9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 History and Feminist Theory Building II, C4.01

"Christian Occident", "Leitkultur" and "Fortress Europe" - challenges to feminist theory and politics

Since several years altercations with the Islam shape the political and medial debates surrounding multiculturalism and integration in western european immigration societies. The recourse to the "Christian Occident", the outline of a "Leitkultur", and the defense of the "Fortress Europe" are frequently mentioned keywords in these debates. The underlying subject-matter is, however, not exclusively the marginalization of the Islam and of Muslims: As so-called christian-occidental values such as tolerance and freedom of opinion are of high significance in these debates it becomes clear that it is rather the (re-)formulation of a western and european identity which is at stake in altercations with the Islam. Interestingly, the recourse to hierarchical gender orders occupies a central position in depicting the central features of the Islam and in justifying the assumed difference between members of the so-called islamic and the so-called western culture respectively.
These interwoven themes pose a challenge to feminists: Because of the multiple references to ostensibly feminist argumentations in the altercations with the Islam they find themselves positioned as the avant-garde of those battles, which are now fought out in the context of the (re-)definition of a western occidental identity.
In my contribution I will reflect feminist reactions to these challenges out of the perspective of a critical Occidentalism. Using the example of feminist discourses about the Islam in Germany and the Netherlands I will clarify the various positionings that are situated between universalist critique of multiculturalism and relativist critique of Enlightenment and Occidentalism. Thereby I focus on the hegemonic "occidental" feminist self-constructions that are apparent in these discourses: How are these being charged in form and content with regard to the topic Islam and "the muslim others"? Through which discursive figures and argumentative strategies is hegemonic feminist identity (re-)produced? Which theoretical assumptions underlie these constructions?
Based on this analysis I am going to focus the challenges that feminist theory and politics is currently confronted with: Which requirements result out of the virulent negotiations of "western-occidental" identity with regard to the (re-)formulation of feminist theory and politics? Which contribution can be provided by the gender studies to the aforementioned negotiations?