prof Dr. Gunkel said the gathering represents a crucial step towards fostering international dialogue and collaboration in the field of queer studies, especially in an academic space where the conversation around queer masculinities was not dominant. “It is important to start a conversation at a point where we also push beyond existing scholarship," she said.

According to Dr Benya, the Summer School created a space to question thoughts and what people think they know. “The spirit was more around questioning about things that we think we know, and that people think of as natural and stable and showing that there is nothing natural about any of the things that people know. Also questioning certain ways of knowing that have become dominant in ways that kind of submerge other ways of knowing.”

Prof Pinho stressed the significance of global perspectives in understanding queer masculinities by bringing together scholars from different regions to broaden the understanding by developing a common language and shaping the conversation around masculinity that will transcend beyond borders.

Maximiliane Brand from the Marie Jahoda Centre said in addition to creating a platform for intense conversations in the academic context with publications on the cards, the Summer School also created a platform where new friendships were forged. “A lot of magic is expected to follow, both inside and outside of academia,” she said.

As anticipated, the gathering was a melting pot of ideas, perspectives, and experiences – a discourse that Prof Matebeni hopes would ultimately shape knowledge production across borders and in different geo-political positions.