0305 Rationality and Progress versus Natural Creative Talent

Constructions of Masculinity in Engineering and Technology around 1900

  • Tanja Paulitz (Author)

    Tanja Paulitz is Professor of Sociology at the Technical University of Darmstadt. Her work focuses on researching processes of mechanisation and the occupational profile of women and men in the natural sciences and engineering. She analyses and describes gender norms and gender roles in the world of technology. In particular, she deals with the gender attribution of technical knowledge, such as in: Mann und Maschine: Eine genealogische Wissenssoziologie des Ingenieurs und der modernen Technikwissenschaften, 1850–1930, Bielefeld 2012.

Identifiers (Article)


The paper focuses on the gendered self-conceptions of engineers and their relevance for studying world exhibitions. It thus analyses debates in German engineering around 1900 on the relationship between technology and culture in order to reconstruct how masculinity in engineering is understood as a symbolic position of cultural production. This aim necessitates using a concept of 'hegemonic masculinity' as a relational construction. This is illustrated by the example of the professionalisation of modern German engineering from the 1870s on until the turn of the century. In their writings, engineering scholars initially constructed the idea of a 'scientist of machinery' as a symbolically neutralised position of objectivity by following a narrative of progress. Later, the engineer as a 'man of action' supplanted this concept, and emphasis was now placed on a narrative of the technological man whose competence was regarded a talent arising from the nature of his sex. Both historical conceptions of the German engineer are interpreted as a specific mode of masculinity construction, motivated by the need to attain a dominant position, not only with respect to women but also to other social groups of men.


genealogy of German engineering, technology and culture, gender and masculinity, feminist technology studies