|Making Machismo: Cold War Alignment and the Political Terminology of American Masculinities|
|At its broadest, this project takes on the uses and misuses of terminology surrounding masculinity in the Americas. I seek to historicize the role of public and academic authorities in sanctioning a conceptual canon of racial- and localized masculinities that marginalized certain masculinities (and certain subjects) for political and scholarly purposes. In short, my research investigates the ways in which stock conceptualizations of the relationship between the masculine, the national, the racial, and the geopolitical developed as mid-twentieth century frameworks for gendered otherizations. These gendered otherizations served as key means of understanding and waging the Cold War as a cultural conflict.
At its most specific, the project is etymological. My preliminary work has sought to trace what so many students and self-proclaimed “observers” of machismo have neglected to recount: the origins of the term, as well as its emergence and dissemination in Spanish, Portuguese, and English. This word, of course (like machão, macho, macho, marianismo, abnegação, abnegada, ativo, activo, passivo, and a host of others), has profound implications for relationships of all kinds in the Americas—from the household to the diplomatic and the transnational. The appearance of the construct (with or without the actual phenomena connoted by the word) across the hemisphere in the mid-to-late twentieth century begs questions about how and why machismo—first as a Mexican and then as a “Latin” characteristic—was used by scholars and eventually by journalists, diplomats, and politicians, to construct an ethnographic and cultural map of the post-1945 hemisphere.
My research into the original ethnography of machismo by scholars in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United States suggests that term and concept sharpened and focused anxieties about Latin American gender systems as a liability in the cultural Cold War. Emerging early in the Cold War, machismo lay at the heart of the new “area studies”—disciplinary shifts designed to intellectually inform and prepare the United States (and by extension, the West), for the impending showdown with the Eastern bloc. The term reinforced extant gradients of presumed cultural, racial, gendered, and sexual superiority—but also refashioned these gradients based on the imperatives of the Cold War. Academic researchers, followed by journalists and then politicians, adopted the term as a way of explaining the need for policing Latin American gender roles and reproductive practice as part of the project of securing the hemisphere against political subversion.|