Bad education: sexuality, enlightenment, and nationalism in Orbán's Hungary
(Central European University)
Paper 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.”
Paper 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.
Gender, far-right, and political radicalization