Homophobia as Geopolitics: ‘Traditional Values’ and the Negotiation of Russia’s Place in the World

  • Emil Edenborg


In research on political homophobia in Russia, little attention has been devoted to its global political dimensions. This chapter analyzes how dominant narratives of homosexuality are articulated in relation to domestic perceptions of Russia’s international role. Suggesting that political homophobia in Russia must be understood within the larger project of negotiating Russia’s geopolitical identity, I make two specific arguments: firstly, that Russia’s recent (re)turn to “traditional values” is a boundary-making move, delineating Russia from the West and seeking to restore Russia’s place in world politics by positioning the country as a leader in a transnational conservative alliance. This effort must be seen against the background of how sexual politics has emerged as a symbolic battlefield in an imagined clash of civilizations and competing conceptions of modernity. Secondly, at the heart of this geopolitical project is a contradiction which stems from Russia’s historically ambivalent relation to Western modernity. Dominant Russian narratives on homosexuality are undercut by overlapping and contradictory schemas of cultural differentiation, where Russia on the one hand is positioned as a counterhegemonic force opposing Western-imposed gay rights and, on the other hand, as a force of order and civilization in relation to “Muslim homophobia” within Russia’s borders.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emil Edenborg
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Swedish Institute of International AffairsStockholmSweden
  2. 2.Södertörn UniversityHuddingeSweden

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