Rainbow Mary and the Perceived Threat of LGBTQ+ Bodies in Poland


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Ela Przybyło is Assistant Professor in English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Illinois State University. She is the author of Asexual Erotics: Intimate Readings of Compulsory Sexuality (Ohio State University Press, 2019), editor of On the Politics of Ugliness (Palgrave, 2018), and author of many peer-reviewed articles and chapters including in such journals as Feminist Formations, GLQ, and Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media. Her current work explores motivations behind homophobia and transphobia in Poland with a focus on building queer and feminist genealogies of resistance.


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Contact: emprzy1@ilstu.edu

Examining the powerful protest art piece Rainbow Mary / Tęczowa Madonna by Elżbieta Podleśna, this talk considers the reasons for Polish homophobia and transphobia as expressed by recent events including the rise of the conceptual right-wing framework of "gender ideology," efforts to create "LGBT-free" zones, and attempts at preventing Pride Parades. It argues that Polish right-wing hatred toward LGBTQ+ people is rooted in unresolved trauma and melancholia stemming from centuries of colonization and occupation. Through a nationalistic insistence on Polish innocence and on messianic suffering, Polish LGBTQ+ people are framed by the right-wing as a threat to Polish sovereignty and thus understood as in need of expulsion. The talk will argue that Polish feminist and queer protest art, and specifically Podleśna’s Rainbow Mary, partakes in what José Esteban Muñoz names disidentification, or the remaking of mainstream symbols so that they better serve LGBTQ+ people, remaking in the process what it means to be Polish.