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Who goes there? Accounting for gender in the urge to explore abandoned military bunkers

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This article enquires into the motivations of ‘bunkerologists’ – a term coined for analytic convenience by the author to describe those who research, explore and survey twentieth century military bunkers as a hobby. Specifically, it considers the gendered dimension of this predominantly male pastime. In doing so, the article examines the role of a range of cultural influences, including signification of militarism, inter-generational initiation and remembrance around themes of defence and labour, human-technology relations, conquest, and hermitic escapism. These factors all appear to have roles to play in disposing individuals towards participation in this practice. The analysis finds the source of many of these influences within a particular mode of English male socialisation, and masculinities related to it, prevalent in the late twentieth century. The analysis presented is also grounded in an auto-ethnographic exploration of the biographical roots of the author's own choice of this research topic and the effect of the research upon him and his family. Whilst the subject matter of the study may be regarded as somewhat arcane, the analysis of the role of socialisation within routes to participation in this predominantly masculine pastime may help to illuminate the motivational frameworks of other rarely studied, and seemingly introverted, ‘male’ hobbies such as train spotting, stamp collecting and sport fishing (angling).
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Keywords: bunkers; búnkeres; cobertizos; exploración urbana; masculinidad; masculinity; sheds; significación; signification; socialisation; socialización; urban exploration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of the Built Environment, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2013

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