Creating Faithful and Vigorous Men: Masculinity and Military Reform in Post-Revolutionary Mexico

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 11:40 AM
Columbia Hall 1 (Washington Hilton)
Thomas Rath, University College London
This paper examines the Mexican military’s project for masculinity in the 1920s to the 1940s. Postrevolutionary military reformers placed great importance on reforming the promiscuity, ill-discipline, personalism and fatalism that they perceived among the great mass of officers and soldiers inherited from the revolution. The paper first explores construction of military policy, arguing that reforming military masculinity had broad, bipartisan appeal in the postrevolutionary period, but was also shaped by military autonomy and demands by military families. It then analyzes the various obstacles that this project faced by exploring the experience of military life in the 1940s, a period that is usually seen as the culmination of military reform. The paper synthesizes evidence from a wide range of sources, including army service files, disciplinary records, memoirs, diplomatic reports, and correspondence between soldiers, their families and the state. It argues that the reform of gender roles in the army enjoyed some successes but was limited by state incapacity, resistance, and the uneven demilitarization of Mexican politics.  This paper contributes to recent studies which have sought to move beyond static understandings of masculinity and explore the dynamics of shifting gender identities in the period.