Chapter 13: Abstract

The Gendered Bodies of Imperialism and Militarism, 1850s-1910s

Michael Geyer (University of Chicago, Department of History)


The twin features of modern nationhood, conscription and citizenship, came to anchor the division of gender in western societies. This gender regime with its male citizen soldiers and female caregivers articulated a distinctly western model of civilization, spun around archetypical notions of masculinity and femininity. Under tremendous pressure—mass-conscription, mobility and fire-power, strategic insecurity on the one hand urbanization, industrialization and globalization on the other—it adapted to and was re-staged by these conditions. The citizen-soldier of an earlier age gave way to the gender-divisive universe of militarism and imperialism that was spearheaded by masculine elites and threatened by feminized outsiders. This myth-laced struggle hid in plain sight the vulnerabilities of mechanized warfare, the attractions of untethered sexual and racial violence and the challenge to manly authority by an aggressive masculinity. Its main symptom was a crisis of nerves that may not have caused, but literally “engendered” war.


Masculinity; Militarism; Imperialism; Racism; Humanity; Nation-In-Arms; Sexual Violence; Atrocities; Biopolitics; National Myths; Nineteenth-century National Wars; Europe.

In Part II “Wars of Nations and Empires, 1830s–1910s” of the Oxford Handbook of Gender and War since 1600.

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