Navigating Mobile Masculinities

Young Men's Experiences in Melbourne and Berlin

Abstract: This thesis explores contemporary mobile masculinities amongst young men in Melbourne, Australia and Berlin, Germany. Based on a schema of open margin and closed centre, I investigate movements of men towards and away from openness of masculinities. This research contributes to exploring and understanding navigations and narratives of masculinities in neoliberal late modernity. I consider qualitative, narrative interviews conducted in Melbourne and Berlin with 28 men between the ages of 20 and 31, the majority of whom were men of the centre: middle-class, heterosexual, white men from post-industrial societies.

Drawing on feminist theory and critical studies on men and masculinities, I position the margin, rather than the centre, as the site of open possibilities for masculinities. Mobility, movement and openness were key themes to emerge from this research. The mobility of masculinities discovered was bound up with configurations of work and intimate life in neoliberal late modernity. I discovered movement towards openness amongst participants from Australia and Germany alongside the continuing influence of more closed expressions of masculinity. Furthermore, contradictions and tensions of masculinity that could not be located as either open or closed emerged from participants’ narratives. These nuances reveal challenges, but also possibilities, for fostering greater openness.

I explore mobilities of masculinities across three analysis chapters. The first considers narratives and expressions of more closed masculinities amongst participants, despite changes compared to their fathers’ generation. The next analysis chapter explores the contradictions and tensions of mobile masculinities, focusing on narratives of career, the privileges and pressures of masculinity and the search for an essential, authentic version of manhood. The final analysis chapter investigates participants’ thoughts on the concept of openness and the movement of some of these men towards greater openness of masculinities. Notably, this openness was developing amongst Australian men living in Berlin in conjunction with their mobility to the city and their rejection of career as integral to their lives. In addition, I consider evidence of openness in the form of caring masculinity in the narratives of one German participant who was working-class and queer: a man of the margin.

The findings of this thesis demonstrate that ongoing inequalities and the influence of more closed masculinities require continuing, sustained attention and problematisation. At the same time, this research indicates that movement of men of the centre in post-industrial societies towards increased openness of masculinities is possible and occurring in some instances. This movement towards openness, and a rejection of the domination of closed masculinities such as hegemonic masculinity, is critical for fostering more caring masculinities and for contributing towards greater gender equality.

Thesis supervisors: Professor JaneMaree Maher & Associate Professor Jo Lindsay

Institution at which thesis was completed: Monash University