Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Diversity and Social Conflict

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Department of Social Sciences | Diversity and Social Conflict | Research Projects | Digital Conference - Queer Feminist Perspectives on Political Homophobia and Anti-feminism in the Middle East and Europe

Digital Conference - Queer Feminist Perspectives on Political Homophobia and Anti-feminism in the Middle East and Europe


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This two-day digital conference aims to bring together researchers, activists, and community organizers to discuss how discourses on gender and sexuality have evolved in the Middle East and Europe amid the rise of far-right and authoritarian movements.

Our conference has three objectives. First, to situate far-right and authoritarian actors in their respective socio-historical contexts, and second, to discuss how political homophobia and anti-feminism have developed as core ideological elements of the far right in a local transregional framework.

Finally, the conference aims to shed light on local, transregional, and global responses to homophobia and anti-feminism in the
respective regions. Queer and feminist paradigms will significantly contribute to our conversation about the far right and social justice.

By adopting this lens, we bring an intersectional perspective to the study of sex, sexuality, gender, and intimacy: one that builds on the awareness of diverse context boundaries while focusing on the non-normative expressions, practices, identities, and desires at a time of a resurgence of far-right nationalisms.

The conference will take place on September 24 – 25, 2021, as a two-day digital event. The papers presented will be considered for publication, and we encourage participants to submit original and unpublished work.


Key Notes

Deniz Kandiyoti

Emeritus Professor in Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London Author of Concubines, Sisters and Citizens: Identities and Social Transformation (1997) editor of Gender, Governance and Islam (2019): Fragments of Culture: The Everyday of Modern Turkey (2002)


Phillip Ayoub

Associate Professor in the Department of Diplomacy & World Affair at Occidental College
and Fellow in the Centre for International Security at the Hertie School Author of When States Come Out: Europe’s Sexual Minorities and the Politics of Visibility (2016): editor of LGBT Activism and the Making of Europe: A Rainbow Europe? (2014)



Call for Papers: Queer Feminist Perspectives on Political Homophobia and Anti-feminism in the Middle East and Europe


The last decade has seen major milestones in LGBTQ and women’s rights movements, with significant policy developments and global activist initiatives. Aside from the civil rights and liberties that different LGBTQ communities have acquired over the years, these movements have generated a global awareness of issues such as abortion access, academic freedoms, indigenous rights, sex workers’ rights, racial justice and other social issues. In recent years, however, an overwhelming discourse of political homophobia (Weiss and Bosia 2013) and anti-feminism (Salice 2019; Meiering, Dziri, and Foroutan 2020) has gained salience globally, which has created the conditions for different far right groups to assert their right to determine what is legitimate in society, based on their hetero-patriarchal and conservative views. These homophobic and anti-feminist discourses have given rise to prejudice and potential violence and injustice against the perceived enemies of the far right. Yet there has also been robust reaction from grassroots movements, cross-border digital activists, academics, and civil organizations.


The histories of the far right differ substantially in Europe and the Middle East. The political parties and groups to the far right of the ideological spectrum in the Middle East often preach conservatism, militarism, anti-globalism, nationalism and political Islamism (Heper and İnce 2006; Meiering, Dziri, and Foroutan 2020; Hintz 2016; Al-Ali 2020). Along these lines, the past decade has seen a gradual shift in the region toward a neoliberal Islamist-rooted nationalism which has core ideological parallels with the anti-globalist discourses of radical groups, while promoting an isolationist politics and the top-down control and restriction of fundamental rights and freedoms. In Europe, the study of the far right has undergone a resurgence in recent years in the face of the increasing presence of white supremacist and separatist nationalist politics (Russell 2019; Fielitz and Thurston 2019). Far-right parties in Europe often champion border closures against all types of immigrants, the deportation of “illegal immigrants”, assimilation, and jus sanguinis approaches to citizenship – policies which had led to discrimination and violence against ethnic, racial, and religious minorities in Europe (Salice 2019). The increasing political polarization in the regions, between left and right, globalists and patriots, has turned the topics of sex, sexuality, gender, and intimacy into core ideological elements.


Although the far right in the Middle East and Europe are grounded in vastly different political contexts, factors such as immigration, globalism, digital media, and the legacies of colonialism continue to shape the far right in and across these regions. During the first post-Mubarak vote in Egypt in 2011, we saw how political homophobia was instrumentalized by the Muslim Brotherhood to create a moral panic over a secularized and therefore immoral Egypt, in order to intimidate supporters of anti-authoritarian and secular parties (Bosia 2014). Only recently, Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party has campaigned against the Istanbul Convention – a human rights treaty of the Council of Europe that protects the rights of women and LGBTQ people, targeting the LGBTQ community as “evil” and part of a Western conspiracy against Turkey’s moral values (Tar 2020). In Europe, Poland’s conservative government recently introduced a near-total abortion ban, while Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban proposed an adoption ban which would bar LGBTQ people from adopting children. While Hungary and Poland notoriously and openly promote political homophobia and anti-feminism, Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) has adopted the language of rights for women and sexual minorities in order to cast Muslim homophobia as the common enemy (El-Tayeb 2011) and advocate a nationalist, and anti-Muslim agenda in Germany (see Wielowiejski 2020). These cases and more suggest a web of relations between the ideological elements and the sociohistorical factors binding the Middle East and Europe.


Against this backdrop, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed new and unprecedented challenges to social justice and human rights movements around the world. Many right-wing governments and political parties have used the pandemic as a pretext to demonize immigrants, women, racial and ethnic minority groups, and the LGBTQ community. The fact that marginalized communities are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic suggests that COVID-19 is a racialized, gendered, and sexualized crisis with multifaceted effects. 


The digital conference invites papers that address topics of sex, sexuality, gender, or intimacy amid increasing political homophobia and anti-feminism in the Middle East and Europe. We invite both research-based and non-research-based submissions from any relevant field. Contributions can address either region, or both. For authors who would like to submit work beyond the scope of these regions, please write a short paragraph detailing how your submission will contribute to our conference. 


Among the themes the digital conference will explore:  


  • What are the sociopolitical factors shaping and connecting far-right discourses on gender and sexuality in the Middle East and Europe?

In this section, we are interested in understanding how issues of sex, sexuality, gender, and intimacy have gained currency among the far right. We want to explore the historical continuities and cross-regional overlaps in how the far right address these issues. We welcome studies that unpack the heterogeneities and inconsistencies of these discourses and practices from an intersectional perspective.

    • Immigration, LGBTQ diaspora, post-migrant complexities
    • Colonialism and its legacies
    • COVID-19
    • Conspiracy theories, digital media
    • Globalism, neoliberalism, neoliberal Islam
    • Racism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim racism
    • Structural and institutional misogyny


  • What are the discourses, practices, and collective actions that have been enacted against political homophobia and anti-feminism, and related social justice issues, in local, regional, and transnational contexts?

In this section, we focus on how individuals, groups, and communities respond to far-right politics regarding sex, sexuality, gender, and intimacy. We welcome contributions that focus on individual countries as well as on comparative and multi-sited perspectives.

    • Activism
    • Grassroots movements
    • Civil society organizations
    • Art, LGBTQ collectives, women collectives
    • Academia, Gender Studies as a discipline, academic freedom



Aside from the two keynotes, the event will feature an opening panel, and a series of additional panel discussions in an interactive format. The keynotes and the opening panel will be broadcasted live. All other panels and additional events will require pre-registration.



Please submit an abstract (around 300 words) and a short bio by April 20, 2021 to Participants will be notified by May 1, 2021. As a preliminary step to the digital event in September, conference participants will attend a one-day workshop in June 2021 to discuss the papers.


Please submit original and unpublished work by:

  • Extended abstracts (around 300 words) by June 1, 2021
  • Full drafts of papers (5000-8000 words) by September 1, 2021


Pending review, authors of accepted papers will be notified by October 1, 2021.


Key words

Political homophobia, anti-feminism, the far-right, the Middle East, Europe




Tunay Altay

Prof. Dr. Gökce Yurdakul

Prof. Dr. Nadje Al-Ali

Prof. Dr. Katharina Galor





This event is organized by Humboldt University Berlin’s Department of Diversity and Social Conflict in cooperation with Brown University’s Center for Middle East Studies and Heinrich Böll Stiftung.