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Between Pinkwash and Purity: Pride Parades, Corporate Collaboration and Politics of Relationality

Talk by Jannick Friis Christensen, Dept. of Management, Politics and Philosophy, CBS

Info about event


Thursday 19 May 2022,  at 11:00 - 13:00


IMC meeting room, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, building 1483, room 312

Jannick Friis Christensen

On 14 July 2021, with less than a month to Copenhagen 2021 World Pride, Denmark’s leading business newspaper Børsen published an article, which stated that ‘pinkwashing is the new business sin’. In the article, spokesperson for Copenhagen Pride Lars Henriksen is cited for saying that it is problematic if businesses only support pride to buy indulgences, labelling such lip service to the pride parade as pinkwashing. Here, pinkwashing is defined as yet another instance of corporate (organised) hypocrisy, adding the fight for LGBT+ rights and workplace inclusion to the list of good causes with which companies seek attachment without taking the necessary actions. As support for LGBT+ rights is becoming increasingly uncontroversial—at least in a Danish context—general worries as well as specific accusations of pinkwashing in the sense outlined here have become common in Danish public discourse. As more and more companies throw sponsorship money into the annual pride events, it becomes relevant to scrutinise whether they are flying the rainbow flag publicly without taking any further action to ensure support of LGBT+ people in their own daily operations or that of their subsidiaries, suppliers, and other central stakeholders – in the national context of Denmark and internationally.

To that end, Jannick Friis Christensen, PhD, will for this work-in-progress seminar explore the tentative research question: What critical potential does pride cllaobration with non-LGBT+ organisations produce, and with what implications for criticisms of commercialisation, pinkwashing, and rainbow capitalism? Jannick’s work is part of the larger researcher project ‘Beyond Pinkwash: Pride Parades and Integrative Civil Religion’, financed by The Independent Research Fund Denmark, with Associate Professor Stefan Schwarzkopf (CBS – Project Leader) and Professor Sine Nørholm Just (Roskilde University) as Principal Investigators. Empirically, the study is based on interviews and participatory observations with corporate partners of Copenhagen 2021 World Pride, focusing on their rationales for engaging with pride as well as the ways in which the partnerships are articulated and enacted.

In addition to building on and extending existing conceptualisations of pinkwashing, the study thinks with Alexis Shotwell’s notion of ‘constitutive impurity’ , accepting that corporate collaborations around pride are inherently compromised. While Copenhagen Pride is not uncritical of its partners, as exemplified in the spokesperson’s statement above, the official policy is to engage with rather than reject corporations. As such, Copenhagen Pride assumes that not all corporate-pride relations will take the form of pinkwashing – an assumption that is shared for the purpose of this seminar, arguing that puritan criticism of corporate pride as always-already a matter of pinkwashing (since there is no escape from the totalising co-optation of capitalist organising) does not allow for a nuanced analysis that explores the complexities and alternative interpretations of corporate collaboration. It is proposed that by adopting a politics of relationality of corporate pride we may see its potentials without losing sight of its problems.

Jannick Friis Christensen is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Copenhagen Business School and Theme Lead for Gender and Sexuality in the CBS Diversity and Difference Platform. Focusing on norm-critical approaches to organising and researching diversity, Jannick has in recent years studied conventional work organisations from queer perspectives in collaboration with Danish labour unions. He also engages with alternative organisations, for example Roskilde Festival, where he explores the phenomenon of transgressive behaviour, as well as practices for creating diverse and inclusive volunteer communities. His current project investigates the civil religious public ritual of Copenhagen 2021 World Pride and its wider socially integrative potential through corporate collaboration.


1 Shotwell, Alexis (2016) Against Purity. Living Ethically in Compromised Times. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.