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Mike Ward photoIt is with real pleasure, but also with a little apprehension, that I introduce myself as the new editor of Boyhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. It is a very important and critical time for gender scholars, and I want to use this piece as a general announcement of this change in, or addition to, in editorship and the future direction, I would like to take the journal in.

Over the past few months, I have been in conversation with current editor Diederik Janssen and the publishers about becoming more involved in the journal in an editorial capacity. I have sat on the editorial board for a number of years and I am pleased to announce that from the next volume, my role will become one of editor.

As one of the founding editors, Diederik Janssen has been involved in the journal since its inception in 2007. In 2015 he oversaw a move for the journal between publishers (The Men’s Studies Press to Berghahn Books) and a name change (Thymos to its current title). Diederik has recently embarked on the onerous task of completing a doctorate and with all the hurdles and extra work this brings, it seemed an ideal time to come onboard as an extra pair of hands to share the load and to help the journal grow in readership and submissions. Diederik will continue in a new role as managing editor.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a social scientist and my work over the past decade has centred on young men and masculinities [both in the UK and Canada] within and beyond educational institutions. I have published on issues surrounding marginalisation, place and social exclusion. I have editorial experience on numerous books, as both sole and joint editor and sit on the editorial board of Sociological Research Online, the British Journal of Education Studies and the Journal of Appalachian Studies. I currently convene the British Sociological Association (BSA) Education study group and chair the Education stream at the annual BSA conference. I am also a member of the Gender and Education Association.

Whilst putting this piece together, I took the opportunity to look back at the first issue of the journal. In the opening editorial the journals foundations were laid out and one of the key questions the journal set out to explore was ‘whether boyhood is unique to certain cultures or a given historical period, or whether it has fundamental ontological status’ (Groth and Janssen 2007:3). It also made clear that given the ambiguity surrounding boyhood and how what it means to be a boy and young man has changed over time, the period of investigation should ‘encompass the years from early and middle childhood to the beginning of the male’s third decade of life’ (Groth and Janssen 2007:4).

Whilst I think some of the ideas and discussions are still relevant 12 years on, such as the ambiguity around defining this stage of the life course, a lot has changed since 2007. The global financial crisis, technological and online developments, the continuation of de-industrialization, the expansion and costs of higher education, the emergence of debates centred on ‘toxic’ masculinity, ‘locker room’ talk and ‘Men’s right’s, INCELS [involuntary celibates] and the #metoo era, have all impacted on the lives of boys and young men.  This is coupled with the emergence of the far right, MAGA movement, Brexit and global debates around gender equality. Going forward, I suggest it is important that the journal explores these shifts and critically engages with these contemporary movements, whilst also identifying historic discourses around gender roles.

For me (masculine) identities are actively constructed and developed in everyday actions and practices within institutions such as families, sports, schools, and employment and within specific geographical spaces.  Despite the different perspectives and theoretical frameworks adopted in contemporary studies of boys and young men (e.g. hegemonic, inclusive masculinity studies (IMT), post-humanism and affect theory, post-structural, Foucauldian, Bourdieusian, etc.), each perspective still holds social power as significant in the formation of masculine identities.  For scholars in critical studies of men and masculinities, gender is both a conscious and unconscious performance, part of a project towards understanding one’s identity, individually and in relation to other’s identities as ‘social practice’. I and others in the field have argued for the plurality of masculinities, drawing our attention to a range of power relations – how gender intersects with other forms of power which are constituted out of interaction between structure and agents. Of course, boys and young men’s lives do not operate in vacuums and their lives intersect with multiple others, including women. I envisage future articles will seek to explore further some of these issues and address a range of key questions around these topics. Some interesting discussions could be:

  • What are the changing dynamics of young masculinities within a globalised world?
  • How are boys and young men coping with a post-industrial society?
  • What are the expanding roles of education in boys and young men’s lives?
  • How do interactions and relationships with girls, young women, sisters, mothers, grandmothers shape boyhood and boys’ lives?
  • How do older men reflect back on boyhood?
  • How do the intersections of class, gender, ‘race’ and ethnicity combine with other factors in boys and young men’s lives such as sexuality, disability, place?
  • Does the term ‘toxic masculinity’ impact on boys and young men? Is it a helpful term, or a phrase to cause confusion and anger?

Other questions and topics of interest that manuscripts could cover might include: young fathers; nationalism; bodies; technologies; belonging; methods or methodologies for conducting research with boys and young men; strategies for engaging boys and young men in gender equality; feminist boys; trans-identities; boys and (post)feminisms; folklore; mythology; poetics of “male development”; son-parent and male student-teacher relations; young sexualities; as well as representations of boyhoods within film, music, the arts and across temporalities, geographies, and cultures.

I think the collection of articles in the forthcoming special issue (11.2), ‘Masculinity and Boyhood Constructions: The Connective Tissue in the School-to-Prison Pipeline’, is already doing much of this critical work.  Edward Fergus and Juwan Bennett present a series of papers intended to provide a conceptual exploration of how male bodies of colour are constructed within and across four areas, classroom, cops, courts, and community. I am impressed with how these studies highlight the nature of policies and practices as vehicles for the enforcement of masculine expectations and how the social and cultural dimensions of masculinity operate in the imagination of practitioners in schools, law enforcement, and courts.

Before bringing this piece to a close, I also want to announce that the journal is seeking new members for the editorial board. These will play an active part in promoting the journal and its future direction. On behalf of myself, Diederik and Berghahn we aim to update our statement of aims and we invite you to spread the word through academic networks, and especially on twitter. We are also very open to special issue proposals or ideas for themed issues. Please do get in touch with us!

With the editorial board I look forward to seeing where this journey can take us!

Dr Michael R.M Ward (Editor)

Dr Michael R.M. Ward is lecturer in Social Sciences at Swansea University, UK. He has held visiting professor posts in Canada, US, Iceland and Germany. His work centres on the performance of working-class masculinities within and beyond educational institutions. Mike is the author of the award winning book From Labouring to Learning, Working-class Masculinities, Education and De-industrialization (Palgrave MacMillan).