Transnational Anti-Gender Politics (OSUN 2022)
Protesters burn Judith Butler in effigy in the streets of São Paulo. The Hungarian government bans educational and media materials that ‘promote’ homosexuality or gender affirmation surgery, as well as teaching gender studies at the university. Tens of thousands rally in Paris against the introduction of marriage equality. These are but a few examples of what have been described as expressions of anti-gender politics. In recent years, attacks on the ‘rise of gender ideology’ as a sociopolitical force, on gender studies as an academic field, and on individuals – whether they be scholars, LGBT people, activists or allied policy makers – have grown in scope and intensity as well as in their geographical reach and transnational connectivity.
These attacks have deleterious effects on the bodily, psychic, and economic well-being of women and sexual and gender non-conforming subjects, particularly those marked by the intersections of racism, hetero- and cisnormativity, ableism, and coloniality. As a consequence, they have been denied fundamental rights, dignity, and access to healthcare, and made even more vulnerable to physical violation, as seen with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Anti-gender attacks undermine fields of study that social justice movements have fought hard to establish. They cause, in other words, harm that is both symbolic and material; that is epistemic and bodily felt. The questions of how these movements work, what animates them, and how we (those of us who name our commitments as feminist) can build solidarities and resist these harmful movements are thus of urgent importance.
In this collaborative project with Dr Billy Holzberg (KCL) and Dr Tomás Ojeda (LSE), we build on Engenderings’, the LSE Gender blog, series on Transnational Anti-Gender Politics, first launched in 2018. We interrogate anti-gender mobilisations on a transnational scale to examine the transnational connections, affective grammars and tensions of anti-gender campaigns, in the process revisiting and transforming the Eurocentricity of our conceptual vocabularies. Our hope is that this project will allow us to build new solidarities to counter the growing force of anti-gender mobilisations.
This project involves the production of an edited volume titled Transnationalising Anti-Gender Politics in Palgrave's 'Thinking Gender in Transnational Times' -series (under contract). As part of this project, together with Dr Haley McEwen (University of Witwatersrand), on 25 May 2022, we are convening an online roundtable event with leading scholars and activists who have experienced the effects of such attacks and have been thinking about ways of building solidarities between different political actors, geographical locations and struggles. This event is organised in cooperation with Bard College Berlin through the Open Society University Network and supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundations.
Fixing Gender: The Paradoxical Politics of Peacekeeper Training (ESRC 2020-2021)
Peacekeeping involves deploying soldiers and police from impartial countries to warzones in order to create the space in which peace may be built. Despite its formidable promise of providing security to conflict-affected peoples, peacekeeping forces are not always a benevolent presence. The failures of peacekeeping have been widely documented by scholarship, activists, and the media. They range from neglecting women’s needs and priorities in conflict-affected areas, to acts of violence committed by peacekeepers against the local population. After decades of lobbying by women’s groups, in 2000, the UN Security Council established the international Women, Peace, and Security agenda, which aims to address these shortcomings of peacekeeping. In this agenda, gender training is consistently evoked as a way to remedy or ‘fix’ the gendered harms of peacekeeping. Over the last two decades, such training has become a requirement for uniformed peacekeepers, and has developed into a significant transnational practice.
Although the gendered harms of peacekeeping are undeniable, the question remains whether gender training should be unambiguously embraced. Feminist scholarship points to an inherent tension in such training: the introduction of a critical concept such as ‘gender’, developed through feminist scholarship and activism, into traditionally masculine institutions such as the military and the police. This raises crucial questions for feminist strategizing: How is gender training made to work in and for military and police organisations? Is it a normative good from the point of view of intersectional feminist politics?
Fixing Gender: The Paradoxical Politics of Peacekeeper Training, addresses the question: What epistemic and political ‘work’ does gender training come to ‘do’ in the martial institutions associated with peacekeeping? In order to address this question, I reviewed policy documents and training materials, and observed gender training in practice in East Africa, the Nordic region, West Africa, the Western Balkans, and Western Europe. I examine how gender is conceptualised, taught, and learned in peacekeeper training – what exactly are peacekeepers learning about gender? I argue that this training is a deeply ambivalent practice from the point of view of intersectional feminist political commitments. On the one hand, I demonstrate that training reinscribes the notion that military force is an appropriate solution to gendered insecurities; that gender comes to be understood through the lenses of racialised difference; and that training affirms attachments to normative heterosexuality. On the other hand, my research reveals that training also leads peacekeepers to question the appropriateness of using force, and reveals to them how existing inequalities are based on gender, race, and sexual orientation. In sum, gender training constitutes both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ feminist politics, amounting to a paradoxical pedagogy. In navigating the fact that gender training both has transformative potential and is likely to consolidate existing inequalities, I argue that there is political worth in developing feminist pedagogical approaches to training, and in continuing to contest what work the term gender can and cannot be made to do.
Recent grants and awards
- 2022 OSUN Transnational Feminism, Solidarity and Social Justice Network Research Grant
- 2020 ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship
- 2020. Michael Nicholson Thesis Prize, British International Studies Association
- 2019 Highly Commended Graduate Student Paper, Feminist Theory and Gender Studies, International Studies Association
- 2019 Highly commended for LSE Class Teacher Award
- 2018 LSE Class Teacher Award
- 2015-2019 LSE PhD Studentship