Friday, 25 June 2010

CFP - Sexual Nationalisms

Conference - 27 & 28 January 2011 - University of Amsterdam

Sexual Nationalisms
Gender, Sexuality and the Politics of Belonging in the New Europe

Since 1989, and even more so after 9/11, the rise of new nationalisms has been
inextricably linked to a refashioning of the politics, identities and
imaginaries of
gender and sexuality in Europe. The old virile nationalism analyzed by
George Mosse is
now being reinvented in the light of a new brand of sexual politics.
Feminist demands and
claims of (homo)sexual liberation have moved from the counter-cultural
margins to the
heart of many European countries? national imaginations, and have
become a central factor
in the European Union?s production of itself as an imaginary
community. Rhetorics of
lesbian/gay and women?s rights have played pivotal roles in discourses
and policies
redefining modernity in sexual terms, and sexual modernity in national
terms. How are
these baffling shifts in the cultural and social location of sexuality
and gender to be
In Europe and beyond, the refashioning of citizenship contributes to
the redefinition of
secular liberalism as cultural whiteness. Homophobia and conservatism,
gender segregation
and sexual violence have been represented as alien to modern European
culture and
transposed upon the bodies, cultures and religions of migrants,
especially Muslims and
their descendants. In the process, the status of Europe?s ethnic
minorities as citizens
has come under question. How can the entanglement of sexual and gender
anti-immigration policies, and the current reinvention of national
belonging be analyzed?
How are we to understand the appropriation of elements of the feminist
and sexual
liberation agenda by the populist and Islamophobic right?
The prominence of sexual democracy in the remaking of European
national imaginaries
requires bringing the critique of gender and sexuality beyond
second-wave feminism and
post-Stonewall liberationist perspectives. In late-capitalist,
post-colonial Europe,
struggles for sexual freedom and gender equality no longer necessarily
challenge dominant
formations; on the contrary, they may be mobilized to shape and
reinforce exclusionary
discourses and practices. The new politics of belonging is thus
inseparable from the new
politics of exclusion. This shift has not been without consequences
for progressive
social movements. Whereas in social and cultural analysis, nationalism
has long been
associated with male dominance, sexual control and heteronormativity, certain
articulations of feminism and lesbian/gay liberation have now become
intimately entwined
with the reinforcement of ethnocultural boundaries within European countries.
As feminist historian Joan W. Scott recently argued when she coined
the provocative
notion of ?sexularism?, new forms of sexual regulation have been
introduced, especially
targeting migrants, their descendants, and other ?non-whites?.
Discursively defining the
new national common sense, sexularism also operates at the level of
the visceral,
reaching deep into the sexual and racial politics, habits and emotions
of everyday life.
A required allegiance to sexual liberties and rights has been employed
as a technology of
control and exclusion ? what could be called a ?politics of
sexclusion?. Symmetrically,
the Europeanization of sexual politics has entailed counter-reactions
both inside and
outside Europe. In Eastern Europe admission to the European Union has
been conditioned on
the acceptance of the new standards of sexual democracy, which sometimes led
anti-European reactions to also frame themselves in sexual terms. In
Western Europe
?non-?whites can sometimes be tempted to identify with the caricatures
imposed upon them.
An increasing number of scholars in the humanities and social sciences
have begun to
investigate the important shifts taking place in discourses of sexual
freedom and gender
equality across the continent. These shifts open up new arenas for
ethnographic and other
empirical research. What role do sex and gender play in various
European nationalisms? In
which cultural terms are sexual and gender boundaries articulated?
What different
trajectories can be discerned, and how can differences between
countries be explained?
What are the effects of these transformations at the level of the
formation of community
and subjectivity? How do these discursive shifts become tangible in
everyday life? And
how can sexual politics avoid the trap of exclusionary
instrumentalization without
renouncing its emancipatory promise?
In order to discuss such questions, we invite contributions grounded
in ethnography and
other empirical research along the five following themes:

1. The Nationalization of Gender Equality
In secular European imaginations of immigrants and their descendants,
the Islamic
headscarf in particular has been perceived as an axiomatic signifier
of religious and
gender oppression. It has been listed along other ?uncivilized? ills
also attributed to
ethnic minorities and disadvantaged neighborhoods, whether they be
domestic violence,
forced marriage, or female genital mutilations. In contrast, recently
acquired milestones
in gender equality, like the legal right to abortion, have been
adopted by Left and Right
politicians alike as new symbols of timeless national essences. What
representations of
gender have been conveyed by contemporary constructions of the nation?
How have forms of
domination between men and women been challenged and/or reproduced in
neonationalist and
secularist projects? In what ways are migrant women?s lives affected
by the entwinements
of feminist discourses and movements with these projects? How have those women
experienced and handled being framed as simultaneously the main
victims and the main
accomplices of the new Islamic threat?
Whereas religion is understood as operating at the level of the
embodied, the habitual,
material and visceral aspects of secularism are generally ignored or
obscured. But what
is the secular counterpart of the religious body? What does a gendered
politics of
secularism look like? At times, restrictive policies against women
wearing headscarves
have been justified in terms of the necessary limitation of religion
to the private
sphere; at other times, they have been framed in terms of gender
equality and feminist
ideals. Should this justificatory plurality be taken at face value, or
does it point to
deeper and more complex resentments against postcolonial and other
?non-white? migrants?

2. The National Politics of Sexual Freedom
In Europe, ideals and practices of sexual freedom have mostly been
experienced as a
tangible break with formerly hegemonic religious traditions and the
restraints of
community and family. In particular, gay people have sometimes been
framed as the very
embodiment of modern liberalism, as self-fashioning, unattached, and
autonomous subjects.
Why have such representations been so effectively tied to the
nationalization of
modernity in some countries but not in others? What have been the
specific trajectories
of such representations, and how have they affected
identified people in everyday life? What new normativities have been
shaped in the
process? And what have been the consequences of these discourses for
those who have been
framed as the ?others? of sexual democracy ? Muslims and ethnic minorities?
What have been the implications of such reinventions of sexual
whiteness for everyday
life in the global cities of Western Europe, and the sexual, cultural,
religious and
political diversity they offer? How have feminist and lesbian/gay
movements been affected
by these shifts in the social location of sexual and gender politics?
What does ?race?
have to do with the refashioning of sexual politics and identities? If
sexual freedom and
gender equality are being mobilized in a culturalist re-enactment of
European racism, how
does this affect white imaginaries and subjectivities? How are those
excluded from whiteness affected by it? Which bodies come to be
constructed in the sexual
politics of neonationalisms? Which forms of ?queerness? are being
authorized and which
articulations of sexual otherness are being ?queered? and thus
excluded from sexual
normality? On what grounds does this occur, and how do these processes
materialize in
everyday life?

3. The Urban Geographies and Class Politics of Sexual Democracy
The interweaving of urban governance with sexual politics has been
normalizing certain
sexual spaces at the exclusion of others. In the context of an emergent urban
entrepreneurialism and as part of gentrification processes, sexual
others have been
conscripted into urban politics and spatial renewal, while new hetero- and
homonormativities have taken shape in the process. Gender
representations have also
played important roles in framing and representing cities as aesthetically and
commercially attractive for business, tourists and aspiring residents.
certain brands of urban theory have celebrated gay men and women as
the avant-garde of
urban change, hence of the conquest of formerly working class and
ethnic minority
neighborhoods by bohemian middle and upper classes. What roles have
sexuality and gay
urban presence played in processes of gentrification? How have sex and
gender been
articulated in the urban governance of social marginalization?
How are the sexual politics of neoliberalism to be understood? What
role does the market
play in the sexual reinvention of nationalism and citizenship and in
shaping new
(homo)normativities? Is the stigmatization of Muslim migrants as
sexually conservative a
reenactment of discourses that in the past stigmatized working class
communities as
immoral, archaic or authoritarian? What do the class politics of
?sexularism? look like?
What kinds of subjectivities are produced in new regimes of sexual progress?

4. The Sexual Politics of Immigration Policies
The ever-stricter immigration policies of Europe ? both at national
levels and at the
level of the E.U. ? have often been justified in terms of sexual
democracy: migrants,
especially from Africa or other Islamic countries, have been
ostensibly kept out, not on
racial, but on sexual grounds, in order to preserve the hard-won
democratic values of
Europe in the treatment of sexual minorities, and even more crucially,
of women. As a
consequence, these same migrants, whose matrimonial (forced, fake,
etc.) or sartorial
(hijab, niqab, etc.) practices have thus been under constant scrutiny,
are expected to
demonstrate a sincere adhesion to sexual democracy that is presumed
inherent to European
cultures, despite its very recent history and contemporary limitations.
How does such a constraint redefine the subjectivities of migrants ?
as well as that of
their European partners? What does it mean for a woman of Islamic
culture to be
encouraged to reject her family?s expectations in order to express her
sexual modernity?
What are the strategies available to migrant women and sexual
minorities who attempt to
resist oppression, even violence, while refusing to be co-opted by
anti-immigrant, if not
xenophobic or racist, politics? In other words, what are the
interactions between the
sexual logic of immigration policies and the sexual imaginaries and
practices of the
migrants thus targeted?

5. European Sexual Modernization and Its Discontents
Today, the borders of Europe are also sexual boundaries. Admission
into the E.U. requires
identifying with the agenda of sexual democracy. At the same time,
almost by definition,
non-European countries are suspect. Turkey?s tradition of secularism
largely inspired by
the French historical model has not been sufficient to dispel the
suspicion that this
Muslim country is alien to European sexual democracy ? as evidenced by
the visible
presence of the Islamic headscarf. In the same way, international
campaigns against
homophobia have largely been about the homophobia of others: the logic
of human rights
has focused more on legal repression than on legal discrimination ?
the penalization of
homosexuality outside Europe rather than the exclusion of gays and
lesbians from rights
of marriage and adoption within Europe.
Conversely, the Europeanization of sexual democracy has fueled
reactive nationalisms, not
only in those countries that are bound to remain on the margins of
Europe, such as the
Maghreb, but also in recent E.U. members ? regarding homosexuality in
particular, for
example, in Poland or Lithuania. How are European and non-European
sexual politics
reconfigured in this new context, i.e. what are the political
consequences, in various
countries within and outside of Europe, of this geopolitical context?

We invite all those interested to submit a one-page abstract and a CV by:
September 1, 2010.
Abstracts as well as questions can be sent to: Robert Davidson

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