9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN32 Political Sociology

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Political Communication, Media and the Public Sphere Building I, 2E10

Picturing Power: Politics, aesthetics and gender in France and Norway

Anne Krogstad, professor, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo
Aagoth Storvik, senior researcher
Institute for Social Research, Oslo


Picturing power:
Politics, aesthetics and gender in France and Norway

The paper argues that the aesthetic of politics is different in Norway from that in France, and that this difference can be related to differences in national cultural repertoires. It also shows a change in political aesthetics in these two countries in the last decade, especially regarding women in top office in national politics. The most radical break is seen in the way Norwegian female politicians portray themselves. They have to a certain degree replaced the Norwegian leadership ethos of piety, moderation and inward orientation with glamour and irony. Women in French politics have, on the contrary, had difficulties living up to a heroic leadership ideal marked by effortless superiority and seduction. To explain the differences in self-presentation we argue that cultural repertoires are not only national constructions, they are also gendered constructions. This implies that they are not equally suitable or effective for men and women. This insight is not captured in the in the initial theory about cultural repertoires. In addition the study also shows that it is possible for female politicians to avoid the stereotyping which so often has been described in earlier research.
Two main sources of data are used; pictures of politicians and written characterisations of politicians? personal appearance. More specifically it compares public photographs of high-level politicians - from Charles de Gaulle to Nicolas Sarkozy in France and from Einar Gerhardsen to Jens Stoltenberg in Norway - to see how they present themselves and their governments and how they are presented by photographers The article also compares how these aesthetical performances are commented upon by journalists and other writers. The aim is to identify forms of aesthetical presentations, how they are evaluated and how they have changed from 1945 to 2008.