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Shiny Happy People Laughing: The Far-Right’s Mobilization of Emotions Through Visual Repertoires of the March for Life

Extremism
National Identity
Activism
LGBTQI
National
Maja Gergoric
University of Zagreb
Maja Gergoric
University of Zagreb
Ivan Tranfic
Scuola Normale Superiore
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Abstract

The wave of resistance to gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights and women's sexual and reproductive health has taken on the new form of an anti-gender movement which has developed with the goal to combat the “gender ideology” on both the global and local levels. The movement is comprised of diverse networks, including religious actors, far-right parties and organizations as well as professional and parent associations. Despite a growing body of literature dealing with the causes of anti-gender mobilization, its actors and discourses, an analysis of the visual, performative and emotional mobilization of this new movement is still missing. This paper is a case study of the March for Life as the most prominent campaign of the Croatian religious far-right movement. The March opposes the right to abortion and has continuously been growing and spreading to new cities despite the general stagnation of the local antigender movement. In our paper we use a combination of visual and multimodal discourse analysis and frame analysis to examine the biggest and oldest March for Life - the one held in Croatia's capital, Zagreb. Our analytical focus will be directed to the visual, performative, musical and general discursive elements of the March. We will be singling out the role of emotions, i.e. the communication, transformation and mobilization of emotions in the formation of the anti-gender movement’s collective identity. Firstly, we employ multimodal qualitative analysis using the NVIVO software on 600 posts from the online Facebook page ´March for Life - Zagreb´. We investigate how visuals and text are used to portray and represent different actors, figures and symbols; how visual repertoires, qualifying adjectives and framing are used to express different types of emotions as well as claim-making strategies. Secondly, we extract several representative and salient visuals produced by the movement for an in-depth analysis of the symbolic, rhetorical and connotative meanings and framing strategies. Finally, we analyze the kinaesthetic and symbolic aspects and dynamics of the 2019 March for Life: music, protest signs, its route, organization and artefacts used by the participants. With our paper we demonstrate that the relative success of the new ultraconservative movement in Croatia is largely a consequence of a skillful mobilization and manipulation of emotions. The movement engages in mirroring the repertoires of action traditionally belonging to the left and new social movements. By adopting the discourse, emotional tone, rituals and performative elements typical of the repertoires of identity politics, the anti-gender movement enables a collective emotional expression of the participants of the March, as well as the transformation of negative emotions into positive ones. Our analysis demonstrates that the innovativity of this contemporary far-right movement is not only located in the adoption of the scientific and human rights discourse, as argued by existing research, but also by a skillful cooptation of identity politics and focus on emotions, self-expression and construction of a positive, active and participatory political identity.