Performing Gender in View of the Outbreak

Projektleitung: Mag.a Silke Felber
Fördergeber: FWF
Volumen: 250.645,00 Euro
Forschungsstätte: mdw - Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien



Combining theatre studies and discourse analysis, and using Austria as an example, this research project deals with the question of how the gender imbalances evoked by COVID-19 are being commented on, legitimised or concealed by political leaders.

The central hypothesis is that women have assumed a paradoxical (in)visibility within the staged crisis management of the Austrian Federal Government. On the one hand, women were clearly underrepresented in the press conferences held in view of COVID-19 and in the accompanying reporting. On the other hand, stylized as “everyday heroines” and “system maintainers”, they played an important role within the discursive staging of the current health and economic crisis. Yet, this ostensible discursive appreciation of women goes hand in hand with a perfidious reproduction of paternalistic stereotypes that naturally link women to motherhood and (unpaid) care work. At the same time, according to the hypothesis, such strategies favour the staging of antitoxic masculinity and support the speakers involved in their attempt to free themselves from sexist tendencies. Conversely, the staging of the (male) political actors in the face of the outbreak is based on concepts of task-related competence and instrumentality and gives rise to figurations of the Athlete, the Father, the Commander-in-chief and the Redeemer, through which hegemonic male identity can be performatively created in the context of the crisis and inscribed in the symbolic order. The main research questions are as follows: What choreographic, iconographic and linguistic elements form the basis for the intermedial apparatus of the crisis management performed by the Austrian Federal Government? And what gender roles and ethno-national stereotypes are implemented or perpetuated in this context?

The project attempts at linking the emerging field of appearance studies rooted in theatre studies with approaches of feminist critical discourse analysis. This methodological link promises a targeted analysis of the mediatisation of political stagings and their historically conditioned views, ideologies and (gendered) bodies of knowledge in the context of the current crisis.

Performing Gender in View of the Outbreak responds to the alarming lack of gender-specific analyses within the research of pandemics or the ways politics deal with them. The project touches on the central socio-political discourses of our time and places them in a historical and global context. Cooperating partners are the Research Platform Gender. Ambivalent In_Visibilities (University of Vienna), Andrea B. Braidt (University of Vienna), Susanne Foellmer (Coventry University), Bettine Menke (University of Erfurt), Julia Prager (University of Dresden), Beate Schappach (University of Bern) and Ruth Wodak (Lancaster University).