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Massimo Prearo (University of Verona), ‘Anti-Gender Mobilizations, Religion and Politics in Italy’
Dimitris Papanikolaou (University of Oxford), ‘Oxymoronic Family. On the National Production of Double-Binds’


Massimo Prearo:  ‘Anti-Gender Mobilizations, Religion and Politics in Italy’

How to understand the contemporary uses of religion in politics through the case study of Italian anti-gender movements? How to define new form of Catholic mobilizations specializing in conflicts aroung issues related to gender and sexuality, LGBT+ rights and the family? The study of activist discourses and mobilizations shows the critical role played by religious, activist, and political opportunity structures, against the backdrop of the specific reconfiguration of the Italian political Catholicism realm between the 1990s and the 2000s set against the backdrop of the dissolution of the Christian Democratic Party. 
Massimo Prearo is an Assistant Professor of Political Science, and scientific coordinator of the Research Center PoliTeSse – Politics and Theories of Sexuality at the University of Verona. He specialised in the study of LGBT+ movements and politics. He is the author of Anti-Gender Mobilizations, Religion and Politics: an Italian case study (Routledge, 2024). 
Dimitris Papanikolaou: ‘Oxymoronic Family. On the National Production of Double-Binds’

In my 2018 book There is Something About the Family: Nation, Desire and Kinship at a Time of Crisis, written in Greek, I argued that the celebrated narrative of ‘the Holy Greek Family’ is itself a biopolitical tool, one in a series of biopolitical apparatuses related to the family unit and to the patriarchal kinship networks favoured in Greek society. In this paper I want to rethink some of the arguments made in that book, in the light of recent developments in the Greek sociopolitical arena (eg. the recent adoption of a “marriage for everyone” law and the debate on it; the concomitant rise of anti-abortion and extreme homophobic views in mainstream politics; the rise of gender-related attacks in public spaces).
Inspired by the questions posed by the organisers of this event, I want to talk about the ‘self-contradictory definitions’, the double-binds and operative oxymorons that structure a certainbiopolitics of gender within national contexts such as that of Greece today. Traditionalist views about Greek society, still very powerfully represented in the Greek polity, the administration and the Church, can claim both that they ‘protect women’, while also covering for deeply ingrained mechanisms of gender violence. They can be both ‘pro-life’, while supporting the strengthening of necropolitical border policing that is so often responsible for the death of people on the move. They argue that a low birth rate is ‘emptying the motherland’, while asserting that there is no space for immigrants in the country. How can such discursive double-binds be so successful in the Greek public sphere at the moment? How are they so effective in claiming their central position in ‘national ideology’, while also being so blatantly oxymoronic ?
An important reason, I will argue, is that the ‘Holy Greek family’ has functioned as a discursive workshop for the production of such operative oxymorons in the first place; indeed, this is another one of its crucial biopolitical functions. As an institution, the Greek family keeps training its members in what Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick once described as ‘the double-binding force fields of conflicting definition’. To counter this, feminist and trans/queer mobilizations have long adopted strategies of spectacularization and performative destabilization of nationally iconic double-binds. They have also, more recently, adopted new strategies of historical inquiry, genealogical community building and intersectional solidarity, which I tend to describe as the politics of care/hauntology/archaeology. I will close my talk with some reflections on these intertwined practices of ‘familial’ insubordination.

Professor of Modern Greek and Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Oxford, Dimitris Papanikolaou is the author of Singing Poets: Literature and Popular Music in France and Greece (Legenda/Routledge: 2007), ‘Those People Made Like Me’: Queer Cavafy and the Poetics of Sexuality (in Greek; Patakis: 2014), There Ιs Something About the Family: Nation, Desire and Kinship at a Time of Crisis (in Greek; Patakis: 2018) and Greek Weird Wave: A Cinema of Biopolitics (Edinburgh University Press: 2021). Founding member of the collective Greek Studies Now and the Journal of Greek Media and Culture, for which he has co-edited special issues on Cavafy Pop (2014), New Queer Greece (2018) and Greece and the South (2022). He has also co-edited volumes on queer memory and politics and on the history of Greek cinema. See

All are welcome to attend this free seminar which will be held online via Zoom, starting at 5pm BST (UK time). Please register to receive the zoom link, by clicking Book Now at the top of this page.

In this online seminar series for ILCS's Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women’s Writing, we will venture to explore queerness and its affordances for counterhegemonic critique and resistance within the cultural framework of two countries of the European South, Italy and Greece. Given that the European South has been constructed as a space of gendered, sexualised, racialised, and economic subalternity, the cycle of seminars we suggest endeavours to revisit these epistemologies which fashion and manage subjects and entire populations. More specifically, Italy and Greece have been selected as case studies because of the steady rise of extreme neoliberalism and the far-right in both countries. For us, the intersection of queerness and the European South opens up possibilities to seize and reconfigure key concepts of these (homo)nationalist, capitalist, and patriarchal political agendas: family, trans*ition, antiquity, and crises. At a time when femininity and queerness are subjected to specific processes of construction, control, and annihilation, we aim at an interdisciplinary approach which will result in a toolkit of alternative knowledges and praxes. Instead of a hotbed of intense biopolitical (and necropolitical) management, we envision the queer European South as a positionality for worldmaking critique and solidary community building. Each of these four weekly seminars takes its cue from an assortment of keywords which provide the different strands for discussion. After hearing from our invited speakers, a conversation between the panellists and the public will follow.

The seminar series is conceived and co-curated by Alice Parrinello and Billie Mitsikakos (University of Oxford, co-convenors of Queer Intersections Oxford).


30 April

Massimo Prearo (University of Verona), ‘Anti-Gender Mobilizations, Religion and Politics in Italy’
Dimitris Papanikolaou (University of Oxford), ‘Oxymoronic Family. On the National Production of Double-Binds’

7 May
(De)Colonise Antiquity/Archaeopolitics/Homosexuality

Dimitris Plantzos (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens), ‘We Have Never Been Queer: Ancient Sexualities and Present Archaeosocialities as a Way (Not) to Define the Modern Greek Self’

John Champagne (Pennsylvania State University), ‘The Italian Vice, Rethinking the Role of Italy in the Invention of Modern Male Homosexuality’
Stefano Evangelista (University of Oxford), ‘Blue Love: John Addington Symonds in Venice’

14 May

Alberica Bazzoni (Università per Stranieri di Siena), ‘Undoing Italy with Ferrante, Sapienza, Scego, and Lahiri: Transnational Approaches to Contemporary Literature in Italian’
Mariza Avgeri (Open University), ‘Towards a Decolonizing Framework for Centering the Experiences of Trans and Queer Migrants and Refugees’

21 May
Crises/Critique/Grammars of Resistance

Maria Boletsi (University of Amsterdam / Leiden University), ‘Grammar and/as Infrastructure: Revisiting the Politics of the Middle Voice in “Post-Crisis” Greece’
Vera Gheno (Università degli Studi di Firenze, ‘“Is There a Problem with Italian? ”: The Challenges of a Binary Language Facing a Fluid Reality’

The artwork at the top of the page is courtesy of Martina Martonsky. Martina Martonsky is an Italian artist currently based in the Netherlands. Through illustrations, mini comics and short animations, she explores the connection between femininity, animality and monstrosity, subverting the patriarchal Western canons of beauty. See: