The challenges facing the European Union today are multiple, with the Covid-19 pandemic both heightening existing forms of inequality and exclusion, as well as serving to radicalize political debates. This virtual seminar series will discuss how these contemporary challenges can be more fully understood by engaging with feminist and intersectional scholarship, drawing attention to the key role of gender and sexuality in shaping political debates and new and old forms of discrimination.
Collaboration between ACES Themes ‘Europe in the World’ and ‘Diverse Europe’
Series coordinator: Hanna L. Muehlenhoff
Gender has become a key battle ground for populist forces across Europe, most visibly in countries such as Hungary and Poland that have wielded the rubric of ‘anti-genderism’ to mobilize against the European Union. Questions of gender and sexuality also increasingly mark the shaping of migration policy and attitudes towards migrants, represented by populist forces across the EU as a ‘demographic threat’. At the same time, the pandemic has further exacerbated underlying gendered inequalities of European societies, and, as such, has made them highly visible.
The European Commission’s recent emphasis on gender and intersectionality in both internal and external policy could be read as a response to those developments. Nevertheless, such a positioning might simply serve to polarise the debate further, presenting the EU as a civilized and ‘civilising’ force to a variety of ‘underdeveloped’ Others (both beyond and within the Union’s borders), while not living up to its own values internally. Moreover, LGBT norms can also be hijacked by populists as identity markers of ‘European belonging’, serving not to include but rather exclude ‘intolerant’ Others.
This series brings together practitioners and scholars from different disciplines engaging both in conceptual and theoretical debates around feminist and intersectional theory, as well as discussing concrete policy debates linked to the role of gender, sexuality and intersectionality. The events will focus on topics including: projections of (racialized) femininities and masculinities in European identity, discourses and practices; gender and populism in Europe; gender and race in migration policy; gender equality in the EU, and the theory and practice of feminist foreign policy in the European context.
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The European Union has faced several crises in the past decades, including the latest COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, the EU has promised to mainstream gender in all external policies, and understands itself to be a normative power or even feminist foreign policy actor in international relations. Do the multiple crises the EU faces offer a window opportunity to step up commitments to gender equality, or do they let gender equality considerations slip off the policy agenda? How are the EU’s identifications of crisis and policy responses to crisis in different external policy fields gendered? The special issue the event introduces sheds light on these questions. It also invites further reflections on ‘crises’, internal or external, as crucial moments to scrutinise how gender equality figures in the EU’s identity formation.
This virtual event will introduce the Special Issue more generally and two key contributions more specifically. Gülay Çağlar (together with Friederike Beier) investigates how the EU’s key gender policy documents in external relations depoliticise gender equality through rendering it technocratic and quantitative through its operationalisation. Anna van der Vleuten (together with Anouka van Eerdewijk) challenges the notion that the EU is a credible promotor of gender equality in its relations with the African Union as the latter promotes more comprehensive gender equality norms. The debate will provide space to engage with the contributions of the Special Issue and to develop future research avenues to push scholarly debates on the topic of the EU’s external gender equality policies further.
Toni Haastrup will act as a discussant. She is Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Stirling. She is interested in the Global Governance of Security primarily through the workings of regional security institutions such as African and European Union. She has published on the relationship between the two institutions, including her monograph ‘Charting Transformation through Security: Contemporary-EU Africa Relations’ (Palgrave, 2013), and in several international journals including Journal of European Integration, JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, South African Journal of International Affairs among many others.
Gülay Çağlar is Professor for Gender and Diversity at the Otto-Suhr-Institute of Political Science at Freie Universität Berlin. Çağlar is Principal Investigator (PI) in the Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script (SCRIPTS)”, where she is member of the Research Unit “Borders”. Her research interests include transnational feminisms and international governance, non-western epistemologies, Feminist Political Economy and Critical Food Studies.
Anna van der Vleuten is Professor of Contesting Europeanisation at the Institute for Management Research, Radboud University, Nijmegen. Her research interests include the intersection of comparative regionalism, EU and gender studies. Her current projects focus on gender in EU external relations with African and Latin American regional organizations, and contestations of transgender rights and categories of sex.
This, organised in collaboration with the Central European University, is the third event of the Gender and Sexuality in European (Geo)Politics. In this webinar we discuss why and how the Istanbul Convention became such a central site of contestation over gender equality, who are the actors that oppose the convention and what strategies and arguments do they use? Webinar conveners are Conny Roggeband (UvA) and Andrea Krizsan (Central European University).
Opened for signature in May 2011, the Convention is to date the most comprehensive international policy instrument addressing violence against women. However, its signature and ratification became a major site of contention about gender equality in many countries of Europe. Over the past five years opposition to the Convention skyrocketed particularly in Central and Eastern Europe and in several countries attempts to block ratification have been successful (Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia). Also, countries that previously ratified the Convention like Turkey or Poland have announced plans for withdrawal.
The struggles around the Istanbul Convention are remarkable and puzzling as the opposition to the Convention hardly concerns policies combatting violence against women and domestic violence, the core issue of the IC. Instead, opponents focused on the gender transformative components of the Convention, representing the convention as a Trojan horse aimed at spreading “gender ideology”.
In this webinar we discuss why and how the Istanbul Convention became such a central site of contestation over gender equality, who are the actors that oppose the convention and what strategies and arguments do they use? And, most importantly, what are the implications of the fierce opposition, both for the struggle against gender-based violence and the women’s rights organizations working on these issues, and for policies addressing violence against women and domestic violence? The first part of the seminar (15.30-16.30) will bring together two renowned international experts to discuss these questions. Dubravka Simonovic is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences and member of the UNHCR Advisory Group on Gender, Forced Displacement and Protection. Feride Acar is Former President of the Group of Experts of Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) of the Council of Europe, former chair of the UN CEDAW Committee and faculty member at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration of Middle East Technical University (METU).
The second part of the seminar will focus on national processes of contestation in four countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Poland. Andrea Krizsan (Central European University) and Conny Roggeband (UvA) will discuss some of the central findings of their forthcoming book “Keeping out the Trojan Horse: Re-politicizing gender in the context of the Istanbul Convention” (Palgrave). A particular focus will be on understanding these contestations in the context of democratic backsliding. The event will be moderated by prof.dr. Mieke Verloo, Professor of Comparative Politics and Inequality Issues at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and Non-Residential Permanent Fellow at the IWM, Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.
Using Turkey as a case study, the authors draw on the key arguments of feminist philosophy on representation, difference and gender equality debates to offer a unique critique and conceptualization of the Europeanisation of gender policies in different areas such from education to asylum policies and seek response to the question of ‘Can the EU be a feminist actor?’ Thus, this book – and this event – discusses why Turkey and the EU need a feminist approach that draws on moral and feminist philosophy to design gender-equality policies that could lead to gender-just outcomes and challenges the rhetoric policies of the EU and Turkey that see women as pawns for their instrumental agendas driven by economic and security concerns.
About the Speakers:
Rahime Süleymanoğlu-Kürüm is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Bahçeşehir University, Turkey. She is also an associate member of the Nottingham Interdisciplinary Centre for Economic and Political Research (NICEP). Her research focusses on Europeanisation, EU foreign policy, Turkish foreign policy, gendering EU studies, and gender and diplomacy. She is the author of Conditionality, the EU and Turkey: From Transformation to Retrenchment (2019).
F. Melis Cin is a Lecturer in Education and Social Justice at Lancaster University, UK. She is a feminist researcher with a particular interest in exploring the relationship between education, peace and international development. She is the author of Gender Justice, Education and Equality: Creating Capabilities for Girls’ and Women’s Development (2017, Palgrave); the co-editor of Youth, Gender and the Capabilities Approach to Development (with A. Lopez-Fogues, 2018, Routledge) and Post-Conflict Participatory art: Socially Engaged Development (with F. Mkwanazi, 2021 Routledge).