Gen­der stud­ies in dan­ger, says sub­ject pi­o­neer

THE (Times Higher Education) - - NEWS - [email protected]­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

A prom­i­nent his­to­rian warned of the threat posed to gen­der stud­ies pro­grammes world­wide as part of a last-ditch protest against the ex­pul­sion of the Cen­tral Euro­pean Univer­sity from Bu­dapest.

Joan Wal­lach Scott, one of the pi­o­neers of gen­der his­tory, said that it was “no ac­ci­dent” that gen­der stud­ies was com­ing un­der at­tack from au­thor­i­tar­ian, right-wing politi­cians, be­cause en­trench­ing gen­der dif­fer­ences was a way of “le­git­imis­ing their no­tion of power and au­thor­ity”.

She spoke to stu­dents protest­ing against the im­mi­nent re­lo­ca­tion of parts of the CEU’s op­er­a­tions to Vi­enna. A “Free Univer­sity” set up in front of Hun­gary’s par­lia­ment has been host­ing lec­tures in tents to il­lus­trate the sub­jects that or­gan­is­ers say will be lost if the CEU leaves Hun­gary, and be­cause of the gov­ern­ment’s de­fund­ing of gen­der stud­ies pro­grammes. The an­i­mus against gen­der stud­ies was not just a “side is­sue” for the far right, Pro­fes­sor Scott, pro­fes­sor emerita in Prince­ton Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute for Ad­vanced Study, told stu­dents. “It’s a vi­sion of the world in which men are su­pe­rior to women, in­equal­ity is the name of the game and tra­di­tion is what’s be­ing pro­tected by these au­thor­i­tar­ian rulers,” she ar­gued.

“What is hap­pen­ing all over the world, and es­pe­cially in coun­tries ruled by au­thor­i­tar­ian types, is an at­tack on higher ed­u­ca­tion,” Pro­fes­sor Scott later told Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion.

Al­though the ex­pul­sion of the CEU was likely to be “unique” and “not likely to hap­pen else­where”, the out­law­ing of gen­der pro­grammes was “go­ing on all over the world”, she said, point­ing to events in Brazil. There, the coun­try’s new far-right pres­i­dent-elect, Jair Bol­sonaro, has signed agree­ments promis­ing to com­bat “gen­der ide­ol­ogy”.

The Free Univer­sity was host­ing lec­tures on top­ics in­clud­ing “gen­der­ing mi­grant mem­o­ries”, the “foun­da­tions of fem­i­nism” and the “in­sti­tu­tional econ­omy of au­thor­i­tar­ian pop­ulism”.

On 3 De­cem­ber, CEU con­firmed that in­com­ing stu­dents would be en­rolled in Vi­enna, after the Hun­gar­ian gov­ern­ment failed to sign a deal guar­an­tee­ing the univer­sity’s le­gal sta­tus.

Max de Blank, a Dutch mas­ter’s stu­dent at the CEU who was help­ing to or­gan­ise the Free Univer­sity, said that it had been set up to show “what Hun­gary will be los­ing when it forces CEU out the coun­try” and pro­hibits the teach­ing of gen­der stud­ies.

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