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?
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. Method: Collection of relevant speeches towards domestic and foreign audiences by Vladimir Putin Quantitative and qualitative discourse analysis of speeches Triangulation with Duma transcripts Research questions: Is the backlash against anti-gender norms in Russian official discourse constant or can we discern moments forts around instances of aggressive foreign policy? Is the gender backlash an accessory to authoritarianism or instrumental to justify its aggressive foreign policy?
Jorgen Hendriksen / unsplash
UNTWIST: policy recommendations to regain "losers of feminism" as mainstream voters is a Horizon Europe research project, financed by the European Commission. 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. I act as Co-Principal Investigator for Switzerland's participation.
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.