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In Fear of Queer: 'Traditional Values' and Homophobia in Russia and Kyrgyzstan

In Fear of Queer: 'Traditional Values' and Homophobia in Russia and Kyrgyzstan
1 Devonshire Place, Room 108N, Munk School of Global Affairs
Time: Apr 11th, 12:00 pm End: Apr 11th, 2:00 pm
Interest Categories: Slavic Studies (FAS), Sexual Diversity, 2000-
Lecture by Cai Wilkinson, Deakin University, Australia

The Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (CERES) and the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies presents

In Fear of Queer: 'Traditional Values' and Homophobia in Russia and Kyrgyzstan

The last decade has seen a dramatic intensification of both political and popular homophobia across the post-Soviet region. Politically, Russia has been a key driver of this dynamic as it positions itself as the putative global guardian of morality by mobilizing anti-LGBT rhetoric to devastating effect both at home and abroad. Internationally, Moscow has aggressively pursued promotion of "traditional values" in fora such as the UN Human Rights Council, while within Russia so-called "traditional values" have been put into practice, most notoriously in the form of a federal prohibition on "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" that has confirmed homophobia as a central element of a Kremlin-sponsored neo-Slavophile national identity and ideology. Conservative elites in other post-Soviet countries have been quick to take up the Russian-led drive for traditional values. Recognizing that the presentation of homosexuality as an alien threat to the nation's moral and physical wellbeing is a powerful political tool for populist statecraft and nation-building, "anti-homopropaganda" legislation has been considered by lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia and Lithuania and in all cases has been accompanied by a marked increase in anti-gay protests and violence by religious and nationalist groups.

This talk examines why Russia has so fiercely resisted the notion that "LGBT rights are human rights" (Clinton 2010) at a time when globally there are unprecedented levels of support for protecting LGBT people's human rights, and why the rhetoric of "traditional values" has resonated so strongly across the post-Soviet region. Drawing on the cases of Kyrgyzstan and Russia, this talk argues that the promotion of a patriarchal, pronatalist and gender essentialist "traditional values" agenda by local political and societal actors makes the post-Soviet rejection of LGBT human rights both inevitable and entirely logical. For conservative elites, rather than representing a benchmark for modernity and progress and a "litmus test for democracy" (Kon 2009), recognition of LGBT rights is a clear and dangerous sign of social degradation and moral crisis that imperils civilization and the existence of humankind. To quote Vladimir Putin (2013), it is therefore both "natural and right" to defend traditional values, and thereby ensure that "every minority's right to be different" does not jeopardise the rights of the majority. This logic is at the heart of the post-Soviet fear of queer that, as this talk will explore, has deeply concerning implications not only for LGBT people trapped on the front line of an ongoing international "queer war" (Altman & Symons 2016), but also for our understandings of the state, citizenship, human rights and security more widely.

Cai Wilkinson is Associate Head of School (International), Course Director for the Bachelor of International Studies and a Senior Lecturer in International Relations. She joined Deakin in February 2012 from the University of Birmingham, UK, where she was a Lecturer in the Centre for Russian and East European Studies and taught International Relations and Russian language.

Cai's research focuses on societal security in the post-Soviet space, with a particular focus on LGBTQ rights in Kyrgyzstan and Russia. She recently co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Human Rights on resistance to LGBT rights, and has previously published in Security Dialogue, Central Asian Survey and Europe-Asia Studies, as well as contributing chapters to a number of books on securitization, international politics in Central Asia and the use of interpretive ethnographic methods in Critical Security Studies.

This event is free and open to all. Registration is required. For further information, please contact Olga Kesarchuk at 416-946-8497


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