6/22/2022 (1:00 PM to 2:30 PM GMT+1, 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM CEST, 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM EDT)
From the Early Modern Period up to our days, the interdependent tension of gender, power relations, and the state can be conceptualized as an ongoing conflictual negotiation process. Looking upon Western and Central Europe, political and societal struggles, in which gendered power orders are challenged, changed or stabilized, can be observed in different societal fields, as well as in different epochs. Thus, in seemingly disparate fields like the shift from a dynastic to a republic rule in Early Modern times, as also reflected in early American literature, birth control in inter-war Poland, as well as gender-based violence in modern liberal democracies, can be reflected upon as battlegrounds of continuous gendered power struggles. This can be conceptualized as specificities of a broader cultural history of gendered power relations. Persisting factors and continuities as well as change and breakpoints can be carved out. Thus, a variety of dimensions of shift, distortions, and recursions in the formations of gendered power relations in the modern era can be detected. By this, the panel gives insights into the interdisciplinary research project “gender, power relations, and the state,” in which 15 scholars of different disciplines (history, literature, culture, political science, history of the arts, media science, and psychoanalysis) and different universities and scientific institutes in Germany work together to construct the framework of a cultural history of gendered power relations.
Chair: Dorothee Beck – University of Marburg / Inken Schmidt-Voges – Philipps-University of Marburg
Silent Servants or Powerful Voices? Reassessing Female Rule and Participation from an Early Modern Perspective
Inken Schmidt-Voges – Philipps-Universität Marburg
The paper discusses the political, juridical, social, and cultural frames of gendered power relations in early modern European societies. In contrast to common understanding, they provided women with evident opportunities to make themselves being heard and pursue their interests in the public – from household matters up to princely courts. Carving out the completely different contexts, in which gendered power relations were embedded and performed in premodern societies, sharpens the understanding of how, when, and why these female arenas of participation disappeared. Focussing on the figures of the wife as head of household and the ruling princess resp. queen, the paper will address different developments starting from the Renaissance up to the Enlightenment and Post-Revolutionary early 19th century to show how the empowering workings of premodern societal frameworks gradually faded and finally were deliberately wiped out in the constitutional and codification processes after 1815. Such a longue durée perspective provides a more complex and thorough understanding of the current perplexities in gendered power relations, especially with regard to the enormous potency of the persisting narratives of family, motherhood, body, and sexuality. The early modern perspective will reveal the historical short-leggedness of these allegedly ahistorical, natural conditions that not only hemper social equality but rather gain new grounds in conservative political legitimization discourses.
From British Monarchy to American Republic: Gender and Landscape as Symbolic Representations of Political Systems
Carmen Birkle – Philipps-Universität Marburg
My paper discusses the late 18th-century shift from being a colony of the British Monarchy to an independent American nation by looking at one of the earliest short stories written in the United States. In 1819, Washington Irving, also called the father of the American short story, portrays Rip van Winkle, a man of the colonies, in the transitional period from colony to Republic. This transition happens while Rip is deeply asleep for about twenty years. His awakening and his return to his village are accompanied by his own surprise about all the changes that have happened while he – as he still believes – had left the village for one night. However, George Washington has replaced King George III; his wife, Dame van Winkle, is no longer alive; the Revolution has happened. I suggest to read Dame van Winkle and the gender concept she stands for as a symbolic representation of this political change, which is also underlined by descriptions of the environment, as represented in the romantic but also sublime Hudson River Valley, which offers – for the first time in American literature – an American setting in which this political transformation takes place.
Birth Control as a National Issue in Eastern Central European Multi-Ethnic States
Heidi Hein-Kircher – Herder-Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe
Families perceived (next to the individual) as the smallest social entity (and hence of the state). At the latest since the First World War, population policy debates have been conducted with verve, in which it have been a question of maintaining prosperity and the nation’s ability to defend itself – in other words, ultimately of power. Because of democratization and emerging nationalizing policies in the newly founded states in Eastern Europe, discourses on traditional social orders such as marriage and the „obligation to give birth“ challenged power-related attitudes of the state towards families. Particularly, the attitudes towards birth control were politicized and influenced by societal, political, and socio-economic modernization processes. The paper will discuss the general influence of ethnic conflicts on the perception of family and birth control. Herewith, it will focus on the politicization of family issues which have been interpreted as a national affair and duty, since the family was considered as the “core of the nation” and the “wife” as its guardian.
Gender-Based Violence: Not Just Mischief, but a Stabilizer of Androcentric Power in the Political Field
Dorothee Beck – University of Marburg
In 1918/19, women in Germany were granted suffrage. Yet, it took another 68 years as well as the introduction of party quota before their share in the national parliament rose over 10 per cent. In the newly elected German Bundestag, 34.6 per cent of the MPs are women. Amongst the explanations for the persisting under-representation, gender-based violence has been referred to by the UN. Yet, it has not been conceptualized in theories of democracy so far. The paper seeks to outline in how far gender-based violence adds to the stabilization of androcentric power in political institutions. I will focus on four aspects: the public-private divide, the notion of the autonomous individual, the relevance of political culture, and the state monopoly of violence. First, the gendered character of the public-private-divide will be examined, challenging the notion of the political public sphere as a space that is free of power hierarchies. Second, the notion of the autonomous individual, who acts independently and free of reproductive duties in the political public, will be contrasted with alternative concepts of autonomy, which are appropriate to weaken the androcentric bias. Third, the
paper will ask in how far cultures of political institutions add to the risk of gender-based violence. And fourth, the incomplete character of the state monopoly of violence, as conceptualized by Max Weber, will be discussed as a risk factor for gender-based violence. These aspects will be brought together to conceptualize gender-based violence as a problem of theories of democracy.
Discussant: Nancy Hirschmann – University of Pennsylvania School of Arts & Sciences