Populism, Gender and Feminist Politics: Between the Backlash and the Resistance
Conference at the Faculty of Political and Social Science, Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence, 2-3 July 2020
Organizers: Manuela Caiani, Francesca Feo (SNS)
Keynotes lectures: Eva Anduiza (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Andrea Krizsán (Central European University) (TBC), Bice Maiguascha (University of Exeter)
In the present context of social insecurity and political realignment, populist parties and movements are everywhere on the rise, both on the left and on the right. In the abundant literature now available in the field of populism studies, there is increasing attention to the complex relationship between populism, gender and feminist politics. This 2-days international conference wants to provide a space to deepen the discussion around the diverse ways in which gender is constructed, mobilized and contested in the populist political moment.
Benefitting from a widespread sense of crisis, the populist surge also confronts neoliberal hegemony. While left-wing populism rails against economic neoliberalism, the populist right is mounting an attack on neoliberal culture, in which anti-feminism takes centre stage. As Nancy Fraser describes, ‘authoritarian populism’ takes aim at a regime of ‘progressive neoliberalism’, a form of elitist liberalism that managed to co-opt and disarm the emancipatory agenda put forward by the New Social Movements since the 1970s. This diagnosis has been contested, but it raises interesting questions about the position of feminism in the populist dichotomy between the establishment and the people.
In recent years, the populist radical right has appropriated the conservative agenda on gender issues, sponsoring patriarchal social relations and heteronormativity through masculinist tropes, maternalist policies as well as by joining, supporting or creating anti-gender mobilizations. Often, gender and religion have been used as criteria to identify the people of the ‘heartland’ and the outsider groups, in what Sara Farris calls ‘femonationalism’. Also, anti-gender issues create a common ground for the creation of transnational (populist) radical right identities and movements, overcoming the constraints to internationalization processes posed by the nationalist core value of radical right ideology.
Against the conservative backlash, women’s and feminist movements have sprung up in many countries, defending women’s rights and the gains of the feminist project. Populism, even from the right, may create unanticipated openings for women’s empowerment, regardless of the actors’ intentions. On the other hand, the new wave of mobilizations may also open up the possibility of a feminist populism on the left. In the past, especially in Latin America, feminist mobilizations have often found an ally in populist formations.
Drawing on recent debates, we are particularly interested in the following themes:
- Theorizing on the relation between populism(s) and feminism(s)
- The construction of gender in populist discourses
- Gendered practices within populist parties and movements
- Opportunities and threats of populist politics for the promotion of gender equality
- The impact of populist varieties on feminist and gender-friendly policies
- The relationship between populism and anti-gender mobilizations
- How women’s movements mobilize for and against populism
- Feminist resistance in populist times
- The implication of feminism in anti-establishment as well as elitist politics
- The (re)gendering of politics in the populist moment and its effects on the gender system
The conference invites theoretical and empirical contributions from all related academic fields. We welcome papers with different regional foci and aim for methodological diversity.
The deadline for paper proposals is 25th of February, 2020. Please send an abstract of your planned contribution (max. 500 words) together with a short bio to firstname.lastname@example.org. Notification of acceptance will be sent by the 10th of March, 2020.
There is no registration fee, but accommodation and travel costs are to be covered by participants.