Activism at a Time of Backslide: Feminist and LGBTQ Responses to Opposition to Gender and Sexual Equality

October 19, 2017

A workshop will be organized by the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology & Center for Policy Studies, Central European University on activism around gender issues in times of crisis between May 10-11, 2018.

Gender and sexual equality norms are currently under attack across Europe and beyond. This new phenomenon demands targeted empirical and theoretical attention. Increasing attention is devoted to conceptualizing opposition to gender equality (Verloo 2018, Patternote and Kuhar 2017), to gendered aspects of radical right populist political agendas (Siim and Meret 2017, Krizsan and Siim 2018, Lombardo and Kantola 2017), as well as to backsliding in the context of the economic crisis (Jacquot 2015, Kantola and Lombardo 2016). While this scholarship devotes some attention to activism and mobilization in the context of backsliding, more systematic and conceptually solid attention is needed to understand how backsliding is affecting social movements and feminist and LGBTQ activism.

New movements have emerged that oppose gender equality, such as men's or father's rights movements, groups connected to radical right populist agendas, or to conservative religious groups. On the other side, feminist and LGBTQ movements' responses and resilience to this wave of opposition to gender and sexual equality also deserve more systematic attention. Many women's and LGBTQ rights movements which once operated in environments favourable to institutionalization and cooperation with governments now find themselves marginalized, excluded, de-funded and persecuted by states, and demonized by hostile publics and conservative civil society actors. Their responses vary, from turning to disruptive and grassroots-based strategies, to coalition-building with pro-democracy groups, or turning to the university as a site of resistance, while in other cases, some face abeyance, and even collapse. Such new patterns of mobilization, resilience, or disintegration, deserve more devoted attention. Another topic of inquiry are the dynamics of interaction between conservative mobilizations and feminist and/or LGBTQ activism: to how, when and where they reinforce each other, where and why one or the other prevails and dominates in the political arena?

We invite submissions which focus on any scale, such as communities, national contexts, transnational, global, or comparative studies. The workshop's aim is to identify overall trends in, and distinctions between, mobilizations against gender/sexual equality, and its tangible effects on feminist and LGBTQ politics. We hope that it will result in a special journal issue. The workshop will focus on these issues by trying to generate and bring together research that is devoted to analyzing, through detailed empirical analysis:

  • recent patterns of mobilization that oppose gender/sexual equality,
  • new forms of feminist and LGBTQ mobilization and resilience, and/or movement remission,
  • the dynamic patterns of interaction between oppositional movements and feminist/LGBTQ responses to them.

We solicit submissions which include a proposed paper title, an abstract of maximum 300 words, and a short bio. Please email submissions to:
Submission deadline: December 20, 2017

The workshop will take place at the CEU campus in Budapest, and its organizers are Dorit Geva (Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU) and Andrea Krizsan (Centre for Policy Studies, CEU). The organizers can contribute to some travel and lodging costs, but cannot cover all costs for all participants. Workshop selection will be communicated mid-January 2018.