Style and struggle : the rhetoric of masculinity
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This dissertation explores the role of masculinity as a component of social formation. Although research on masculinity has increased considerably since the early 1990s, the topic remains ill-defined and poorly explored. Scholars from a variety of disciplines have only been able to offer a limited amount of theoretical and practical insight on the subject primarily because masculinity has too often been conceptualized as a homogenous foundation that undergirds all social formation. Contrary to these perspectives, I suggest that masculine identities do not emerge from any single category, but rather, are constituted and reflected through a complex coherence of cultural and historical markers coming together to produce particular meanings. More specifically, I feature style as the most theoretically and politically useful grounding category capable of explaining these complex configurations. Style uses all the aesthetic dimensions of public presentation including dress, trappings, grooming, posture, body shape, stance, and voice and vocabulary to offer a clearer and more accurate answer to how identities come together in a struggled over, contested, and dynamic way and a more clear and accurate explanation for why reductive and overly homogeneous characterizations of identity are inaccurate and untenable. Utilizing style as a rhetoric, theory, and method, I analyze two case studies – the evangelical men’s movement Promise Keepers and the Presidential Style – to demonstrate how identity functions as a form of social style with important theoretical and political implications. Thus, this dissertation maps intersecting territories of masculinity, but also femininity, class, sexual orientation, and ethnic and racial identities in a way that illuminates how identity reinforces and coheres around particular stylistic markers.