Guest lecture by Otto Habeck:
How many colours of camouflage? Norms and ideals of masculinity and hyper-masculinity in Russia’s resourceful frontier
Thursday 3.11.2022 13:00-15:00
In person in Thule room, Arctic Centre and Teams (Join Teams meeting via this link)
Otto Habeck is a visiting professor from Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Hamburg.
Since the early 2000s, the Russian state has been fostering heroic ideals of masculinity among Russian society, inter alia through military patriotic education. Russia’s warfare in Ukraine in 2022 relies on such ideals of masculinity. Soldiers from among Siberian ethnic groups – including Indigenous peoples – participate in this war. The current situation raises topical questions about the nexus of masculinity, indigeneity, and narratives about the Russian Far North. This issue is not completely new, however: Northerners are widely considered to be “tougher”, be it those working at the “resource frontier” of mineral extraction or those living on hunting, fishing, and reindeer herding. One may thus believe that masculinity is strong in the vast expanses of the Russian North – an assumption that seems to be supported by the fact that many reindeer herders, fishermen, and hunters are used to wear camouflage clothing. This in turn conjures up imaginaries of combat and war. However, the word camouflage has multiple meanings: it also stands for invisibility, secrecy, and evasion. Occasionally, hyper-virile behaviour itself offers a strategy to hide feelings of inferiority or queerness. I offer to use the metaphor of camouflage to look beyond a simplified (hyper-) masculine mode of expression: the range of performative masculinity is wide in present-day Russia, but not all varieties are equally visible. Some forms of masculinity are more politically correct than others, complying with a belligerent attitude promoted by the current government.