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At the heart of my research is the question:

how does gender relate to processes of (de-)democratisation and political violence and how do feminist actors and policies respond to it?

Postdoc research

ev / unsplash

ev / unsplash

My 3-year project sheds light on the emergence and use of the trope of threatened "traditional values" to frame aggression as prevention. The trope has become a standard feature in official Russian discourse since at least 2012. It was also mobilized in the wake of the full-scale invasion against Ukraine to justify the action as a preventive strike to stop perversive Western “gender ideology” from spilling over into Russia. This suggests that anti-gender backlash fulfils a larger strategic purpose. To investigate this, this project traces the process of when and how anti-gender narratives were employed in Russian official discourse around critical junctures of aggressive foreign policy since Putin came to power.

  • Bias, Leandra (forthcoming autumn 2025). Putin, Macht, Patriarchat – die Internationale der Antifeministen und was wir ihr entgegensetzen können [Putin, Power, Patriarchy - The International of Antifeminists and how to counter them] (working title), edition suhrkamp.

  • Bias, Leandra (forthcoming spring 2025). Power, transnational feminism and backlash: Avoiding authoritarian co-optability in Russia and Serbia (working title), Oxford University Press.

  • Bias, Leandra. "Traditional values in the international realm: Why foreign policy analysis should focus on anti-gender politics", revise & resubmit with Foreign Policy Analysis.

  • Young Scholar 2022, awarded by Walter Benjamin Kolleg, University of Bern for interdisciplinarity and science communication.

Horizon Europe


Jorgen Hendriksen / unsplash

I co-direct the Horizon Europe project UNTWIST: policy recommendations to regain "losers of feminism" as mainstream voters is a Horizon Europe research project, financed by the European Commission and the Swiss Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation. It runs from February 2023 to January 2026. UNTWIST aims to defend the EU from the emerging threat that the anti-gender rhetoric from radical populist parties represents. To do so it will 1) examine whether radical populist parties fill a niche in political representation because they capitalize on, but also twist, the needs and demands of citizens “at the margins”, who feel abandoned or disempowered by current mainstream feminist discourses and policies. 2) formulate alternative policies for democratic parties to better represent the various gendered fears, needs and demands of these voters and regain them. It will do so in conversation with citizens and policy-makers. The consortium is composed by six universities and research centres from Spain, the UK, Denmark, Switzerland, Hungary and Germany as well as two private companies, one specialising in data visualisation and another in citizen science.

  • Rothermel, A., Nerino, V., Bias, L., and Amacker, M. (2023). Deliverable D.1.1: Typology of the Horizon Europe project, UNTWIST: Policy recommendations to regain “losers of feminism” as mainstream voters, Grant Nr. 101060836, University of Bern.

  • Special issue on “The mobilizing potential of gender-based needs” with open access journal Frontiers in Political Science, co-edited with Ann-Kathrin Rothermel, Valentina Nerino, Francesca Feo, Colm Flaherty and Alexandra Sipos.

Doctoral research


private photo

In my doctoral thesis, I revisited the still-established notion in critical theory that transnational feminism boils down to an exercise of Othering, manifested in a unidirectional transfer of knowledge from the West to post-communist Europe. Based on 70 interviews with four different generations of feminists in Russia and Serbia, I established that this critique does not resonate with feminists on the ground. They reject it because it dangerously resonates with the argument put forward by their respective authoritarian regimes: The idea that feminism and "gender ideology" is an alien Western ruse that is imported into and imposed onto these innocent societies in an attempt to destroy their "traditional values" and make them implode. That is why they reject the established critique and instead advance alternative imaginaries of transnational feminism that counter regime discourse and cannot be co-opted by it. This is how feminists in Russia and Serbia exercise subversion in a context where the space for that is increasingly limited.

  • Bias, Leandra (2024). "Authoritarian Othering Back and Feminist Subversion: Rethinking Transnational Feminism in Russia and Serbia", Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp. 202–225.

  • Bias, Leandra (2020). "The (im)possibility of feminist critique in authoritarianism: Revisiting Western knowledge-transfer in Russia and Serbia", [PhD thesis], Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford.

  • Bias, Leandra (2019). "NGOisation and generational divides in Serbia's feminist movement", Women's Studies International Forum, November-December.

  • ECPR (European Consortium for Political Research) Joni Lovenduski PhD Prize in Gender and Politics 2023.

  • Honorary Mention by the Swiss Association for Gender Studies.
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