Archive for June, 2008

Who is Afraid of Gender? – Reflections after the 12th ICYS in Prague

I know it sounds a bit cliché but really, who is afraid of gender theorizations and gender in general? Why do I ask myself this? As a result of the 2008 ICYS in Prague (in plain English the 12th International Conference of Young Scholars plus the location tag “in Prague” that seems to make a sea of a difference, since there are so many international conferences of young scholars almost everywhere; Google, if in disbelief).

But let’s not get off the track. The narrative should focus on my personal pursuance of a gender sensitive research agenda. As such, I planned on having a presentation, with the desire to stimulate criticism and feedback, on the lack of any gender perspective in the theorization of extreme-right populism. Well, things turned to be slightly different, landing in the last panel as the last presenter, after a day-long marathon of discussions, presentations and so forth. Thus, after noticing that my PPS does not really want to open, I improvised a presentation without any visual aide in front of a rather slim, women-only audience. The discussion that followed was in part enticed by the different background of those present (from economics, international relations, political science, and anything in between).

I departed in my presentation from the Foucauldian conception that power relations shape knowledge, which in turn gives a certain meaning of the aforementioned power relations. This way, I argued, theories of extreme-right populism managed not only to keep silent about the gender structuring among these parties, but also to elude the gender problematique from the theoretical body in the field, writing off the existent patriarchal inequality. The idea of bringing gender in theories, in general, and in this field of the political science, in particular, seemed to be rather “unusual” as someone coined it. However, the Foucauldian ideas gave rise to comments concerning globalization, nationalism, and … economic recession. My reply was that globalization, or for that matter the much discussed global economic recession, is not really something that falls upon us, but that we are partaking in the creation of this particular understanding of reality. That somehow we needed to name, theorize, and discipline the reality of the end of the twentieth century, and the way we did it impacted on the way we are distributed into this global web and reassures us that we are under its effect.

From the above, one may easily notice that again, the idea of gender was somehow slipped into the footnotes of the discussion. It seemed as if it is still somewhat of a heresy to talk about the patriarchal nature of the market economy, and other such topics in front of some of the young scholars in Europe. Moreover, at times I had the feeling that even though talking gender, I did it from the position of a man scholar, and did not allow room for discussions other than in the direction that I thought was more fruitful. I think I need to work more on this aspect, and be more aware not only on my topic but also on my relation with the audience and the text I am presenting. The question remains still: who is afraid of gender? I think that one way to find out would be to attend the ICYS in Prague next year chairing a panel on gender and national constructions, nationalism and the kind. Does this sound too self-praising and ambitious?

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Friday, June 6th, 2008 Research No Comments