University of Connecticut

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Lecture: Europe-the ups & downs of sexual exceptionalism

Wednesday, February 22, 2017
3:30pm – 5:00pm

Storrs Campus
Manchester Hall Basement Lounge

The Department of Sociology Colloquium presents David Paternotte from the Université libre de Bruxelles as he presents "Europe: The ups and downs of sexual exceptionalism"

Europe is often considered at the vanguard of sexual and reproductive rights, and a relatively safe place for LGBT people. Numerous laws have been adopted to protect women and sexual minorities, and attitudes are generally regarded as liberal in comparison with other parts of the world. Furthermore, the process of European construction has provided Europeans with a unique system of human rights protection. All this happened both at national and regional level, and it has undoubtedly fuelled feelings of sexual exceptionalism. EUrope would be ‘sexually exceptional’ as a unique place for women and sexual minorities and this would be intrinsically linked to what is presented as “the European values”. Sexual exceptionalism also intersects with different forms of nationalisms. Scholars have pinpointed forms of co-optation at national level, especially in Northern and Western Europe. The alleged sexual uniqueness of Europe is also used to anchor a more general idea of European uniqueness and opposed to other cultures and regions, like Russia and the Muslim world. At the same time, many observers have insisted on a strengthening of oppositions across the region. “Old sexual nationalism” is far from dead and has sometimes been fostered by the association of sexual rights to EU values. Religious actors, the Catholic Church in particular, have also renewed their opposition and mounted new campaigns against sexual and reproductive rights. These often intersect with a rise of populism, anti-intellectualism, anti-Semitism, and islamophobia. This will lead to reflect in this paper on the alleged exceptionalism of Europe and to address the following questions: To what extent is EUrope such an exceptional place and is this feeling largely connected to European provincialism? Does this construction nourish processes of exclusion and the making of new boundaries? Does it rely on a process on selective endorsement and of sanitization of sexual claims?


Rainbow Center (primary)

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