The Geopolitics of “Traditional Values”

How can we understand that at the contemporary moment, in countries that are very different in terms of history, political and economic trajectories as well as religious and cultural traditions, there is a rise of discourses of “traditional values”, often framed in explicitly geopolitical terms? What possibilities exist for contestation, resistance and change, on local as well as global levels?

In recent years in a number of states across the world (in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas) there is an increased contestation of LGBTQ rights and stigmatization of queer people. In many cases, this move is legitimated geopolitically: in terms of protecting “traditional values” from foreign harmful influence, strengthening national sovereignty and revising the global order. This project aims to examine “traditional values” as a global political idea, with specific focus on international dimensions of Russian political homophobia.

By conceptualizing states’ current move to “traditional values” as a boundary-making practice where the political ordering of global space into “domestic” and “foreign” is tied up with the regulation of “normal” and “abnormal” sexualities, this study combines poststructuralist theories of foreign policy on the one hand, and feminist and queer international relations theory on the other.  

More specifically, the project examines the role of Russia as a regional and global promotor of “traditional values”, and the resonance of the idea beyond Russia’s borders, including context-specific meanings in various settings. I look at international discourses and power dynamics, the role of various state and non-state actors (including transnational networks), as well as efforts to resist and contest the politics of “traditional values”. On a more theoretical note, the project investigates how and why “traditional values” has emerged as a form of national and/or geopolitical boundary-making at this particular moment in time and what it means for theories of international relations.  

Project duration: 2018-2020

Project members: Emil Edenborg


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