The Perils of Populism: Feminist Conversations

IRW Seminar Fellows

Donna Auston, Anthropology, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Race & Islam in the Era of Black Lives Matter”

donna auston My study is an ethnographic analysis of how and where African American Muslims are engaging in Black Lives Matter. The central claim is that African American Muslims are responding to, and participating in, the Black Lives Matter movement in unique ways based on: 1) the confluence of Islamic ethics and religious exhortations to social justice and rootedness in the particular history of African American freedom struggles and 2) their doubly liminal status, marginalized by virtue of race and religion, and the attendant intersectional impacts of police violence, surveillance, and Islamophobia.

Diane Shane Fruchtman, Religion, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Living Martyrs and the Violence of Ideology: The Legacies of Martyrdom Without Death in Contemporary American Political Discourse”

Diane Shane FruchtmanMy research recuperates the category of “living martyr,” which has always had a place in Christian history and culture, if not always an officially sanctioned one. This category has been recently mobilized in the United States, with figures such as Kim Davis and Donald Trump effectively using martyrdom self-narratives to mobilize supporters. The success of these narratives parallels the success of “populist” discourse. This project explores that relationship, and aims to analyze the ways that martyrdom discourse, in the guise of or under the umbrella of populism, has spread beyond confessional boundaries to color the perceptions of the American public.   

Angelique Haugerud, Anthropology, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Populism, Gender, and Wealth Inequality in Kenya”

Angelique Haugerud Why are some African intellectuals concerned about a populist “contagion” from the West, and resurgent populism on their continent? Kenya, which has its own home-grown populisms of both ethnonationalist and progressive civic varieties, will hold an intensely contested national election in August 2017. My research helps to show why—contrary to common news media narratives—votes cannot be predicted from demographic categories such as Kikuyu or women. Voices of women and men from many walks of life in Kenya can help us to understand this unsettled political moment of resurgent reactionary populism.

Chie Ikeya, History, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“The Specter of the Libidinous and Unassimilable Foreigner: A Feminist Historical Analysis of Buddhist Nationalism, Racism, and Islamophobia in Burma (Myanmar)”

Chie IkeyaThis project offers a feminist, historical analysis of Buddhist nationalism, racism, and Islamophobia in Burma (Myanmar), whose genealogy as well as gendered, racialized and sexualized character remain underexplored and undertheorized. In particular, it interrogates the place of the libidinous, unassimilable foreigner and inter-faith, inter-racial intimacies in the popular imagination in colonial Burma; the regularity and predictability with which they have been deployed in political movements of distinct variants to shore up support for their cause; and the resilience of ideologies and discourses that pathologize intimate relations between “Indian,” “Arab,” and “Chinese” foreigners and native women.

Ying-Chao Kao, Sociology, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Populism Returns: A Critique on the Transnational Conspiracy of Christian Pro-family Movements in Taiwan and the United States”

ying chao.kaoAmerican scholars are anxious about the resurgence of a conservative power that is armed with racism, xenophobia, (hetero)sexism, and religious hegemony. While scholars are searching out domestic structures to critique the perils of populism, the key to understanding them may come from overseas and have an American legacy. My research shows that during the Obama administration, the American evangelical/charismatic enterprise diffused to Taiwan and other East Asian countries to regain power, collect money, and organize transnational networks. An East Asian perspective could therefore help us understand American populism.

Suzy Kim, Asian Languages and Cultures, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“‘Things that divide us are trifling’: International Feminist Organizing during the Cold War”

Suzy KimSituating North Korea in the broader frame of socialist feminisms, this project explores how maternal feminism was deployed to organize women across the Cold War divide against populist rhetoric that demonized the other side. Examining the development of maternal feminism in North Korea alongside a women’s history of the Cold War, I argue that the development of the feminist project itself was bifurcated by the global Cold War, the effects of which are still felt in the iterations of contemporary feminisms today.

Snežana Otašević, Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Cleansing, Violence, Territory: Purification Practices in Former Yugoslavia from the 1980s to the Present”

Snezana OtasevicMy project examines the way that populist ideologies of national purity were operationalized in the breakdown of former Yugoslavia in 1990s and how they were integrated in the newly formed nation-states during the past two decades. Motivated by the idea of “one language – one nation – one state” ethnonationalism initiated gendered violence through linguistic purism and the breakdown of the Serbo-Croatian language. This violence culminated in the campaigns of ethnic cleansing, and still persists in the unacknowledged social cleansing of ethnic Others in the newly formed nation-states. Narratives of purity and defilement place women’s and maternal bodies in the center of purgatory practices with the goal of securing or destroying the future of the nations.

Catherine Wineinger, Political Science, Rutgers-New Brunswick
“Navigating Party Culture: Tea Party Rhetoric and the Impact of Republican Women in Congress”

Catherine WineingerThis project analyzes the gendered implications and evolution of Republican Party culture over time, with particular emphasis on the impact of Tea Party populism. I conduct content analyses of congressional floor speeches and interviews with congresswomen; preliminary findings suggest that the rhetoric used by Republican congresswomen has changed over time and is similar to the gendered rhetoric used by Tea Party women activists. With the rise of Tea Party populism, a shift in party culture is also notable: the erosion of the social norm that Republicans must be extremely disciplined and deferential to party authority.

Additional Seminar Participants

Basuli Deb (IRW Global Scholar)
Maria Hwang (IRW Global Scholar)
Susan Marchand (Douglass Alumna)
Voichita Nachescu (IRW Global Scholar)
Sara Perryman (IRW Undergraduate Learning Community Coordinator)

Conveners
Arlene Stein
Director, Institute for Research on Women

Sarah Tobias
Associate Director, Institute for Research on Women

 

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