"Iron ladies", "wilful girls", gallants and masters: some 'queer' inspired insights into the 'heterosexual' love affair between men and their steam locomotives
(Philipp University of Marburg)
Peter Hoerz (Hochschule Esslingen)
Paper short abstract:
Starting from Freud's idea that human understanding reaches only as far as its anthropomorphism, this paper sheds light on the 'heterosexual' relationship between men and technical apparatuses by the example of the attachment of male locomotive personnel to steam engines from a queer perspective.
Paper long abstract:
"Central to men's valorisation of 'work' is", as is claimed in the International Encyclopedia of Men and Masculinities (2007), "a close identification with machinery and technology", and Judy Wajcman (1991) stated that "machines can evoke clearly powerful emotions and sensual delight for men". From a male perspective, technical apparatuses, it seems, are more than just soulless tools which are used for rational purposes - they are objects to fall in love with and to maintain long-term relationships. This is especially true for the relationship between engineers and steam locomotives. As we found during our research in some of the last places where steam engines are still in daily operation, these locomotives are not only anthropomorphized, but also imagined as some kind of female human being. From a 'queer' perspective, this feminine anthropomorphization is both an outcome of a heteronormative society and a means of reproduction of heteronormativity. Starting from Freud's idea that human understanding reaches only as far as its anthropomorphism, we aim to shed light on the 'heterosexual' relationship between men and technical apparatuses by the example of the attachment of male locomotive personnel and their steam engines. Our paper draws on fieldwork we have conducted 2013 in the Harz Narrow Gauge Railways (Germany) and in the locomotive depot of PKP Cargo in Wolsztyn (Poland).
Queer ethnographies of the 21st century: heritages, realities, and perspectives