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Abstinence Makes the State Grow Stronger: The Politics of Sex Education in Croatia*


As the title of my paper suggests the subject matter deals with the Republic of Croatia and its policy on sex education. Similar to many former socialist countries, the religious authorities in Croatia have taken an influential role in the affairs of the state. My aim in this paper is to demonstrate how the interjection of a church-backed sex education policy into the public sphere fuels the imagery of heterosexual nationalism among Croatian citizens. A movement that produces and reinforces notions of ethnoheterosexualism. I use the term “ethno-heterosexual” to emphasize the particularities of the relationship between heterosexuality and Croatian nationalism. Borrowing from Joane Nagel’s concept of ethnosexuality, in which she claims that “ethnic boundaries are also sexual boundaries,” I extend the concept to foreground how the interplay between ethnicity and religion galvanize to produce a hyper-heterosexualized Croatian national body. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s theory of discourse, I interrogate how state and church apparatus channel power through ethnically charged heterosexual discourses to discipline citizen’s bodies. This perspective carves out a lens through which we can see how church-backed values map onto the social body, grounding ethno-heterosexuality as a form of social control that shores up Croatia’s institutional power.

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