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HomeEmotions, masculinities, and violence from the Middle Ages to the present

Emotions, masculinities, and violence from the Middle Ages to the present

Émotions, masculinités et violence du Moyen Âge à nos jours

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Published on Tuesday, February 07, 2023


Ce colloque propose d′investiguer les liens entre émotions, violences et masculinités à partir d’une perspective d’histoire du genre sur la longue durée.



In 2018, Damien Boquet and Dider Lett called on historians to confront emotions "to the challenge of gender" (Boquet, Lett: 2018). As a place of affective exacerbation, imbued with a particularly gendered imaginary, violent acts offer a privileged access to respond to this invitation.

Violence is a social fact that varies in form and intensity depending on the period and the context. As a notion with porous contours, it can be part of interpersonal relations as well as political or social dynamics. The historiography of violence, often apprehended through the prism of law, has initially focused on its criminalization (Castan: 1980, Nassiet: 2011, Porret: 1995, Spierenburg: 2013). Research devoted to the European context has arrived at an unequivocal conclusion: the quantitative analyses based on court records show that condemned acts of violence were largely dominated by gendered dimorphism and marked by a clear male over-representation.

Studying this social fact thus invites the integration of a gender perspective, whose impact was measured on normative constructions as well as on individual perceptions (van der Heijden: 2016, Walker: 2003). Under the impulse of women’s history, and then gender history, historiography has seized upon this category of analysis, whether to interrogate sexual, marital, or women's violence. Gender impacted not only the way in which brutal acts were normalized, practiced and regulated, but it also influenced their very definition.

The over-representation of men invites us to study more specifically at the links between masculinities and violence. In this perspective, it is insufficient to address merely the norms of manhood and the male codes of honor. Indeed, scholars have demonstrated the richness of the intersectional approach which takes into consideration the whole range of social hierarchies. The analysis of norms, experiences and representations in a dynamic and plural way, even within the category of the masculine, would allow us to shed new light on the links between violence and gender.

Tightly tied to sensitive experience, the history of violence would benefit greatly from the contribution brought by the history of emotions, which has grown into a dynamic field of research in constant renewal over the last twenty years. Emotions have long been considered ahistorical since they were referred to as simple bodily mechanisms. This lack of interest stemmed from the dichotomous paradigms that structure Western thought, such as nature-culture, conscious-unconscious, language-experience: they oppose reason and emotions and, as a result, reject the affects in the physiological sphere. In the last few decades, numerous works, notably from medievalists, have taken up the subject of affects and have demonstrated that emotions also evolved according to the historical context (Boquet, Lett: 2018; Nagy: 2018, 2020, 2021; Rosenwein: 2006, 2015, 2017). While the first syntheses on this historiographic field are being published, the links between violence, masculinities and emotions remain little explored (Corbin, Courtine, Vigarello: 2016; Broomhall: 2015).

This conference proposes to question the evolution of violence over the long term. The articulation between masculinities, violence and emotions adopts different forms and stakes according to the historical context in which it occurred. Thus, the symposium will seeks to highlight the cultural stakes and the specific imaginary, as violence is defined in variable ways depending on historical, geographical, and discursive contexts.

Therefore, the first objective will be to address the problem of sources: their production varied according to the aeras, which impacts the representation of the relationship between violence, gender and emotions. How to apprehend male emotions in the archives: using with which documents and applying which methodology? What are the particularities and difficulties posed by this approach? In parallel, what is the emotional experience of historians in front of archives of violence?

Secondly, it will also focus on the role of emotions in the discourse produced on violence. Are emotional experiences mobilized in the narratives, for example to justify men’s violence? To what extent do they echo pre-established narrative structures? What do they say about gender identities and individual strategies? Are they also subject to reappropriation, including by women? Are there gender differences in the testimonies and descriptions?

Thirdly, this conference proposes to look at the role of emotions as a driving force for male involvement in violent actions, whether political or interpersonal. In this perspective, large-scale events (revolutionary moments, collective unrest...) could be studied specifically. Periods of upheaval are also conducive to affective transgressions that lead to a new fluidity in the social and cultural delimitation of gender boundaries.

Terms of contribution

For all proposals, please send a title, an abstract of 500 words maximum, and a brief bio-bibliography to the address below,

before March 15th, 2023. 

Contact: clarissa.yang@unige.ch; eleonore.beck@unige.ch.


The conference will be held on October 19 and 20, 2023 in Geneva.

The organizing committee has a small budget to finance the travelling costs of participants who do not have other funding. Please let us know if you would like to benefit from it.

Scientific organizing committee

  • Francesca Arena
  • Camille Bajeux
  • Eléonore Beck
  • Loraine Chappuis
  • Anne-Lydie Dubois
  • Taline Garibian
  • Clarissa Yang


  • Geneva, Switzerland

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Wednesday, March 15, 2023


  • émotion, hmasculinité, violence


  • Clarissa Yang
    courriel : clarissa [dot] yang [at] unige [dot] ch

Information source

  • Clarissa Yang
    courriel : clarissa [dot] yang [at] unige [dot] ch


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Emotions, masculinities, and violence from the Middle Ages to the present », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, February 07, 2023, https://calenda.org/1048808

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