BU prof recognized for outstanding research on anti-circumcision debates

A man in a blue suit stands in front of a full bookshelf.
Dr. Jonathan Allan

A respected Brandon University professor known for his cutting-edge work studying masculinity has received major recognition for one of his recent academic articles. Dr. Jonathan Allan has been awarded the Carl Bode Award for the most outstanding article published in the Journal of American Culture in 2023.

“It was a pleasant surprise to learn of this award and I am delighted to receive it,” said Dr. Allan, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Men and Masculinities and is a Professor in the Department of English, Drama, and Creative Writing and the Gender and Women’s Studies program at BU. “Today, when parents face the decision to circumcise their sons or keep them intact, information is polarizing and complicated. But this is not new. In this article, I seek to understand anti-circumcision activism historically while also recognizing the diversity of intactivism and considering its future.”

Dr. Allan has written extensively on changing cultural perceptions of the male body. His article, “Reading anti-circumcision in Clothed With the Sun: The Quarterly Journal of Clothes-Optional Living,” is part of an ongoing research project examining the history of “anti-circumcision activism” or “intactivism,” as part of a broader focus on the politics of the foreskin and circumcision. The article analyzes a debate about circumcision that unfolded in a nudist magazine, beginning with a 1986 article arguing for a natural foreskin as well as the letters to the editor that followed.

“It’s not possible for us to visit the locker rooms or doctor’s offices of the past, to hear attitudes about circumcision, but nudist magazines do provide a rare window into the culture,” Dr. Allan said. “In the late 1970s and through the 1980s, anti-circumcision activists were trying to change minds, and we can read in the pages of this magazine much nuance and diversity of opinion regarding circumcision and the foreskin — it clearly relates to debates that are ongoing today.”

Dr. Gregory Kennedy, BU’s Dean of Arts, highlighted the significance of being recognized by academic peers and professional associations.

“Dr. Allan has been delivering innovative, original research on themes related to masculinity, health, and popular culture that showcase the best of arts research and how it helps us understand society,” he said. “It is a great honour to receive an award like this and I congratulate him for this remarkable achievement.”

The Bode Award is named after Carl Bode, who was a professor, author, poet, commentator, and a strong advocate for the Popular Culture Association (PCA), which publishes this journal, and was announced at the annual conference held at the end of March. It is selected by a group of scholars who read every article published over the last year and then vote on the best one.

“The committee was unanimous in their decision to give Jonathan Allan the award for his article,” said Dr. Carl Sederholm, editor of the Journal of American Culture. “Jonathan’s work impressed us all because it is well-written and well-researched, and a great example of how to explain complex issues for a broad range of readers.”

This article was published open-access thanks to Brandon University’s agreement with Canada Knowledge Research Network, which allows scholars to publish open-access in Wiley Journals at no cost. Those interested in reading the article can find it here: Reading anti‐circumcision activism in Clothed with the Sun: The Quarterly Journal of Clothes‐Optional Living – Allan – 2023 – The Journal of American Culture – Wiley Online Library. Please note that the article discusses and includes images about nudity and male genitals.


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