The anti-gender movement seeks not only political influence but also epistemic power (Korolczuk 2020, Paternotte and Verloo 2021). To this end the ultraconservative actors challenge the validity of gender studies and non-discriminatory education, attack scholars who focus on gender and sexuality, and aim to change the curricula that are not in line with ultraconservative worldview. The goal, however, is not only to dismantle existing academic institutions and limit academic freedom, but to establish new bodies and practices of knowledge production, and form a new intellectual elite, effectively opposing the existing liberal and left-leaning one. Thus, the anti-gender movement promotes its own intellectual authorities, produces conservative knowledge – a counterknowledge – on gender and sexuality, and aims to gain visibility in existing institutions of higher learning as well as to establish new ones. To this end ultraconservative organizations and religious fundamentalists cooperate closely with right-wing politicians and conservative intellectuals on the national and transnational level. One example of such cooperation is Collegium Intermarium dubbed the ”Free University of Central Europe”, which was established in Warsaw in 2021 by Ordo Iuris Institute Fundation, with the organizational and financial support from the Polish government and state-own companies.
This paper analyzes how counterknowledge on gender and sexuality is being produced and legitimized in the Polish context. It shows how the anti-gender movement promotes and legitimizes counterknowledge and expertise through politicization of knowledge and by forming and promoting new elite of experts and knowledge producers: educators, lawyers trained in human rights and experts who have skills in managing civil society organizations. The conclusions are based on qualitative analysis of various texts including official documents, media coverage of anti-gender campaigns, social media contents, parliamentary debates and interviews with various actors (both progressive and conservative), as well as the analysis of events (conferences, public debates, openings) in the sphere of education and knowledge production organized by the anti-gender movement and/or right-wing populist politicians.