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Seminar: "Free Speech, Academic Freedom and the Anti-Gender Campaign Against Gender Studies – How to Respond and When Not to Respond"

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Location: Zoom

You are warmly invited to a talk by Dr Julian Honkasalo (University of Helsinki).


Scholars, such as Blassnig et al. (2019), have shown that populist right wing campaigns often deliberately use informal fallacies as a strategy for driving across political goals. Consequently, a critical response that is dependent on sound argumentation is likely to be inefficient because the intention of the fallacious argument is not a fair debate to begin with (Honkasalo 2022). As right-wing activists distribute political messages also through hybrid cyber attacks, such as the use of bots (fake profiles) and trolls, informal fallacies become normalized as part of populist rhetoric, which has erosive and destructive consequences for democratic debate.

Recently, particularly US based, conservative YouTube alternative news shows have drawn their multimillion follower and viewer platforms’ attention to academic programs, such as gender studies as well as university anti-discrimination policies in particular as posing a threat to constitutionally protected freedom of speech. It is my contention that by doing so they contribute to the strengthening and mainstreaming of previous, European far-right attempts to undermine gender studies as an academically legitimate discipline (eg. Patternotte & Verloo 2021).

Against this backdrop and context I ask: how can gender studies students and scholars respond to the increasing trend of anti-gender campaigning that is rooted in disseminating false information and informal argumentative fallacies? When should one not respond?

Author Bio:

Julian Honkasalo is an Academy of Finland postdoctoral scholar and a docent in gender studies at The University of Helsinki, Finland. They hold a PhD in gender studies (University of Helsinki, 2016) and a PhD in political science (The New School for Social Research, 2018). Honkasalo has conducted research on the historical connection between eugenics and transgender sterilization legislation as well as the question of how gender minorities resist biopolitical violence through community-building and utopian imagining. Honkasalo’s forthcoming book From the Absence of Gender to Feminist Solidarity: Hannah Arendt's Political Philosophy (under contract with Rowman & Littlefield/Lexington) analyses four decades of feminist interpretations of Arendt’s political thought. Honkasalo’s most recent research interest focuses on the use of gender panic in anti-gender mobilization and they have published on the deliberate use of argumentative fallacies in conservative and far-right anti-gender rhetoric in the European Journal of Women’s Studies.

This seminar is free and open to all, but advance registration is required.

To register for a place, click HERE.

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In the registration form, you will be able to indicate access requirements and other needs. Do not hesitate to let us know if there are any adjustments we can make to support your full participation.

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