The MAN Conference is an annual event organized by the Center E8, which brings together professors, social scientists, researchers, but also activists to jointly discuss, analyze and try to deconstruct various social phenomena such as masculinity, gender inequality, violence, power relationships and violent extremism. The Conference and its participants also strive to promote gender equality, mental, sexual and reproductive health, healthy lifestyles and healthy interpersonal relationships.
This year, the jubilee, tenth MAN Conference was held! Over the years, the MAN Conference has become a unique space for the exchange of experiences, opinions and knowledge among leading experts in various fields of social sciences. The Conference is a combination of an academic and activist approach, which allows speakers, but also the audience to gain insight into the topics and issues addressed. Giving a fresh perspective and hosting important and current speakers, the MAN Conference is a platform for innovation and progress, and as such is relevant at the national, regional and international level.
The Center E8 celebrated the tenth anniversary in an innovative and digital way, and adapted to the situation in which we all happened to be in 2020. Therefore, the entire Conference was online and global! In the intensive 24 hours they had a rich and varied content:
The opening of the Conference, as well as this year’s Conference itself, were dedicated to Marina Blagojević Hugson – friend and associate of the Center E8, to whom they wanted to present the Lifetime Achievement Award this year; prevented from doing so, a Conference was held in her honor, but also a dedicated mural made by The Vila aka TKV in the garden of Dorćol Platz, the new house of the Center E8 and the Reflector Theater. In this regard, the actors of the Reflector Theater performed a performance in honor and memory of Marina at the opening. Immediately afterwards, keynote speaker Jeff Hearn performs with “What Would Marina Say?” linking it to the coronavirus situation in the context of men, masculinity, and the politics of life and death.
In the first part of the Conference, a panel “Masculinity and COVID-19” was held, moderated by Zorana Antonijević, Program Coordinator of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, while participants were Tim Shand, Director of ShandClark Consulting, Stephen Burrell, Professor at the Sociology Department at Durham University and participant Sanja Nikolin, a consultant from the Women’s Platform.
Then, before the presentation of the book “Museum of Lost Love” by Gary Barker and the interview done with him by the actor Uroš Novović, Ada, who is part of the Femixet team and the Rock Camp for Girls, had her musical performance.
During the night, they organized a part called popular culture, and thus had interviews with Sajsi MC, Daško Milinović and Selena Simić, who prepared playlists for all of us, available on the YouTube channel of the Center E8, with the topic of masculinity, gender (in)equality and feminism. Also, as part of the night program, they had a screening of as many as eight short feature films by both domestic and foreign authors, all in collaboration with Bašta Fest. Actor Rastko Vujisić spoke with the authors about the films, but also about the topics and issues in them, within the panel “Masculinization of Gender: A Man on the Film Strip”.
An innovation in terms of material and popular culture was the guided tour through the virtual exhibition and panel “Boyhood in Yugoslavia” designed by two students of anthropology at the Faculty of Philosophy, Ljubica Vlahović and Danica Anđelić.
We welcomed the morning with the well-known podcast “Youth”, which had its video interview for the first time, so the hosts Jana Šarić and Tamara Urošević hosted Vojkan Arsić, Executive director of the Center E8 and director. They continue the morning with the panel “Good Morning Balkans” in which they talk to partners from the Young Man Initiative, and later they also talk to them on the topic “Years of working with young men” looking back a little bit at the results achieved and changes initiated by the Center E8, Young Man Initiative and CARE International. In cooperation with them, Center E8 has been conducting workshops in schools for years to educate young men and women on these topics, and lockdown and pandemic did not prevent the knowledge from staying eternal, so they conducted their workshops online for three months and at the Conference they had a suitable ending of the online workshops entitled “Crises are transient, knowledge is eternal”.
In the meantime, they had several keynote speakers: Brian Hellman from Promundo who spoke within the topic “Care during COVID-19”, Stefan Šparavalo on behalf of the organization Da Se Zna who spoke on “Gender Based Violence in the Context of the LGBTQ+ Community” and Tamara Urošević as an anthropologist with her topic “Barbie phenomenon: you can be anything you want”.
In the context of the always current and unavoidable topic, whether and why we need feminism, they did a short interview entitled “Why do we need the F word?” with Nikki van der Gaag, an independent gender consultant. The MAN Conference followed and follows current events and topics, which are certainly related to gender identities, including the issue of masculinity. In this regard, panels “Racism and extremism: whose life is important?” were held, moderated by Jana Šarić, coordinator of the Center E8, while the participants were Danilo Ćurčić, program coordinator of the A11-Initiative for Economic and Social Rights, Miodrag Sovilj, journalist and participant Olga Pintar, historian, and just before the end of the Conference, a panel entitled “Masculinity on chyron: who is a man?” was moderated by Tamara Urošević, journalist and program coordinator of the Center E8, and participants were Magda Janjić, executive editor of the portal Nova.rs, Jovana Gligorijević, assistant editor of the weekly VREME and Lazar Čovs, freelance journalist.
The closing of the Conference was organized by Jana Šarić and Tamara Urošević, summarizing the ten-year and twenty-four-hour impressions of the MAN Conference, which, like the opening, was dedicated to Marina Blagojević Hugson, and video material was made and released during the closing in her honor.
Although the twenty-four-hour trip around the world was scheduled for June 29 and 30, at exactly 7:30 pm when the opening of the Conference was scheduled, the electricity in Dorćol Platz, as well as in the entire neighborhood, goes out. The equipment stops and they are forced to move the entire Conference in 24 hours, so the new dates of the conference are June 30 and July 1, from 7:30 pm to 6:00 pm.
The initial idea, all the struggle and efforts of the Center E8 as well as all the partners they have been working with for years, is that if men are part of the problem, they must also be part of the solution. The Center E8 would like to thank everyone for their support and tireless struggle and say that we will see each other again next year.
The activity is implemented by the Center E8 within the project Young Men Initiative II – Men and Boys as Partners in Promoting Gender Equality and the Prevention of Youth Extremism and Violence in the Balkans, supported by CARE International Balkans, Austrian Development Cooperation and Oak Foundation.