EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

Gender, far-right, and political radicalization
Location U6-1A
Date and Start Time 22 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Agnieszka Koscianska (University of Warsaw) email
  • Agnieszka Pasieka (University of Vienna) email

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Short Abstract

This panel focuses on the relationship between radical right and ideologies of gender and sexuality as well as on the role of anthropology in understanding this relationship. We seek papers addressing the intersections between politics, gender, and sexual identities in multiple local contexts.

Long Abstract

While recent years have seen the rise of new far-right parties and movements and a growing audibility of voices promoting illiberal and undemocratic politics, anthropologists have been largely absent from the debates on the causes of these changes. The "radical right" and "far-right" manifest themselves in different ways worldwide, which makes all the more necessary a contribution by anthropologists in offering some comparative and explanatory tools.

In putting forward such an approach, in our panel we aim to reflect on the relation between gender, sexuality and the far right. Although the radical right varies locally, ideologies of gender and sexuality appear to be central to these radical political movements: issues such as homophobia, abortion, proper family and "traditional" gender roles mobilize rightwing activism and the global flow of radical ideas. Therefore, we ask: What kind of gender and sexual ideology does the far right promote? Why has gender and sexuality become a central category for the radical right? How do gender and sexual identities relate to the support for the far right? In asking such questions, we hope to problematize certain taken-for-granted ideas on far-right gender imaginary and to offer a historical perspective on this problem, demonstrating ruptures and continuities within far-right thought.

We invite ethnographically and/or historically grounded papers focused on:

- ideas of gender and political ideology

- religious, gender and political identities

- sexuality and the radical right

- ideologies of gender and sexuality within the current "refugee crisis"

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


'Gender Ideology': Tracing the Evolution of Sexuality and Gender Panic in Poland

Author: Agnieszka Koscianska (University of Warsaw)  email

Short Abstract

This paper seeks to understand the historical and transnational roots of contemporary ideas about and current moral panic over sexuality and gender in Poland.

Long Abstract

Currently, sexuality and gender are at the center of public debate in Poland. Debates over 'gender ideology' (an umbrella term used by conservatives to cover various phenomena including sex education, feminism, LGBTQ movements, and reproductive rights) constitute major political and cultural conflicts: Catholic bishops extensively discuss the threat Judith Butler's work poses to the Polish nation; conservatives oppose women's rights; nationalists brutally attack LGBTQ marches. The new Polish conservative government is explicit about building a new Poland without 'gender ideology' and 'sexual perversions'. Gender and sexuality are also used against the idea of hosting the refugees: 'they will rape our women,' 'they will force our women to veil'. Progressive activists urge that "backward" Poland should catch up with the "developed" West in order to gain sexual and gender rights. In this paper, drawing on my ethnographic and archival research, I track the evolution of current sexuality and gender panic in Poland. I show its historical and transnational roots. On the one hand, it results from the local historical construction of gendered and sexual subjects under socialism and after, on the other, it wouldn't be possible without the influence of global radicalized conservatism.

Bad education: sexuality, enlightenment, and nationalism in Orbán's Hungary

Author: Hadley Renkin (Central European University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores links between the key terms of two past sex panics and recent right-wing attacks on “liberal” democracy in Hungary, in order to argue that the panics were critical to framing Hungary’s current heteronationalism against the West’s “bad (sexual, political, and economic) education.”

Long Abstract

Sex panics have long been seen as highly-charged sites of language and power, at once "the political moments of sex" (Rubin 1984) and key techniques through which affective politics shape disciplinary regimes and their symbolic orders (Irvine 2007). In this paper I combine work on the politics of sex panics with theories of the symbolic geography of European belonging (Burgess 1997, Gal 1991, Wolff 1994) and recent thinking on the instrumentalization of sexual politics in Europe (Fassin & Surkis 2010, Kulpa & Mizielinska 2011, Renkin 2009) to consider the implications of the connection between two recently scandalous Hungarian terms: "felvilágositás" [education, information, enlightenment] and "felvilágosodás" [Enlightenment]. Through ethnographic and discursive analysis, I first explore the Hungarian right-wing's use of "felvilágositás" in two panics over LGBT school outreach programs in the early 2000s to alienate LGBT people from the Hungarian Nation and its futurity. I then compare this to the Right's recent anti-Western Enlightenment ("felvilágosodás") discourse - including Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's increasing attacks on secular, "liberal" democracy and championing of "illiberal democracy." Analysis of these terms and their connections, I argue, reveals these earlier panics as a key moment crystallizing the Hungarian Right's romantic-nationalist politics, a politics in which the State's control over both public knowledge (information and education) and its explicit heteronormativity have been used to frame the right-wing's vision of national independence and self-determination as a better alternative to the "bad education" (both political and sexual) of the liberal, Enlightened "West" and its disenchanted modernity.

The ambiguous morality of the far-right on homosexuality

Author: Fabio Bolzonar (Fudan University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper compare, discusses, and uncovers the reasons for the changing positions on homosexuality taken by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the Front National (FN) over the past decade.

Long Abstract

The promotion of homosexual rights has generally been a policy aim of left-wing groups while far-right movements have tended to defend traditional family values and have sometimes expressed homophobic views. However, in the past decade several European far-right parties have changed their political positions on homosexuality by showing more tolerant attitudes towards gay people, welcoming their membership, and appointing gay people to senior party positions.

This paper compares the changing positions on homosexual issues taken by the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the Front National (FN) over the past decade. After discussing the development of the political discourse on homosexuality of the two parties as presented in their official statements and public speeches, the paper uncovers the reasons for the transformation of their stances on homosexuality.

The paper claims that UKIP and the FN followed different trajectories in changing their stances. Although UKIP has given great public emphasis to the evolution of its position the party still remains strongly attached to conservative Christian morality. The FN under the leadership of Marine Le Pen is attempting to distance itself from moral conservatism in an informal way and to a greater extent than UKIP did even though several of the FN's leaders are still committed to defending conservative moral principles. The paper argues that in spite of these differences, UKIP and the FN share a common attitude consisting of rejecting full equal rights for homosexual people and they tend to use their greater openness on homosexuality to strengthen their nationalistic discourse.

German phalluses for Latvian men: Nazi war propaganda in occupied Latvia

Author: Karlis Verdins (University of Latvia)  email

Short Abstract

German Nazi propaganda, addressed to the people of occupied Latvia, was supported by a particular visual imagery of hypermasculine Aryan men, often naked or half naked. This asthetics comes hand in hand with issues of homosociality and homoeroticism that is not always clearly separated.

Long Abstract

Occupation of Nazi Germany took place in the territory of Latvia from the summer of 1941 to the fall of 1944 (in Western part till the Germany's capitulation in spring of 1945). German Nazi ideology was supported by a particular visual imagery that aspired to depict Aryan men as strong, masculine and militant males, often naked or half naked. Analyzing these male images taking into account also ones from the periodicals of the last years of independent Latvia and from the year of Soviet occupation (1940-41), a clear distinction can be made. Unlike Latvian or Soviet shy and discrete male images whose appearance was usualy aligned with the seasons (sunbathing or swimming in summer) or profession (athletes, artist models), images, cultivated by Nazi (self-confident display of full frontal nudity in sculpture; strong presence of male nakedness in war reporting, promotion of healthy lifestile and other genres of photography) were a new visual experience for Latvian people. As some part of the former research work shows, the main addressee of this imagery were local male audience who had to be make certain of the superiority and inevitable victory of German race even in the period when first obituaries of German officers appeared in newspapers. This asthetics of hypermasculinity comes hand in hand with issues of homosociality and homoeroticism that is not always as separated as Nazi ideologists probably imagined, notably because association of Nazi and homosexuality was quite common already in Latvian Social-democrat newspapers in early thirties.

"Be Men with Capital 'M'": gender roles in Hindu nationalism

Author: Alex O'Connell (NUI Maynooth)  email

Short Abstract

Recent years have seen a rise in Hindu-Right activism on Indian campuses, in particular in the actions of student unions devoted to Hindu nationalism. My paper examines how activists on campus promote ‘authentic’ gender norms in response to rape-culture and perceived Islamic seduction.

Long Abstract

Colonial studies have frequently commented on the importance of gender performativity, both in terms of conquering westerners and emasculated colonial subjects. Indian nationalism has struggled to challenge stereotypes of 'effeminate Bengalis', sourcing Hindu virility narratives in ancient history and appropriating Victorians patriarchal norms. Post-independent India has retained some of this masculine anxiety, now firmly wedded to Hindutva nationalism which has grown in influence since the 1980s. One the many organisations associated with Hindutva is the ABVP, a nationalist student group opposed to the leftist politics, creeping westernisation and Muslim chauvinism that they argue is endemic on Indian campuses. The past few years have seen extended commentary on sexism and rape in India's cities, and Delhi campuses have been at the forefront of challenging everyday gender violence. The solution offered by the ABVP is to reconstitute virile Hindu masculinity to protect Hindu women and the Motherland in general.

Drawing on interviews and fieldwork conducted in Delhi's universities in 2013, I want to explore this ideal of gender performance, and how both men and women are educated to fulfil their gender roles in accordance with true Hindu values. Indian society, and campuses in particular, are held to be plagued by decadence and western norms, while sexual violence is attributed to both men and women mis-performing their roles. While men must train physically, mentally, and spiritually, women too must be 'made', mainly through promoting traditional feminine roles, and educating them about the dangers of licentious Muslims.

The instrumentalization of masculine identity of Montenegrin tradition in the debates about NATO membership

Author: Branko Banovic (Regional Museum Pljevlja (Montenegro) and Institute of Social Sciences (Serbia))  email

Short Abstract

By showing that hegemonic views of Montenegrin masculinity reflect a particular view of the nation, which in turn feeds into the recent debate over NATO membership, I want to reveal a masculine (warlike) aspect of Montenegrin identity and its instrumentaization within debates over NATO membership.

Long Abstract

The basic premise is that narratives regarding integration into NATO have a linear organization: they layer events, mostly those from the past, into a linear sequence of statements. In this case, that means that the warrior tradition has produced a Montenegrin ideal of masculinity with the characteristics of the warrior and soldier (and not, for example, the entrepreneur). With that in mind, the connection between Montenegro's warrior tradition and the debates taking place in the Montenegrin public regarding the issue of membership into NATO become clear because in the Montenegrin public NATO remains a predominantly military alliance. Thus it is understandable that the opposing sides in the debate utilize the tradition of a warrior people as a powerful weapon in their respective arguments. I will pay particular attention to narratives that bring together the masculine patriarchal-warrior identity of the Montenegrin tradition, with the socially current debates about joining NATO. In that way, the "story" about the hyper-masculine past, in modified form and with new elements, is perpetuated into the present while acquiring the capacity for further development in the future, and particularly for instrumentalization in various political projects. The warrior masculine tradition is most often insturmentalized as part of defense arguments of the opposing sides and the main argument for both is the break with war casualties of past. I want also to reveal a feature of the hegemonic Montenegrin value system which sheds light on the politics of exclusion (e.g. of homosexuals) and domestic discourses about nationhood.

'Faking feminism: gendered strategies of the National front (France) and the Lega nord (Italy)'

Author: Francesca Scrinzi (University of Glasgow)  email

Short Abstract

Based on data collected during a two-year project (Gendering activism in populist radical right parties, ERC Starting Grant, 2012-2014), the paper compares the strategies through which the National front (France) and the Lega nord (Italy), aim at constructing their political cause in gendered ways.

Long Abstract

Based on documentary and ethnographic data collected during a two-year project (Gendering activism in populist radical right parties, ERC Starting Grant, 2012-2014), this paper compares the strategies through which two populist radical right parties, the National front (France) and the Lega nord (Italy), aim at constructing their political cause in gendered ways. The paper analyses the 'racialisation of sexism' as a strategy through which the two parties re-frame their anti-immigration discourse in terms of a struggle for women's rights; and points to the tensions inherent in their ideology - between 'modern traditional' views of gender on the one hand and, on the other, 'pseudo-feminist' arguments. Through their strategies the two parties provide their recruits with gendered sources of identification as well as with opportunities for celebrating these gendered collective identities - such as women's sub-organisations or campaigns on 'women's issues'. The paper compares the different repertoires used by the two parties to frame their political actions on 'women's issues' and connects them with national formations of gender and ethnicity and with the Italian and French models of integration and citizenship.

Gender and extremism in Greek society: the case of Golden Dawn and the role of women

Authors: Alexandros Sakellariou (Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences of Athens)  email
Alexandra Koronaiou  email

Short Abstract

This article focuses on the place and role of women in Golden Dawn, the Greek neo-Nazi political party, both in the party’s organisation and ideology.

Long Abstract

Fascist movements of all kinds in Europe have passionately supported that the place of woman is primarily at home and restricted within the family having as her main goal the upbringing of children. For the extreme-right gender is only a biological element, given by nature and not a social and cultural construction. According to such views, gender has nothing to do with social roles and social categories, but belongs to the sphere of the natural or /and the divine order of the world. In this 'new order', extreme-right movements want to establish, the family is considered as society's most important cell. In this perspective, women are called to be committed as mothers and wives, being excluded that way from the public sphere and from higher offices. Having the above in mind in this article we are going to study the place and role of women in Golden Dawn (GD), the Greek neo-Nazi political party. The principal questions that this article will address are: Which is the place of women within the party organisation? Do they participate in the party's activities and of what kind? What is the place of women in Golden Dawn's ideology and which is the role Golden Dawn reserves for women in society? In a sense what we are going to examine is on the one hand the place of women within the party organisation, but also GD's views and ideological background about the role of women in society.

Ideas without words: far right, "filotimo" and biopolitical implication in Greek metropolis

Author: Anna Giulia Della Puppa (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam)  email

Short Abstract

The inquiry will consider how the social narration of ethnic “us” in modern metropolitan Greece could have influenced Greek far right affirmation -having well defined mythologies and ideas about history, society and gender- in a transnational crisis era bringing a crisis of community values along.

Long Abstract

In the era of crisis, Greece, and expecially its capital city, Athens, has seen a radicalization in terms of far right discourses. It doesn't involve just openly violent actions against migrants and minorities, but also an increasing affirmation of national identity as based on the central value of "greek mentality", strongly exclusive and openly pathriarcal.

Indeed, the unprecedent success of Golden Dawn represents not just a mere expression of far right thinking, but also the embodiment of a widespread social stance.

Using Furio Jesis's tools of mythologic machine and ideas without words, it is possible to deconstruct some pivotal concepts of the Greek identitary dispositive and better understand the origin of far right escalation.

Filotimo is a stuctural concept in Greek ethnical and gendered social identity. Literally corresponding to "love for honor", it mirrors the foucaultian argument according to which a state, in order to well function, needs specific power relations between men and women, as well as adults and children, which have proper configurations and autonomy (Foucault 1980:187,188). Filotimo's first evidence is traced in Thales (VII cent. B.C.), who defined it as much fundamental for Greeks as breathing. In current usage it indicates someone's "right behaviour" in the social dynamic, consequently defining his/her social identity.

By the analysis of some case-studies, I'll try to retrace how the social narration of ethnic "us" in modern metropolitan Greece could have influenced Greek far right affirmation through enduring conservative rhetorical dispositive, often connected with ancient past and glory, always strongly gender-related.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.