Progressive Nativism? Mobilizing Secularism, Gender, and Sexuality against Muslims in Postwar Europe

Friday, January 5, 2018: 3:50 PM
Columbia 5 (Washington Hilton)
Aitana Guia, California State University, Fullerton
Modern Europe’s conflictual relation to diversity cannot be underestimated. After two great waves of diversity-eroding phenomena, the emergence of nationalist movements aiming to create nation states and ideologies of racial superiority premised on eliminating minorities, postwar Europe seemed on its way to modify this pattern. Intra-European mobility, migration from former colonial territories, as well as guest workers from North Africa and Turkey brought diversity back to Europe and Europeans had an opportunity to embrace it.

It has been a conflictual and partial embrace at best. While immigration-related diversity was tolerated during the years of the economic miracle, when migrant labor was desperately needed, it was rejected as soon as the shockwaves of the 1970s economic crises hit. Guestworkers programs were eliminated, migrants and their families were unsuccessfully encouraged to return to their countries of origin, and further legal immigration was curtailed.

A wave of anti-immigrant discourses and fringe attacks on migrants and refugees begun to grow in the 1980s and turned into a nativist tsunami into mainstream politics after the 2008 depression. Rather than analyzing the rise for populist radical right parties in Europe, this paper focuses on the novel and surprising elements some European nativists employ: gender equality against supposed patriarchal values of European Muslims, homonationalism or sexual nationalism against supposed anti-LGBTQIAPK attitudes of European Muslims, and secularism as a way of not only privatizing but also limiting the religious rights of Muslim Europeans. I argue that postwar European nativist configurations have recruited progressive equality-enhancing arguments from the 1960s New Left to oppose immigration in their societies in ways other nativists, in the United States or elsewhere, are not.