Gender as Hegemonic Power in the Third Reich

by Sydney Linholm

Kuhne’s article approaches the topic of masculinity amongst soldiers in the Third Reich and investigates the challenges that different men faced that resulted from the ambiguity surrounding the ideals of manliness and the subsequent clinging to a definition of manliness as being aggressive, strong, and able to exercise control over himself and others. The article also talks about Walter Hauck (“Bloody Walter”) and how he was the embodiment of the ideal man in the Third Reich because of his ability to, as the author puts it, adopt feminine roles without undermining his manliness.

The idea that each ideal of masculinity across varying cultures and religions are in a constant struggle for broader social approval and power is an interesting one. What I found especially interesting was the article’s contextualization of this phenomenon as being a struggle for hegemony. This is interesting because my understandings of hegemony have always been related to the overwhelming soft and material power of a state, however when discussing the idea of ideological power under the Nazi regime it does make sense given the rigid enforcement of gender norms that was seen during this time.

Gender norms are extremely prevalent in our society, and have been in many other societies including during that of the Third Reich. They fall under the definition of soft power because of their ideological connotations, and because they hold so much influence over society in that if they’re not adhered to, that automatically makes you less worthy. The hegemonic power that gender norms held in the Third Reich were the same: men had to be aggressive and brave and strong, and could not do things such as pushing a baby stroller without being categorized as weak or feminine (back them, a synonym to weak). Women were seen frail, modest, and quiet and their primary task was to care for their children and home. These gender norms possess such hegemony because of the ideological (soft) power that they exercised under the Nazi regime, and part of the power that the Nazi regime held was enforcing these norms onto its soldiers.

Homosexuality in Authoritarian States

  By: Willem Nesbitt

The contrasts, comparisons, and evaluations of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia are seemingly endless, though of course done for obvious reasons. While most of these comparisons occur in the realms of warfare and political policy, the readings by Thomas Kühne and Dan Healey offer a unique, overlooked axis of analysis – that of homosexuality and the concept of “manliness” within these authoritative states.

            Both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, unsurprisingly, outlawed homosexual practices, Heinrich Himmler’s “homophobic family policy,” which stemmed from his “obsessive fear of homosexuality,” (Kühne, p. 393) not too dissimilar from the Soviet politburo’s “enthusiastic” embrace of criminalizing male homosexuality in the 1930s (Healey, p. 32). The banning of sexual practices and sexualities opposed to the traditional heterosexual status-quo is simply par for the course for authoritative governments, but the readings also reveal that there was also a certain amount of ambivalence, or at least opaqueness, within both Germany and Russia at the time. The banning of homosexuality in Russia turned a blind eye to lesbianism, instead centering the crime around the act of “sodomy” (Healey p. 32), and likewise, Thomas Kühne’s writing reveals that the practices and guidelines of the SS advocated for husbands and fathers to take on roles that were more traditionally “feminine”, such as child rearing and close friendship with other males. While Healey focuses in-depth on the concepts of homosexuality and queerness within Russia’s gulag system, Kühne centers his paper more-so around the role of the male within German society and the Nazi regime, leaving me to wonder more on the views of homosexuality in Germany. Of course the Holocaust saw the inclusion of homosexuals within its terrible events, but the case of Hitler (at least temporarily) turning a blind eye to Ernst Röhm’s homosexuality leaves me curious.

The Collective Identity as the “New Man”: Soldier Masculinity as a Factor of Fascist Unity

By: Bryce Greer

Valentin Sandulescu’s “Fascism and its Quest for the “New Man”: The Case of the Romanian Legionary Movement” delves deep into the history of the Romanian Legionary Movement as its leader, Codreanu, sought for a redefinition of Romania and the “New Man”. Sandulescu does well to highlight the history, detailing the cultural aspect of appealing to the youthful revolutionaries as a way of creating a united front under this idea of a reformed heroic “man” as a follower. Ultimately, in the end, Sandulescu only briefly talks about the educating of the youth into this idea of “new men” and it is here that the “New Man” theory becomes an idealized collective community. Following the author’s footsteps in using ideal-type concepts like general fascism as an analytical tool, I found myself reflecting the deep workings of the Third Reich’s protean masculinity of comradeship to highlight the true search for the “New Man.” In the ultimate end, it is a wish for a united front, “to tame the revolt” as Sandulescu calls the actions of the Romanian Legionary Movement, that becomes deeply rooted into the hegemonic masculine ideals of fascism.

Following Thomas Kuhne’s examination of soldier masculinity in “Protean Masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich,” the idea of the “New Man” becomes an idea of comradery. “Hard” masculinity was hegemonic, as in one had to be stoic, brave, and other heroic traits that define the Romanian Legionary’s “new man.” Just as important, however, was the soft masculinity when it came to male-bonding at a time of difficult happenstances. For the Third Reich, soft masculinity through a sense of brotherhood was normalized, and for the Romanian Legion, it was giving a sense of belonging to the youth that felt they did not fit in to society. To conclude then, the “new man” was the “new men,” wherein the fascist “new man” was anti-individual that routed together the like mindedness of those that wished to fit into the definition of masculinity. The desire for a hegemonic masculinity saw instances of almost feminine familial traits be enacted to define the man as a group, and most often it was seen in the young militants of fascism. For one, it began through unity of men beyond societal settings. Militaristic masculinity was the New Man.

Works Cited:

Thomas Kühne, “Protean Masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third
Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

Valentin Sandulescu, “Fascism and Its Quest for the ‘New Man’: The Case of the
Romanian Legionary Movement.” Studia Hebraica 4 (2004): 349-61.

Metaphorical Soldiers

Sandulescu’s article about the Romanian Legionary Movement raises the question of fascism as a cultural revolution. Besides its political ideas, fascism seems to have aesthetic matters intertwined with it, whether it appears in photography, or in the physical features that should represent an ethnic nation, as we saw last week. In fact, fascism appears to be more than a political label, but an ideal to strive towards, a revolution to be a part of, and more concretely, a reaction to a country’s economic problems, a series of everyday gestures that are inscribed into a political current seemingly on the same level than an architectural or literature style, that blends decisions for the well-being of citizens and metaphorical higher purpose calling.

Romanian fascism, best represented by the Legionary Movement, draws on Italian fascism and German Nazism. Sandulescu identify similarities between them such as the presence of a charismatic leader that can lead and inspire people, and give them a sense of duty that is interpreted as almost divine. In Romania’s case, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the Movement’s leader, resemble Hitler in the anecdotal fact that he wrote a Romanian version of Mein Kampf, Pentru legionari (For my Legionaries), or that he also had a strong anti-Semitist opinion, blaming the Jews for the poor economic state of Romania.

But more broadly, he too was able to (or at least worked in order to) instill into is followers a feeling of belonging, sacrifice and loyalty to the national cause. He wished for a new Romania, a national unity that could be achieved through fascism and the new archetype man that it could create. This new man finds an equal in the man depicted by Kühne in his article about what it meant to be a man in the German Nazi society and army. Sandulescu recounts the vocabulary used in the Legionary Movement in the lexical field of soldier and battles with a divine mission, as the name Iron Guard or Legion of the Archangel (for divisions of the Movement) inspire. Similarly, the ideal man Germans aspired to be had superhuman like qualities.

In the Legionary Movement as well as in the Nazi army, the comradeship was highly regarded, and even fondly remembered by some veterans. The fascist new societies were to be devoid of classes, which was the goal of bringing people together, regardless of their background. It is interesting to note that this goal of unity was fostered in both countries. In Germany it happened by training soldiers to leave no one behind and to help each other… and to participate in war atrocities. In Romania, work camps were used to create solidarity between participants, by mobilizing them into working together towards the new Romania, which, according to an article by author Raul Carstocea, consisted mostly of building infrastructures. It appears that the metaphorical divine mission of German soldiers and Romanian new men was not exactly as glamorous as it was presented to them.

Works cited:

Carstocea, Raul. “Building a Fascist Romania: Voluntary Work Camps as Mobilisation Strategies of the Legionary Movement in Interwar Romania.” Fascism, 6, no. 2 (December 2017): 163-195.

Kühne, Thomas. “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich” Central European HistoryVol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

Sandulescu, Valentin. “Fascism and Its Quest for the ‘New Man’: The Case of the Romanian Legionary Movement.” Studia Hebraica 4 (2004): 349-61.

Gender ideology and sexuality in a new light

By Conrad Yiridoe

Out of the readings assigned this week, the piece by Paternotte and Kuhar (Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe) stood out to me personally. It provided a quality prospective on a viewpoint, that can easily be extrapolated to other concepts and ideologies. Here, the authors paint an interesting picture which I feel was summarised perfectly right in the abstract when they explain that “we plead for a more complex understanding of the ways in which distinct—and sometimes competing projects can converge in specific settings”. In this piece, the authors not only dissect how the relation between “right wing populism” and “gender ideology” , but also dive into how the concept of the “Global Right Wing” appears to be glossed over as a rather straight forward ideology rather than being unwrapped and fully examined.

Specifically, what I appreciated from the authors was that they were able to dive deeper into the roots of both campaigns and explain their different roots, despite their seemingly similar end goals. In this way, by understanding the nuanced differences present in the unique forms of right-wing populism, one can perhaps be better prepared to cope with it. An excellent example of this comes from the authors’ point on how “right-wing populists do not necessarily oppose gender and sexual equality” and hence “some actors labeled as right-wing populists have increasingly endorsed women’s and LGBT rights”, which hence means that one may not be able to directly state that all right-wing supporters are anti-LGBT, which for me was a new a different way at approaching the subject. As a result, I wonder to what extent this notion of perceiving other broad concepts as straight forward and hence ignoring refusing to dive deeper into investigating potential differences (in some cases rather significant ones) may prevent us from fully appreciating the nuances of a particular group or idea and therefore be able to manage them appropriately.

Moving on, with Healey’s (“Forging Gulag Sexualities: Penal Homosexuality and the Reform of the Gulag after Stalin) piece, it was interesting to read about how the state at the time see homosexuality particularly with women as permissible given the fact that they “tolerated these queer collectivities because they kept order and assured a stable level of productivity”.  In addition, it is noted how “the authorities ignored or even indulged queer relations in many camps”, as it appeared to be useful to some extent to for the state to allow it. Here it is explained that “queer relations did not disrupt the Gulag economic model as drastically as heterosexual relations did”, which is not something that I would have expected in that time.

In conclusion, the readings this week serve to provide multiple examples of how sexuality and gender ideology can be thought of in different ways in order to achieve certain political aims.

A tale of two reasons: Ideology & its Role in Suppression

In this weeks readings, their are many themes bundled together that can provide someone with great insight into the way society treats, accepts and punishes the individual. In David Paternotte’s article, the topic of creating an anti-gendered campaign to combat right wing European populism through “challenging the thinking and stimulate debate around the rise of populism, with its impact on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights issues and how to respond to this changing context” which stems from an alarming rise of control over women’s rights and issues in an increasingly new hostile environment projected by the democratic backsliding in some EU member states. This comes from an overwhelming opposition to gender, sexual, reproductive and LGBT rights in Europe that have converged into a phenomena undertaken by far right parties, religious fundamentalism, nationalism, racism, neo-liberalism or austerity politics. Its easy to feel that the right is on the rise everywhere with the recent political climates being experienced but as this is more and more on the rise, it is important as the author states to look at this empirically and theoretically to understand these complex, contextual issues. The conservative opposition, like most issues, have deep historical roots (with heavy ties to the roman catholic church) and all mobilization efforts to denounce equality share a common denominator: they share a critique of gender, labeled as “gender ideology”, “gender theory” or “(anti)genderism”. They all claim to combat “gender”, which is seen as the root of their worries and the matrix of the reforms they want to oppose.

To continue with the theme, we can also take a took at Dan Healey’s article “Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi” which also explores the root cause to these issues as well as the historical context to them, and the over all objective and goal from those perpetrating the right wing rhetoric. The article provides a framework of better understanding homosexuality in the Soviet Union and Russia by using the Gulag prison systems as a historical lens. Male and female homosexual relations were not only ubiquitous but highly visible (either consensual or coerced), and registered in a rich code of symbols: nicknames, subcultural terms, and visual signs. Yet, queer visibility was considered as a symptoms of defective Stalinism and the renewal and modernization of the means of repression of homosexuality was a necessary feature of de-Stalinization. Yet, despite this fact, it was not initially actively repressed as “Cost controls from the Gulag’s economic model must have been a key driver of the rationale to suppress heterosexual sex” which I found quite interesting and alarming.

Linking the relationship between Paternotte’s article and this one comes from the idea of the discussion of homosexuality as a very taboo issue, especially in Stalinist Russia. The world view that shaped the ‘sexual morality’ as well the passage of time that saw the discussion of it evolve from the death of Stalin to the modernization of the Gulag penal system revolves around heteronorrnative values underpinned the regime’s official rhetoric of “reforging” the Gulag prisoner. The use of ‘heteronormative’ as a tool is a good link between the two as the historical notion of  heterosexuality as the default, preferred, or normal mode of sexual orientation and the assumption of gender binary causes great outrage when these norms are deviated from. Just as the catholic church was a foundation for the far right to uphold these notions as well as the church itself upholding the values that go against pro-choice motives with heavy influence in countries that have experienced these movements, in the Healey article the stand in for this is ‘Stalinist Ideology’ where it was seen as a flaw in the implemented grand plan for the Soviet people.

References

Dan Healey, “Forging Gulag Sexualities: Penal Homosexuality and the Reform of the
Gulag after Stalin” Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (London: Bloomsbury Press,
2017).

Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third
Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.

Scapegoating Works: How Fascism and Communism Used it to Achieve ‘Ideological Utopia’

By Austin Pellizzer

This week’s topic of Consent, Coercion, Acceptance gave us a chance to consider how gender, sexual identity, and other communal traits were used in perpetuating authoritarian and fascist regimes in Europe. Two articles, in particular, stuck out to me when looking at this phenomenon.

In the first example, we have Dan Healey’s article, Forging Gulag Sexualities: Penal Homosexuality and the Reform of the Gulag After Stalin. In this article, we get a historical account of how the establishment of the gulag work camps under Stalin in the 1930s (27) was not just a cruel way for Soviet citizens to be punished for going against party lines (27), but also a tool for the state to police peoples bodies and uphold their ‘socialist ideals’ (32). While it is true that even heterosexual sex was policed and discouraged in such spaces due to incurring “maintenance costs” if women were to become pregnant (30), it is interesting to see how homosexuals were the scapegoat and the threat to the ideal social order of the Communist society (32). However, this persecution did not end with Stalin’s death or when the institutions of gulags become phased out in the 1950s (38). Rather, this institutional homophobia in the Russian prison system was mixed with legal, medical, and experts hands (45) in perpetuating this discrimination throughout the rest of the Soviet regimes and even into the modern Russian prison system. 

The second example in which this week highlights the way fascist and authoritarian regimes used minorities as scapegoats to push their agendas was within the fascist regime of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu’s Legion of Archangel Michael in Romania (352). This was seen in Valentin Sandulesu’s article Fascism and its Quest for the “New Man”: The Case of the Romanian Legendary Movement. Within this model of fascism in the 1930s, Codreanu’s Legendary movement used the Romanian Jewish population to push their agendas (352) and also construct the idea of the “new man” (351). It was the use of persecuting this religious minority with the idea of the Jews not working alongside their fellow Romanian, but rather, they were the agitators and the reasons for Romania’s troubles post World War One (359). The attacks also lead to the boycotts of Jewish products (353) and other discriminatory actions to get revenge on what the Legendaries saw as the problem in the nation, which was “the Jewish problem” (353). 

It is with critically looking at both these cases that we can see how two nations with relatively different political constructs at this time used scapegoating towards their minorities to advocate the betterment of each utopian society.

Works Cited:

Dan Healey, “Forging Gulag Sexualities: Penal Homosexuality and the Reform of the Gulag after Stalin” Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2017).

Valentin Sandulescu, “Fascism and Its Quest for the ‘New Man’: The Case of the Romanian Legionary Movement.” Studia Hebraica 4 (2004): 349-61.

Watchin’ the Tide Roll Away?

By Absalom Sink

It’s becoming a tiresome cliché, isn’t it? Almost as tiresome as the cliché from a few years ago: that of a ‘rising tide of far-right populism’ in Europe. And while that old number is still getting plenty of play, it seems like every month there’s a handful of new articles and op-eds pontificating on whether the ‘populist tide’ has peaked and begun to ebb.

To be fair, I can understand the urge behind writing pieces like those. The ‘populist right’ has been dealt a number of blows this year. There was the “stunning rebuke” against populism in Slovakia with the election of centre-left, liberal Zuzana Caputova. Just over a week ago in Bologna, Italy, a rally held by the populist Matteo Salvini and attended by a little under 6000 supporters was counter-protested by between 12000 and 15000 people. Similarly, far-right rallies held last week by Pegida in Dresden and the ultranationalist NPD in Hannover were dwarfed by counter-protesters. And it’s hard not to see 13500 people marching in Paris against Islamophobia as a raised middle finger aimed at the Rassemblement National (RN), the political embodiment of Islamophobia in France. Finally, let’s not forget the “collapse of the far-right” in the Austrian election this past September, when the FPO lost 10% of the overall vote as compared to the last election because of a corruption scandal.

The problem is when we try to use events like these to extrapolate out over the whole of Europe. In fact, just framing it as the populist right is problematic. Certainly, there are transnational connections between populist movements/parties, but there is no single, monolithic populism. These groups cooperate to the extent that it’s practical. But if, say, Germany’s AfD were to suddenly founder, it’s a fair bet that the Swiss Peoples’ Party and the RN and the Sweden Democrats—far-right populists, all—would let them sink before risking their own positions. By lumping all these groups together when declaring that the ‘populist tide is receding’, we massively oversimply a complex transnational political situation.

Aside from oversimplifying things, there’s also the worry that such statements might make voters complacent; believing the threat to be behind them, voters might have less impetus to vote. The problem is a number of far-right populist parties in Europe still have fairly robust polling numbers. Germany’s AfD has held steady at 13-14% in the national polls for two years, while in Thuringia’s state election last month it came second, with over 23% of the vote. In France, Marine Le Pen’s RN is actually leading the presidential poll, hovering around 28%. Even in Austria, where the ‘Ibiza affair’ saw the FPÖ drop by 10% in the last election, they picked up enough seats that they were able to maintain their coalition government with the winning ÖVP. How can we claim that far-right populism has peaked when a party like the ‘formerly’ fascist Sweden Democrats are poised to become the biggest party in their country, and could conceivably with the 2022 election?

My point in all of this is simply that journalists and political observers alike should be wary of making sweeping declarations on the state of far-right populism. Europe is bigger and more diverse than we sometimes recognize; when we’re talking about an entire continent, it’s worth remembering that high tide happens at different times in Helsinki, Finland and Cadiz, Spain. The same goes for the metaphorical tide. While populism might ebb in one region, it can still be in flood in another.

Europe’s Radical Right: Cultural Descendant of the Nouvelle Droite

By Absalom Sink

Two weeks ago, we read and discussed the rise of the Nouvelle Droite (ND), first in France, and then in a broader, pan-European context. Crucial to the formulation of the ND was its retreat from the political arena into the realm of culture, the realm of “metapolitics”. Seeing in the protests of 1968 the sway that the Left held over cultural institutions—particularly institutions of higher education—far right figures led by Alain de Benoist ostensibly abandoned politics and moved instead to open up cultural space in which later generations of Far Right thinkers and politicians might act; they appropriated from the Left Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, and worked to sow the seeds of a counterhegemonic bloc.

From this week’s readings, I would argue that the experiment is something of a qualified success. Certainly, most of today’s so-called Radical Right1 have not taken up de Benoist’s neopagan ritualism. And the populist, self-described “democratic” nature of Radical Right movements is inherently contrary to the ND’s anti-democratic, elitist formulation. But as the readings make clear, there are crucial threads linking the ND and the Radical Right. Chief among them is ethnopluralism. As Ina Schmidt explains, “Ethnopluralism is an ideology of the far right, which is no longer directed against foreign ethnicities, but rather against cultures—understood as being irrevocably connected with certain values, practices, and habits.” Essentially, it is a form of cultural racism, as opposed to the biological racism of yore, popular with fascists. By shifting the focus of their xenophobia from “race” to “culture”, Radical Right groups avoid the charge of racism and open ideological space between themselves and fascist forebears. It’s the ideological sleight of hand that lets Islamophobes respond to charges of racism with the stock sentence “Islam isn’t a race!” And as we’ll recall from Tamir Bar-On’s article, it is the same semantic shift that de Benoist and his followers made in the 1980s, moving from biological racism to the anti-multicultural “Europe of a Hundred Flags”.

It does not really matter that groups like Pegida or the Front National don’t adhere entirely to the roadmap laid down by the ND. Remember, the goal of the ND was simply to create the cultural space in which Far Right ideals might be taken once more into the political sphere—ideals like the abandonment of liberal democracy, and at least since the 1980s, of ethnopluralism over multiculturalism. By achieving broader cultural acceptance, as evinced by de Benoist’s Prix de l’essai from l’Académie Française and glowing coverage in Telos, the ND was able to open that political space it desired. It now needed political actors to take up the mantle. As both Zack Beauchamp—in his interview with our old friend Cas Mudde—and Pietro Castelli Gattinara show, a series of events in 2015 would provide the spark for an explosion of Radical Right movements to occupy that space, a sort of Far Right Big Bang.

According to Mudde, “the core of the ideology of the radical right includes three features: nativism, authoritarianism, and populism.” Nativism, he says, is essentially a form of xenophobia that dictates that a state should only be inhabited by people who are “native” to it.2 Authoritarianism revolves around the belief that society should be “strictly ordered”, and in which any social issue becomes treated as an issue of security—the example Mudde gives here is the treatment of drug crises as “something to be cracked down on” through law and order, rather than as a public health issue. Finally, populism boils down to another “us versus them” dichotomy, this time between “the elites”—typically mainstream political figures, but with a healthy helping of wealthy proponents of liberalism, like the far right’s bogeyman George Soros—and “the real people”.3 2015 brought a confluence of factors that served to empower nascent Radical Right movements throughout Europe. First, the refugee crisis, stoked nativist fears throughout Europe. Terror attacks, starting with Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015, fueled authoritarian tendencies and calls for increased vigilance, particularly against ‘outsiders.’ Finally, the lingering effects of the 2008 financial crisis and the aftershocks that threatened the structural integrity of the EU undermined the existing economic liberal order and played into populist anti-elitist rhetoric.

Julius Evola knew he would never see a truly resurgent fascism in his lifetime; it is entirely possible that Alain de Benoist never thought he’d see the ideological seeds he sowed bear fruit. But a series of external shocks—a financial crisis originating in the United States, revolutions throughout the Middle East leading to a nearly decade-long civil war in Syria, the rise of ISIL, and the largest refugee crisis since the Bosnian War—provided the cover for a broad range of Radical Right political movements to spring up in the cultural niche carved out by the ND.

1Borrowing here from Cas Mudde’s differentiation between “Extreme Right” and “Radical Right”, in which the former rejects democracy outright in favour of revolution aiming for authoritarianism, while the latter merely rejects aspects of liberal democracy, like pluralism and minority rights, while still claiming to adhere to democratic principles. Castelli Gattinara helps to further clarify, explaining that radical right groups “locate themselves outside the political mainstream but without intending to replace democracy with an authoritarian order.”

2Remember, though, from our very first class, when we grappled with the question of “who is really ‘native’ to a given place?” The Magyar people claim ownership of Hungary, even though they are likely to have arrived significantly later that the ancestors of today’s Slovenes within the borders of Hungary. Likewise, how “native” is a person who calls themselves an “Anglo-Saxon”—itself an incredibly fraught term—to Britain?

3”The real people” has become something of a shibboleth for Far- and Radical Right groups, differentiating them from Left populists; as Jan Werner-Muller explains, the term serves to “other” any who don’t fit with the “majority”, while also delegitimizing any other groups and figures vying for power.

Works Cited:

Beauchamp, Zack. “An expert on the European far right explains the growing influence of anti-immigrant politics”. Vox. May 31, 2016 https://www.vox.com/2016/5/31/11722994/european-far-right-cas-mudde

Bar-On, Tamir. “Transnationalism and the French Nouvelle Droite.” Patterns of Prejudice 45, no. 3 (July 2011): 199–223.

Castelli Gattinara, Pietro. “Framing Exclusion in the Public Sphere: Far-Right Mobilisation and the Debate on Charlie Hebdo in Italy.” South European Society & Politics 22, no. 3 (Sept. 2017): 345–364.

Schmidt, Ina. “PEGIDA: A Hybrid Form of a Populist Right Movement.” German Politics & Society 35, no. 4 (Winter 2017): 105–17.

“The Dangers of Populism” Interview with Jan Werner Mueller, Council of Europe (March 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahtvsNU2bkk

Europe’s Paradoxical Relationship with Tradition

By Absalom Sink

As Gloria Wekkers writes in her book White Innocence, the celebration of Zwarte Piet—Saint Nicholas’ “Moorish helper” usually portrayed by a white person in blackface, and played as a —remains a mainstay of Dutch Christmas celebration, despite increasing controversy over the racistracial’ implications of the character. Supporters of the Zwarte Piet minstrelsy often wrap their defense of the practice in the flag of tradition; white Dutchmen and women perceive themselves at risk of being “deprived” of a tradition that reaches back into their youth and beyond. Wekkers gives the example of a woman who “introduces herself as a sociocultural worker and says that black people do not realize how much pain it causes whites to hear that Black Pete is a racist figuration.” Wekkers’ interlocutor, a stand-in for countless other Dutch, imagines herself and her family the victims of “blacks [who] do not realize how hurtful it is to have to give up a figure that you have grown up with and who has given you so much joy.” Forget the people who actually feel uncomfortable or hurt by the depiction of Piet; forget that, as Stuart Hall says, “stereotyping tends to occur when there are gross inequalities of power.” This is a matter of tradition! Europeans clearly must hold traditions to be sacred, right?

Ah, but then we get to Nilüfer Göle’s article, “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam.” Here we read of European Islamophobia, which pits Europe as a “secular site of modernity” against the foreignness of Islam, which no less a figure than Pope Benedict XVI implied to be incompatible with “reason” and “rational values.” As Göle explains, “many Muslims defend Islam as the religion of their parents; Islam them with a source of resistance to acculturation and an opportunity to bind with their heritage.” The tradition of Islam both provides a link to ancestry and acts as a bulwark against the cultural alienation of trying to acculturate in a society that insists on recognizing immigrants as Other. And from thence springs the fear, the “phobia” in Islamophobia. By presenting an alternative to the European ‘secular’ consensus (which nonetheless frequently makes reference to a Christian cultural basis), Islam brings with it the spectre of counter-hegemony. Recognizing a Europe in which Islam has a place—not just in its present, but throughout its history, first in Spain, then in the Balkans, and now across the continent—means “become aware that the hegemony of European chronotopes (time-space) over the definition of modernity is weakening.” Islam is a threat to that hegemony, just as the controversy around Zwarte Piet is a threat to the white Dutch hegemonic culture within the Netherlands.

So, one could suppose that the threat of erosion of hegemony is what leads to the disconnect on the subject of tradition. But questions remain. How do Europeans—Western Europeans, in particular—reconcile their progressivism with their own cultural conservatism? How does Belgium ban the niqab while neighbouring Netherlands clings to blackface Zwarte Piet? Could it have anything to do with the fact the former is seen as a mark of the foreign Other while the latter is a Dutch tradition, ostensibly “indigenous” in nature? What makes some traditions, even those rooted in religion, compatible with ‘European secular modernity’ while disqualifying others?

… ‘he asked rhetorically, already having a good idea as to the answers.’

Works Cited

Göle, Nilüfer. “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam.” New Literary History 43, No. 4 (Autumn 2012): 665-685.

Wekkers, Gloria. White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2015.