Gender, Empire, Expansion – Imperial Legitimacy and Gendered Conduct since the Eighteenth Century

Workshop at Freie Universität Berlin on February 3, 2022

03. Februar 2022 | 09:00 - 18:00
Organisator: Freie Universität Berlin
Veranstaltungsort: Freie Universität Berlin

The Research Unit Borders of the Cluster of Excellence „SCRIPTS – Contestations of the Liberal Script“ at Freie Universität Berlin invites applicants for a workshop that seeks to investigate the role of gender in both the expansion and contestation of imperial power.

Political and military leaders in empires across the globe have resorted to gendered rhetoric and demeanor in an effort to increase and find recognition for their power at home and abroad. Often supported by actors in media, science, or business, they have employed discourses of dominance and suppression, manliness and effeminacy to legitimize their conduct towards their local subjects, colonial populations, and foreign governments. Individual actors or groups from within or without empire have in turn shaped or contested imperial power by questioning imposed gender ideals and hierarchies. The period between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries experienced rapid global colonial expansion, industrial advancement, the eventual decline of western monarchies and the rise of both democratic and totalitarian political movements. During this period, issues of scientific racism and social Darwinism, the corrosion of class hierarchies, technological innovation, and political (in)equality came to inform the dynamic relationship between gender and imperial power.

The aim of the workshop is to analyze the multifaceted ways in which both powerful and disempowered actors employed gender in the context of the rise, decline, territorial expansion, and ideological legitimacy of imperial rule. For this purpose, we invite early-career and senior scholars working on the history of both western and non-western empires. Issues of investigation can include diplomatic, economic, social and cultural encounters with others, and on the role of both state and non-state actors in shaping the nexus of gender and imperialism. Contributions with a contemporary reference are equally welcome, especially if they address the cluster’s research focus on the development and contestation of the liberal script in politics, economy, and society. Empire is here understood broadly not just as a self-ascribed entity of governance but also as a concept of expansion. This means that it also applies to the global proliferation of economic or political philosophies as well as to actors or states such as, for example, the United States, that did not understand themselves or that even refused the idea of being an empire.

Contributions may address but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Constructions, contestations, and knowledge transfers of gender across borders
  • Global commonalities and regional particularities of imperial gender orders
  • Contesting gender normativity as a medium of power/resistance
  • Gender, race, and colonial orders
  • Gendered language and demeanor in liberal and illiberal societies
  • Gender activism of disenfranchised and marginalized groups
  • Neocolonialism and the changing face of empire
  • Science, technology, and social change as determinants of imperial gender orders
  • Postcolonialism and the evaluation/contestations of imperial gender norms

The workshop is intended as a closed forum for discussion among the participants who will outline their current research projects in presentations of 10–15 minutes and receive feedback from attending peers. It is supposed to be a work-in-progress event, meaning that participants are welcome to address challenges they encounter in their research regarding issues of theory, methodology, research question, structure, etc. As such, the workshop aims at facilitating a shared and productive space in which participants come together to survey, assess, and situate themselves in current scholarly trends.

Depending on developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop will be planned either on site or online.

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