A Brave New World? The Victory of the True Finns: A Return to Patriarchal Arch-Conservative Parochialism?
After the preliminary results of the 17 April 2011 Finnish parliamentary elections were announced (the final results may be announced on the 20 April 2011, after the recount of the votes), it became obvious that the agrarian Kesk was heading towards a painful loss, pooling only 15.8% of the votes and thus sending only 35 representatives to the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen. This determined former PM Mari Kiviniemi to comment that the Kesk needs to prepare for a mandate in the opposition. A similar argument was put forward by the Vihr’s chairwomen Anni Sinnemäki, because of the party’s performance (it lost 5 MPs).
Jyrki Katainen, the Kok leader and most probably the future Finnish PM, was threading very carefully last evening when it became clear that his party was heading to a historical victory. He acknowledged that the situation was a very difficult one, and that negotiations will be very though. Concomitantly he maintained that Finland will continue its pro-European course (on BBC News, here). The other winning party of last night’s elections, the SDP voiced though its chairwoman Jutta Urpilainen their interest in being involved with the governing act. Urpilainen added that since the PS has been scoring so high in the voters’ preferences, the party should be invited to the government-coalition talks. Interestingly, Timo Soini of the PS, took a rather strong stance, arguing he would not negotiate on the other parties’ terms but on his own, adding that one option would be that the PS to recruit its ministers from outside the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen (in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här).
Together the three parties (Kok, SDP, PS) will have some 125 MPs, a relatively secure majority. Nonetheless, if to strive to have past the 130MPs and thus avoid unexpected opposition from their own rank and file, the new government would need to be enlarged to incorporate another, small party. Which one will this be? There are two separate options that indicate, even if only tentatively, the road Finland would engage on.
One option would be to co-opt the KD, which nowadays lies very close to the PS in terms of social values (a staunch patriarchal conservatism has been defining the new KD, since Päivi Räsänen assumed leadership of the party). However, this would sum up to only 131 MPs, and this raises the question if the Kok will agree with such an arch-conservative swing?
A second option – which was already formally dismissed by Timo Soini today (in Finnish, tässä) – would be to co-opt the SFP/ RKP in the new government. The party has succeeded so far to represent in the government the interests of the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland since 1979. The coalition (Kok, SDP, PS, SFP/ RKP) would have 134 MPs, a safe majority.Having in mind that the Kok and SFP/ RKP are both pro-European and have a relatively liberal agenda will the Kok, in this context force the presence of the SFP/ RKP in the new government, and thus ensure a balance to the PS? So far the SDP has been in favour of the PS in government, but also defended the rights of the Swedish-speaking minority. How would this materialize in the governmental negotiations? Will the SDP and Kok defend the country’s bilingualism and resist the PS’ demands to do away with SFP/ RKP as a coalition partner and in time eventually turn Finland into a monolingual polity?
Women in the Finnish Parliament: At least there are some?
The 2011-2015 mandates for the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen appear to be divided between men (57%) and women (43%) so that it slightly favours men (updated continuously, numbers may change; link in Finnish, tässä). Nonetheless, at a closer look there are big discrepancies between the parties. According the preliminary results posted on 18 April 2011, the PS has 11 women MPs out of a total of 39 (only 28.2%). This is a rather low percentage – compare it to the 5 women MPs out of the total of 9 that the SFP/ RKP has; the 6 women out of 14 MPs that the Vas, or the 5 women MPs out of the 10 MPs that the Vihr got into the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen – and reflects the PS’ overall view on the role of women in the Finnish society. This may be interpreted as a threatening sign for the ‘state-feminism’, which characterized Finland and its welfare system for the past decades. Furthermore, the PS is deeply conservative when it comes to such issues (anti-abortion stance, vociferously against gay marriages and gay adoptions), and the question that comes up is how will women’s issues and the topic of gender equality and anti-discrimination issues in general be handled by the coming cabinet?
Espousing Anti-Immigration Opinions from a Ministerial Post?
There is a lot of speculation about the coming government, and there are a lot of people wondering who is going to land in which ministerial post? If the PS is decided to negotiate from a firm position as Timo Soini has said, is there to be expected that a PS party member will land the position of Minister of Migration and European Affairs? Will Jussi Halla-aho‘s expressed will (in Swedish, här) to be named into the function be taken into consideration? Furthermore, one needs to bear in mind that Halla-aho was the PS vote magnet in the capital Helsinki/ Helsingfors and cumulated 14,884 individual votes (only Paavo Arhinmäki from Vas received more: 17,099 in this electoral district). Halla-aho distinguished himself through the very acid statements against Islam, and against immigration (especially against the Somali refugees) in general. He has been tried in 2009 on charges of incitement against an ethnic group and breach of the sanctity of religion. He was eventually convicted for disturbing religious worship, and ordered to pay a fine (in Swedish, här); his firs appeal was rejected (in Swedish, här); the appeal to the Supreme Court resulted in a discharge of the accusation of incitement to ethnic hatred (in Finnish, tässä). In this context, what would the choice of Halla-aho as a minister in the future cabinet, and even more so, as a minister of integration, signal to the rest of the world?
Finnish parties in the Eduskunta/ Riksdagen listed alphabetically and their respective number of seats:
KD (Kristillisdemokraatit/Kristdemokraterna/ The Christian Democrats) 6 MPs
Kesk (Keskusta/ Centerpartiet/ The Center Party) 35 MPs
Kok (Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Samlingspartiet/ The National Coalition Party)44 MPs
PS (Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna/ The True Finns) 39 MPs
SDP (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue/ Finlands Socialdemokratiska Parti/ The Social Democrats)42 MPs
SFP/RKP (Svenska folkpartiet/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue /The Swedish People’s Party) 9+1 MPs
Vas (Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet/ The Left Alliance) 14 MPs
Vihr (Vihreä liitto/ Gröna förbundet/ The Greens) 10 MPs
CfP: 10th Conference of European Sociology Association – Stream Gender and Politics (07-10.09.2011 Geneva, Switzerland); DL: 25.02.2011
Joint Session RN32 Political Sociology/ RN 33 Women’s and Gender Studies
Gendered Exclusion in Uncertain Times – (Post)Multiculturalism, Denizenship and Radicalism in Europe
The first decade of the third millennium appears to epitomize a turbulent times: the September 11th suicide attacks, the global economic meltdown, the rise of radical right populist parties across Europe, and the ever louder critical voices against multiculturalism. These are just some examples among many other political developments that shape the debate around discursive exclusionary projects and the calls for forging a common national/ European project around issues of shared identity and cultural homogeneity in turbulent times.
Paramount to all these concepts are the preoccupation with maintaining an illusory unity and the ever growing demographic panic, coupled with the fear of cultural dilution, which are used to justify an ever closer policing of hierarchies, borders and bodies. These fleshes out problems raised by a type of “second class of citizenship” projected onto immediate “Others”, based on differences of gender and sexual orientation, of class, religion, ethnicity and “race”. Distinctions and borders are construed around these dimensions, and keeping the so constructed categories apart is a constant discursive disciplinary preoccupation. Gendered hierarchies are elaborated to enforce heteronormative patriarchies as sole domains of intelligibility. In this context, fears of masculine feebleness or sexual deviancy, thus failure to accomplish the task of national reproduction, are seconded by that of national dilution – of allowing native women to interact with male immigrant “Others”. Concomitantly, the feminine “Others” are projected in terms of oppressed subjects that need the European civilizatory help in order to break free from aged patriarchal oppression.
With this in mind, authors are encouraged to submit abstracts for papers/ presentations investigating the apparently dichotomous distinction that separates the gendered categories of “Us” as opposed to “Others” in present Europe.
Chair: Ov Cristian Norocel (University of Helsinki/ Stockholm University)
For more information on the respective RN 32 Political Sociology and RN 33 Women’s and Gender Studies check also the conference website bellow.
Abstracts should be submitted to http://www.esa10thconference.com/ . Important note: In order to submit your abstract, you need to register as a participant. When submitting you abstract, you need to choose RN 32 from the drop down menu referring to Topic, then the Gender and Politics Stream.
KEY DATES FOR ABSTRACT SUBMISSION
10th January 2011 Opening of Abstract Submission
25th February 2011 Closing of Abstract Submission
6th April 2011 Decisions on acceptance of abstracts by RN coordinators and RS conveners relayed to paper-givers and also relayed to the Conference Organizer in Geneva
20th April 2011 Programme of papers for each sessions sent by RN coordinators and RS conveners to the Local Committee.
Lately, I have been working on a paper titled ‘Conceptual Metaphors at Work in Radical Right Populist Discourses: Romania Is a Family and It Needs a Strict Father.’ My intent was to flesh out how certain metaphors were consistently employed by the two presidential hopefuls from the Romanian radical right populist parties in their 2004 televised final confrontation. The two were Vadim Tudor of the Greater Romania Party (PRM/Partidul Romania Mare) and George Becali of the New Generation Party (PNG-CD/Partidul Noua Generatie). The conceptual metaphor of the STRICT FATHER (i.e. the power to take care of the family members in need; the Messianic ability to read and interpret holly texts; the capacity of deciding who belongs to the family and who is excluded; the commitment to enforcing the set rules; and the ability to punish wrong doers, and bring justice to the defenseless) made direct reference to that of the NATION IS A FAMILY conceptual metaphor. The way these metaphors were used underlined a deeply heteropatriarchal structuring at work in the radical right populism in Romania. The discourses were obsessively structured around male figures, and their possible male contenders; women were almost invisible, and when their existence was acknowledged, they were presented merely as some subordinated beings. From this point of view, I think that a closer look from a feminist perspective at how such metaphors structure the reality these parties put forward and want to make people take as given is a worth doing enterprise.
I will present it within the workshop titled ‘From postcommunism and transitology to non-teleological change. Present and future research on Eastern and Central Europe.’ organized by Associate Professor Ann-Cathrine Jungar, research leader at CBEES, Södertörn University College, Stockholm.
The workshop is arranged by the CBEES (Center for Baltic and East European Studies) theme ‘Society and the Political’, and it aims at ‘at bringing together junior and senior scholars in the social sciences and humanities (political science, sociology, economics, ethnology and history) doing research on the political, economic and social developments in Eastern and Central Europe. The workshop is divided into thematic slots, which are introduced by senior scholars with experience in the specific research area and in which the participants are invited to present their ongoing research. A special session is devoted to issues of fieldwork in the area.’ (quoted from a more extensive workshop description; for more details, please read here).
I am very curious about the feedback I will get from the other researchers on Eastern Europe, especially since mine is very specific a reserch topic and it is undertaken from a consciously chosen gender sensitive perspective. In general populists managed to present masculinity as the norm, and I wonder if this would be accepted as such or discussed critically. I think it will be a very interesting workshop.
Call for Conference Panelists: ESHHC 2010 Panel
My colleague from Stockholm University, Helena Tinnerholm Ljungberg, and I are setting up a panel within The Sexuality Network of the European Social Science History titled (Re)-Producing the Nation, Histories of (Re)-Defining the Family? (Re)-Conceptualizations of Society’s Nuclear Structuring in a Global Age (a short description of the panel bellow). The panel will be part of the bigger European Social Science History Conference 2010 to take place in Ghent (13-16 April 2010).
Interested authors should submit their abstract (max. 300 words) accompanied by 5 keywords to both panel organizers by 17 22 April 2009:
O Cristian Norocel
Helena Tinnerholm Ljungberg
helena.tinnerholm-ljungberg(@)statsvet.su.se (remove parantheses).
(Re)-Producing the Nation, Histories of (Re)-Defining the Family? (Re)-Conceptualizations of Society’s Nuclear Structuring in a Global Age.
In an evermore interconnected world, marked by a full spectrum of interactions between traditions, languages, and ethnic identities, the family understood as the heteropatriarchal unit for societal structuring faces new challenges. In a world where individuality and flexibility are the norm, we witness the twin processes of widening up the traditional definition of the family, concomitantly with the inward-looking, conservative attempt to contain and restrict the allowed definitions of the concept.
Thus, queer and feminist activism and scholarship offer new perspectives and interpretations of the family concept, and call for inclusion of new family constellations in the mainstream debate. In the recent history, the right for same sex marriages, the right for assisted insemination for same sex couples, and the right for adoption by same sex families are just a few examples of painstakingly won rights in countries in the Western hemisphere.
These coexist, however, with appeals for moral reform and an increasing legal regulation of sexualities across the globe. Recently enforced constitutional amendments in various countries stipulate the family as exclusively heterosexual, and political actors across the political spectre (re)-invent traditionalist interpretations of the family concept. Conservative entities call for a defence of the traditional family and claim virtuous histories, refuting any non-heteronormative definitions of the family. Concomitantly, even more permissive legal regulation of sexualities restricts the (re)definitions of family to a monogamous relationship between two parts. From a historical perspective, the task of (re)producing the nation has relied strongly on a certain view on the family, but its actual (re)definition requires a (re)conceptualization of the two.
With this in mind, we welcome papers inquiring into the apparently monolithic definition of the family as the constitutive unit of society throughout history. We are particularly interested in exploring historically the (re)definitions of the family concept, in the questioning of the regulatory sexualities (be them hetero- or homosexual) and their impact on how society is perceived to be structured around the model of nuclear family. We encourage historically aware analyses of how gender, ethnicity, and obsessions of national preservation and reproduction are intersecting to create (new) mythologies of the family.
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?
Conceptual metaphors seem to take up most of my time lately. I am not really sure I am moving in the right direction but this is definitely something that I want to explore. And when done with that all I still need to do is to connect it to the visual part and that’s it, I got a methodology. Only if it were so simple!
“Porous Sovereignty, Walled Democracy” was the title of a very interesting lecture delivered by Wendy Brown, at Stockholm University (Sweden) . The main argument was, in my understanding, that the less sovereign the states become nowadays, the more prone to walling themselves they seem. Besides the rather peculiar choice among all means of demarcation, she noted that the wall worked not as much as an effective deterrent, as more of a symbolic divide.
Wendy Brown’s slides of walls and wires, and her talk about demonstrative walling and sheer materiality of the concrete they are made of reminded me of something slightly more familiar, something that was bound to be discussed a lot in those countries that came in contact with the Ottoman Empire.
The image, or metaphor if one wishes to call it so, that came into my mind was that of such a walled democracy as an Ottoman harem. The word harem entered English language through Turkish that borrowed it in turn from Arabic. The original Arab word حريم ḥarīm meant forbidden. Forbidden it was indeed the part of the household destined for the safekeeping, or rather safe imprisoning, of the women for their so-proclaimed master. But the Ottoman harem was not only a golden cage for the women, but rather a universe in itself, including the women’s progenies, servants and slaves, and eunuchs; a universe however separated from the outside world by a wall. This (de-)limited universe had its own rules, its own system of discipline and containment, and even educated the future in enforcing and reenacting it, and thus perpetuating the harem as an individualized universe.
The act of ownership of the sovereign was inscribed through the existence of the aforesaid walls, and the numerous servants, slaves, and eunuchs were serving as guardians of the master’s exclusive proprietorship over the women captive behind those very walls. But at the same time, the harem was one piece of a bigger societal ensamble, and the walls helped to compartmentalize this society in apparently autonomous islands that institutionalized patriarchal domination.
In my reading, these neo-autarkist manifestations of walling the demos, which were discussed by Wendy Brown, appear to be deeply gendered, and in fact try to render the citizenry to a very patriarchal sub-positioning. At the same time, the border patrols of the self-organized vigilantes and the various defensive groups are but eunuchs that attempt to appropriate some phallic attributes that are not there, thus the insecurity and violence accompanying it. Yet, this contained universe they try to wall off is dependent on outer processes and forces and the aforesaid walling is an expression of vulnerability and violence.
The question is, in my view, where is the Sovereign, the Patriarch that demands such actions or non-actions from its subjects? Now, when the King is no more, who or what has taken the empty place?
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