The ‘Anti-gender’ City of Verona and Grassroots Spatial Resistance: An Interspatial Analysis of Contentious Politics
Internationally renowned as the romantic setting of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, the formulation of ‘love’ the city of Verona has come to champion is premised on heteronormative scripts, where the ‘natural family’ between ‘natives’ is espoused as the panacea against the ills of a globalizing society. It is no coincidence that Verona was the choice of venue for the World Congress of Families in 2019, as the city has become a laboratory of the anti-gender movement amidst the decades-long resistance of feminist and LGBTQ+ groups. Premised on three years of fieldwork, this article employs a tripartite interspatial analysis to unpack the making of an ideal ‘anti-gender space’ on the one hand, and the protracted grass-roots resistance on the other hand in the mid-sized Italian city of Verona. Starting with the traditional field of political space, the article first addresses the conflict over citizenship rights in the city between the anti-gender alliance among institutional and non-institutional actors and the grassroots struggle for the recognition of sexual and reproductive rights. The second dimension explores the everyday dynamics of contentious movements in shared urban spaces involving border drawing and bor-der-erasing in city space. And thirdly, representations of territoriality and counter-territoriality on semantic space is analyzed, where urban imaginaries can act as stimulus for connecting with transnational actors. The article seeks to expand the interdisciplinary dialogue on the spatialities of sexual politics between critical geography and political sociology. It is argued that a spatial analysis of contentious sexual politics needs to take into account all three interwoven dimensions to fully understand the role of the ‘local’ within the ‘transnational’ in the nexus of state-movement-countermovement.
Keywords: anti-gender movement, interspatiality, territoriality, spatial resistance.