DISCUSSION IN PUNE EXPLORES REGIONAL MASCULINITIES AND SEXUALITIES, 12-13 September
A first-of-its kind academic seminar on ‘The Representation and Reconstruction of Masculinities in Western India’ was organized on September 12-13 as part of the advocacy process of the 2nd MenEngage Global Symposium. It was held in partnership with the Department of Politics & Public Administration, Savitribai Phule Pune University.
The interdisciplinary seminar explored various aspects of masculinities and sexualities in the region within national and global perspectives, and suggested directions for further research and interventions to promote the dismantling of patriarchy. Bringing together more than 40 scholars and activists, the well planned seminar was preceded a day previously by the screening of the acclaimed documentary on masculinity, youth and class in urban India - 'When Four Friends Meet' – thus setting the mood for the discussion.
The last three decades have witnessed the slow but sure emergence of pro-feminist men’s interventions in India and around the world. They have given rise to a significant scholarly enterprise, namely, Critical Masculinity Studies, and have found expression in a large number of civil society initiatives, leading to the formation of MenEngage (ME) – a global alliance of organizations and individuals working with men and boys for gender equality. The first ME Global Symposium was held in 2009 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The second will be hosted later this year, the Secretariat for it being held by the Centre for Health and Social Justice (New Delhi) – an NGO engaged in pro-feminist activism for more than a decade.
A number of events have been planned in different regions of the country as a prelude to the second Global Symposium. The academic seminar on ‘The Representation and Reconstruction of Masculinities in Western India’ - the first of its kind - was held as part of this process. The primary purpose of the interdisciplinary seminar was to explore various aspects of masculinities and sexualities in the region within national and global perspectives, and to suggest directions for further research and interventions to promote the long-term project of dismantling patriarchy. Accordingly, it brought together more than forty concerned scholars and activists. One day prior to the seminar, Rahul Roy's acclaimed documentary film on masculinity, youth and class in urban India - 'When Four Friends Meet' - was screened at the Department of Politics & Public Administration, and drew an audience of well over fifty students.
The seminar opened with introductory remarks by Dr. Mangesh Kulkarni (Seminar Coordinator). The keynote address was delivered by the senior feminist scholar Dr. Meera Kosambi, critically assessing the historical legacy of the male project of social reform in the region. The speakers in the academic sessions belonged to a variety of disciplines: History (Mr. Shyam Pakhare), Sociology (Dr. Vishal Jadhav, Dr. Manisha Gupte, Dr. Gaurang Jani), Literary & Cultural Theory (Dr. Shoba Ghosh, Dr. Aarti Wani, Mr. Zameer Kamble), Economics (Dr. Rohini Sahni, Dr. R. S. Deshpande), and Legal Studies (Dr. Nilima Bhadbhade). They deployed diverse theoretical frameworks to shed light on the representation and repercussion of masculinities in seemingly disparate but interlinked contexts encompassing colonialism, caste, sports, sexuality, religion, politics, violence, cinema, the theatre, sex work, agrarian distress, and criminal justice. Their presentations interrogated and built upon the existing scholarship on masculinities within and across disciplinary boundaries.
The speakers in the activists’ sessions shared their experiences and reflections pertaining to the reconstruction of masculinities for the creation of a gender-just social order. Many of them have been active for long in areas such as women’s empowerment (Ms. Aruna Burte, Dr. Geetali V. M., Ms. Sadhana Dadhich), public health (Dr. Shashikant Ahankari), as also dalit and tribal concerns (Mr. Shahji Gadhire, Ms. Lata Bhise-Sonawane, Mr. Mohan Hirabai Hiralal). Others like Ms. Snehal Velkar and Mr. Kelvin John have been engaged in programme management and documentation at prominent NGOs working on gender issues. Mr. Shreyas Kamble - a student who has completed a course on 'The Politics of Masculinities' at the Department of Politics & Public Administration- explained how this experience brought about a positive change in his outlook on gender issues.
It is hoped that the seminar will give a fillip to Critical Masculinity Studies, create synergy between research and activism, and generate insights that will boost pro-feminist interventions in the region and beyond. The seminar deliberations (along with suitable photographs) are being disseminated via Facebook. The Second MenEngage Global Symposium (New Delhi) to be held later this year is also expected to provide a platform for the sharing of the seminar outcomes.
Others who contributed to the success of the pioneering seminar included Mr.Hanumant Phatak, Ph. D. student; Mr. Vishnu Shrimangale, Ph. D. student; Mr. Sunil Kankate, Ph. D. student; Ms. Tejashri Kamble, M. Phil. student; Mr. Akhilesh Deshpande, M. Phil. student; Mr. Vishal Rankhamb, M. Phil. student; and Mr. Shreyas Kamble, M. A. student.