Populism in Historical Perspective
UCL, London, UK
11 November 2016
Deadline : 1 September 2016
The last decade has seen the rise of politicians, parties and governments to
whom the label ‘populist’ can usefully be applied. This is true not only in
Europe, but also in North and South America, Turkey, India and elsewhere.
British media responses to this global shift have focused on the ‘Brexit’
referendum result and the short term consequences of the 2008 financial crash.
There has been less interest in historicising these phenomena or locating them
in an analysis of twentieth and twenty first century democracy. Yet this would
be a useful endeavour, involving study not only of twentieth century populists
like Pierre Poujade or Juan Perón, but also a wider project investigating the
development of modern mass society since the late nineteenth century.
The UCL European Institute, in cooperation with the UCL Centre for
Transnational History, therefore invites abstracts for papers covering topics
in twentieth and twenty-first century populism across a broad geographical
range, with the aim of exploring the factors which shape its form, as well as
the reasons for its apparent recent upsurge. While operating with an
focus, we aim to bring together sociologists and political scientists, as well
as modern and contemporary historians. We aim to discuss populism in a global
perspective, and therefore especially welcome papers that deal with the
outside of the European context, or which examine transnational connections
The symposium is co-organised with Passionate Politics, a research group at
University College London, which explores the relationship between politics
the world of the emotions. As such, we are particularly interested in the
affective content of populist politics, and the means by which emotions are
mobilised to political ends.
In order to facilitate dialogue between our speakers and encourage lively and
engaged discussions between conference attendees, the conference will be
organised in three thematic panels, preceded by an opening plenary which will
help to orientate the discussion. The panels are as follows.
Populists tend to portray themselves as standing for the marginalised. Yet
seek to be majoritarians, and their coalitions often encompass a large range
publics, characteristically cutting across divides (socio-economic, cultural,
regional, occupational) which other political formations treat as normative.
What is the class composition of populist movements and to what extent is the
formulation ‘the people’ used to shape a politics that lies outside class
(or other) conflict? Who in turn lies outside the people?
Populists characterise themselves as defenders of a particular set of values,
often under attack by a distant elite. What social structures, cultural
practices and economic interests shape these values? How do these values
translate into political decisions? How do they inform notions of legitimacy,
democracy, and authoritarianism.
Languages of populism
Populism often deploys the language of ‘common sense’, both as a persuasive
rhetorical tool and an articulation of the subjectivity of a group which feels
it has been neglected or ignored. How are these knowledges formed,
and mobilised? What is the role of the media, both as a mouthpiece for
politics, a force in shaping the context in which it emerges, or as a focus
anger on the part of publics. What role have new forms of media played in
allowing contemporary populists to communicate with their publics?
Please email us 250-400 word abstracts for 15-20 minute papers by Thursday 1
September. Please indicate the panel to which your abstract applies, and
a short CV. Any questions, please contact Harry Stopes or Alessandro