Martina Kessel, University of Bielefeld
Venue: German Historical Institute London
Proposals by: 17.12.2021
The establishment of modern societies since the 18th century was based upon and intensified gendered and racialized hierarchies. The modern Western self was imagined as male, White, Christian, and heteronormative, and such assumptions impacted the structures of the modern world, in differing types of democracy as well as in authoritarian regimes, imperial systems and neo-colonial global structures after formal decolonization. At the same time, gender research on all world regions has shown that there was never one notion of masculinity (or femininity) but conflicting and competing (dominant) versions, intersecting with racializing projections, religion, class, caste, ethnicity, generation, or other categories used to define identity and belonging in specific contexts.
The long-cherished assumption that the time since the late 19th century, or at least the second half of the 20th century, saw a linear development toward greater gender equality has equally been challenged. Colonialism not only produced gendered notions of identity both in colonised and colonising societies, but a possibly democratic self-representation of imperialists at home could go hand in hand with intensified racializing and gendering practices in both the so-called metropole and the imperial context. In a formally decolonised world, gendered and racialized projections continued to define relations between the global North and global South, but also shaped the formerly colonising societies themselves.
Democracies since the 18th and 19th centuries implemented heteronormativity in what Margot Canaday called “the straight state”. Discussing the aporetic understanding of democracy in Germany in the 20th century, Kirsten Heinsohn suggests a corresponding periodization: While the period from the 1900s to the early 1920s was characterised by moves toward democratization, already the mid-1920s Weimar Republic experienced an intense re-masculinization of politics that lasted in West Germany into the 1980s, spanning not only National Socialism but also the 1970s, a decade that has long been hailed as a turning point towards democratization. While ideologies in the 20th century competed in gendered terms, attacks on democracies and demands for a new world order since the 1990s work(ed) with masculinist projections to give status to … read more and source (Web).