The End of Emancipation? Sex, Gender, and Neo-Nationalism

AHA Session 257
Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Boulevard A (Hilton Chicago, Second Floor)
Jennifer Evans, Carleton University
Jennifer Evans, Carleton University

Session Abstract

The recent and seemingly sudden rise of right-wing nationalist parties in Europe has garnered significant media and scholarly attention that seek to understand the appeal of anti-democratic, nationalist politics for growing numbers of disillusioned voters. This trend resonates particularly in Germany, given its not-too-distant experience with right-wing authoritarianism and murderous racism, which has elicited comparisons to the collapse of liberal democracy between 1929 and 1933. Puzzling, however, are the attempts of parties like the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) to appeal to women and LGBT Germans. Although the AfD in no way supports LGBT rights and is definitively anti-feminist, it has nevertheless claimed to be the party best equipped to protect women and LGBT people from allegedly violent and homophobic Muslim refugees. This panel historicizes this recent trend by both investigating the turn in nationalist policies to appeal to women and LGBT voters, and examining the appeal of the radical right among certain groups of women and LGBT Germans. To accomplish the latter task, we use Jasbir Puar’s concept of homonationalism and Sara Farris’ related concept of femonationalism, both of which provide a framework for understanding the incorporation of some LGBT rights and feminist goals into nationalist projects. Central to these projects are the intertwined processes of collective remembering and forgetting. While the pink triangle has become an important international symbol recalling the persecution of homosexual men under National Socialism, certain LGBT rights and feminist groups forgotten more recent instances of right-wing violence and anti-racist alliances in favor of normative goals.

Through an examination of the AfD's campaign to appeal to women, Joseph Sterphone's paper shows how the construction of the Muslim immigrant as a sexual predator and a danger to (white) German women has historically been at the heart of this project. Such arguments have gained traction in the wake of festivities on December 31st, 2015, during which hundreds of primarily Muslim and immigrant men were alleged to have assaulted primarily white women in cities across Germany. Farid Hafez’s paper continues this theme, examining the notion of the hypersexual Muslim male as a means of legitimate and defending restrictive immigration and refugee policies. Christopher Ewing's paper examines right-wing politics and its relation to LGBT activism since the early 1990s. Although many LGBT activists previously sought alliances with immigrant groups in the face of reportedly escalating right-wing violence, by the early 2010s, many LGBT Germans came to see Muslims as the primary threat, pointing to a similar dynamics of racialized fear of violence on which the AfD could draw. Sebastien Tremblay's paper situates this process in a transnational context, examining how the symbol of the pink triangle and the memory of Nazi persecution crossed the Atlantic to become a potent political tool for both U.S.-American and German LGBT activists. Nevertheless, the pink triangle has been used in diverse ways, in recent years being co-opted by groups of LGBT activists who support anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies.

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