CFP – Boys’ Biologies: An Interdisciplinary Roundtable

What is biological about boys now? What is to be respected when “boys will be boys”? For the Fall 2016 issue of Boyhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal (Berghahn Journals), we are inviting original contributions on the science, politics, history and representation of biology in childhood studies, specifically as these relate to boys (womb through adolescence) and to notions of “male development” more generally. Brief (2,500-3,500 words) and more extended (6,500 max.) contributions will be considered.

We are interested in research reviews and updates as well as original contributions that speak to the cultural history, politics and sociology of boyness as represented within and beyond the life sciences. Individual articles will be published as part of an “Interdisciplinary Roundtable” so as to highlight points of divergence or convergence within and across disciplines. Manuscripts will have to be written for a general scholarly audience, but may be informed by the following vantage points (among others):

  • interdisciplinary studies
  • the cultural/social/biological anthropology of the child
  • the history of ideas, the history of the life and medical sciences and of the pedagogical sciences
  • the sociology of science
  • evolutionary psychology, including evolutionary developmental psychology
  • developmental psychology more broadly
  • gender/sexuality/queer/LGBTIA studies
  • the neurosciences

Background: Anticipating much of “sex role” and “sex difference” research, conceptual and empirical questions of boys’ nature very much interested self-proclaimed “boyologists” from the mid-nineteenth through mid-twentieth century. Anatomy and physiology have remained intricate, controversial and for some career-making dimensions of reference and argument in approaching, and explaining, gender. If after “women’s studies” the consolidation of “men’s studies” has entailed sympathetic attempts to problematize the politics of the sexes with what were ubiquitously advertised as anti-essentialist theories of gender, a more recent “male studies” school has advocated a neo-naturalist return to “male psychology”. Much of sex difference research manages to remain at a polite distance of this standoff. Yet the many “boy crisis” discussions of the past 15 years often ask directly whether boys’ inner natures or drives are at risk of being vandalized by “feminization” or rather harassed by some “boy code” or “guy code”. Claims of innateness, in short, are at the heart of the (productive) sense of schism that informs the imagining of any boyhood studies, indeed gender studies in its broadest scope.

Boyhood Studies’ (as Girlhood Studies’) eponymous gesture to distinguish boys from girls is tentative, cautious, problematic, though rarely “sous rature”. It inherently invites empirical questions related to boys’ and boyish genders/sexes/sexualities, but also asks for ways of reading culturally ubiquitous answers and often tendentious research. Many research areas have importantly pivoted around the same questions, both within gender studies and the fields of sex research and education.

Diffracted across so many disputes and fields, where does the perennial question of biology leave “the boys”? We write “perennial” but what does history tell us? What does it mean to pose biological questions about masculinity and its “development” today? How “sexed”, or “gendered”, or “sexualized”, are today’s contours of “human” development? What kind of cultural work is (still) being accomplished in more or less culture-free notions of “male development”? What about boys’ natures in the global South? How fair, or unfair, are sex difference researchers in their Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion sections? What, finally, is simply true or simply not true about boys, biologically speaking, and how is this relevant to whom?

First draft due: May 1, 2016

Later submissions may be considered if proposals are received before this time.