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Manly acts: Buenos Aires, 24 March 1996

By Jeffrey P. Tobin


Ethnographic fieldwork and writing are employed to explore how men in Buenos Aires construct and contest masculinity. The fieldwork is focused on three sites of manly performance: asado (Argentine barbecue), soccer, and tango. Asado serves to construct an Argentine national identity that privileges the masculine over the feminine, but that represents the male as powerless in the face of female flesh. Practices of feminizing male and female flesh are examined in the context of the military dictatorship of 1976-1983. Texts pertaining to asado, animal slaughter, and the dictatorship are used to argue that anal penetration precedes vaginal penetration among Argentine practices of feminization, and that the Argentine phallus is marked by its associations with bovinity. Debates concerning the politics of soccer are examined. Vanguardists assert that soccer is an opiate of the people, while populists assert that soccer stadiums are a transgressive and occasionally progressive space. Intellectuals reason that soccer is somehow homosexual, soccer fans cast aspersions on the sexuality of intellectuals, and fans of opposing clubs accuse one another of either sodomy or effeminacy. An argument is advanced that soccer promotes an oppositional, corporeal, working-class consciousness that refuses bourgeois sexual identities. The assignment of sexual identities is examined in the context of tango-dance. Speculations about the sexual identity of tango-dancers appear in tango performances that represent tango's primal scene as homosocial, in rumors purporting the homosexuality of a prominent tango figure, in homoerotic tango literature, in the manly act of men practicing tango-dance together, and in heteronormative tango choreography. Repeated references to written texts in this ethnography and in the speech of informants in Buenos Aires raise questions about ethnographic methodology and about the disciplinary relationship of Cultural Anthropology to Cultural Studies

Topics: Latin American literature, Cultural anthropology, Latin American history
Year: 1998
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