Mapping Gender Struggles

Gender as Field of Conflict in Contemporary Social Movements

from 23.-25.11.2023 in Munich

Gender seems to have become a central category in contemporary social movements, albeit in various ways. In feminist and LGBTIQ+ movements, which have regained importance as significant societal forces globally in recent years (Wichterich 2020), gender is the central argument. Their issues such as sexual self-determination, the right to abortion, or the fight against sexualized violence are currently highly contested and are on the political agendas globally – not only of social movements but also of governments. Examples include the pro-choice struggles in Poland, Ireland, or the USA, protests against femicides in Argentina or Spain, or political actions against trans- and queer hostility in countries like Hungary, Saudi Arabia, or Kenya. At the same time, in movements for climate justice, anti-racism, or civil liberties, gender politics is not the primary concern. However, their demands are still imbued with feminist beliefs, and women are becoming more visible as leaders of these protests than ever before (Redecker 2021, Shparaga 2021). This is evident in transnational groups like Fridays for Future or Black Lives Matter, as well as in democracy movements in Belarus or Chile, the mass mobilization for reproductive rights in Ireland and Poland or the protests in Iran, where the murder of a young Kurdish woman sparked the protests, but the activists’ demands ultimately aim for a change in government. Simultaneously, right-wing movements gaining strength globally are also framing their arguments around gender, both in terms of openly expressed anti-feminism and by exploiting feminist concerns for racist and populist policies (Graff/Korolczuk 2021). Concepts that we can draw upon in this context include Sara Ahmed’s analysis of gender as a “map of the moment” (2021) or Eszter Kováts and Maari Põim’s “symbolic glue” (2015). Within the framework of this conference, we want to explore whether this observed centrality of gender in current social movements is indeed new or what has changed, both in terms of discourses and representations, as well as regarding the political practice of social movements. What contemporary diagnoses can be made when looking at social movements and their areas of conflict from a gender theoretical perspective?

Social movements – always an expression of broader societal dynamics – are understood as the collective action of a group of people with a common political goal to bring about or prevent social change (Joas 2007). Ethnographic research on social movements, in particular, enables us to focus not only on formalized protest but also on everyday forms of resistance, subjective perspectives, and affective effects of political participation (Bonilla 2018; Goodwin et al. 2001). Naisargi Dave (2012) emphasizes that activism is more than the spectacular moments of actions and demonstrations, but is always also about practices of reflection and the shaping of everyday interpersonal relationships. Following that, within the context of this conference, we would like to initially broaden the concept of the term “movement” and, through the inductive approach aided by the analyses and studies presented, give it substance. In the sense of “mapping,” we aim to compile the diverse current conflicts and struggles related to the category of gender within social movements and establish their connections to each other. The goal is to continually question the hierarchy of knowledge and facilitate a dialogue between movement knowledge and academic knowledge. The conference takes place in both German and English at the intersection of science, art, and activism. Explicitly, not only academics but also representatives from the field are invited to participate. The event is also the 18th working conference of the Commission on Women’s and Gender Research in the German Society for Empirical Cultural Studies (DGEKW).

We would like to thank everyone who has made this conference possible: all the speakers and participants, colleagues from the Institute for European Ethnology and Cultural Analysis, and the Women’s Academy Munich, a renowned educational institution by the Federal Agency for Political Education, as well as the Petra Kelly Foundation for their cooperation. Furthermore, our thanks go to those who have financially supported this conference: the German Research Foundation, the Department of Cultural Studies and Ancient Studies at the Faculty of Cultural Studies at LMU, the Women’s Representative Office at LMU, the Cultural Department of the City of Munich, the Postdoc Support Fund, the Munich Association for Folklore Studies (MVV), and the Schroubek Fund for Eastern Europe. We would like to thank the LUISE Cultural Center and the Monacensia in the Hildebrandhaus for providing the conference rooms.

Concept and Organisation:

Dr. Agnieszka Balcerzak (LMU Munich)
Dr. Birgit Erbe (Women’s Academy Munich)
Dr. Miriam Gutekunst (LMU Munich)
Dr. des. Alexandra Rau (LMU Munich)

Student Assistants:

Ananya Mehra
Jan Spatzl


Carina Müller
Marisa Müller

studio mllr

Artistic Documentation:

Priscillia Grubo
Sophia O’David

Film Documentation:

Johanna Löffler
Dr. Miriam Remter

Research Focus “Visual Anthropology” (LMU)


Ahmed, Sara (2021): Gender Critical = Gender Conservative. Available online at: https://feministkilljoys.com/2021/10/31/gender-critical-gender-conservative (15.10.2022).

Bonilla, Yarimar (2018): Social Movements. In: Oxford Bibliographies. Available online at: https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199766567/obo-9780199766567-0024.xml (15.10.2022).

Dave, Naisargi N. (2012): Queer Activism in India. A Story in the Anthropology of Ethics. Durham.

Goodwin, Jeff/Jasper, James M./Polletta, Francesca (Hg.) (2001): Passionate Politics. Emotions and Social Movements. Chicago/London.

Graff, Agnieszka/Korolczuk, Elżbieta (2021): Anti-Gender Politics in the Populist Moment. London.

Joas, Hans (Hg.) (2007): Soziale Bewegungen und kollektive Aktionen. In: id.: Lehrbuch der Soziologie. 3. ed. Frankfurt am Main/New York, pp. 629–651.

Kováts, Eszter/Põim, Maari (ed.) (2015): Gender as Symbolic Glue. The Position and Role of Conservative and Far-Right Parties in the Anti-Gender Mobilizations in Europe. Brüssel/Budapest.

Redecker, Eva von (2021): Kampf gegen eine “geteilte Welt”. Frauen in Protestbewegungen. Im Interview mit Britta Bürger. Available online at: https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/frauen-in-protestbewegungen-kampf-gegen-eine-geteilte-welt-100.html (15.10.2022).

Shparaga, Olga (2021): Die Revolution hat ein weibliches Gesicht. Berlin.

Wichterich, Christa (2020): Die neue feministische Welle: Brücken bauen, Kämpfe verbinden. In: Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik 3/2020, pp. 67-72.