Keynote speakers

Simon Tormey (University of Bristol)

María Esperanza Casullo (Universidad Nacional de Río Negro)

Call for Papers

After the rise of Trump and Brexit, it has almost become a cliché among scholars and commentators to suggest that we are living through a ‘populist moment.’ As the argument goes, populism has always been a significant force in Europe and the Americas, but its rise had been characterised by episodic and context-specific surges. What is different, now, is that surges seem to manifest simultaneously, not only in Europe and the Americas, but also beyond, notably in India, Southeast Asia, Australia, but also Africa. In other words, the populist surge seems to have gone global for good. But is this really the case? If yes, how can we better explain it, taking into account the heterogeneity of populist actors as well as the multiplicity of institutional settings? If this is not really the case, how are we to critically assess discourses that seem to be ‘hyping’ populism, often to the extent of triggering moral panic? In this sense, we are interested both in contributions that aim to substantiate the claim that we live in a ‘populist moment,’ and others that would problematise and question this, focusing on the uses (and abuses) of ‘populism’ as a term or signifier. Could it be that part of what’s often discussed as an unprecedented rise of populist politics has also to do with the way that the media, politicians, think-tanks and scholars talk about the term? In a bid to tackle these questions, we suggest the following areas of enquiry and we welcome both theoretical and empirical contributions:

  • Global Mapping of the Populist Surge: The proliferation of populist actors around the globe urges us to produce a comprehensive mapping of the phenomenon. What are the preconditions for the rise of populism? What are the variations of populist phenomena?
  • Social Movements and Populism: From the Spanish Indignados to Occupy in the US, and from the ‘Yellow Vests’ in France to the current protests in Chile, a new wave of progressive, leaderless and movement-based populism seems to emerge. How do these bottom-up mobilisations help us understand the under-researched demand side of populism? How might these movements, their organisation and strategies inform our understanding of populist politics and its impact on democracy?
  • Populism in Government: Increasingly, populist actors hold regional or central positions of power, enter coalitions or lead governments. How different are these actors in office when compared to non-populist ones? And how do they compare to each other?
  • Populism as a signifier: how can we better assess the language games around the term ‘populism’? Could it be that its uses and abuses might serve certain purposes or generate political outcomes? How have the ways that we speak about ‘populism’ in the public sphere evolved in recent years?
  • Populism and anti-populism: along with the rise of populism, one can observe the rise of discourse consistently opposing or fighting it. Are there patterns and commonalities in ‘anti-populist’ discourses that characterise actors utilising them, or is this just a rhetorical tool used rather randomly?

Please send your paper title, abstract (200 words max) and short biographical note (70 words max) as one file to by 30th December 2019. The subject line of your email should read ‘Abstract PopulismSG 2020 Workshop – author name.’ Accepted participants will be notified by 20th January the latest.

Our first newsletter is out!

The Populism Specialist Group (SG) is requesting paper and panel proposals for the PSA’s 70th annual conference in Edinburgh.

The phenomenon of populism appears alive and well and shows no signs of disappearing with multiple manifestations around the globe. Why is this? Are the extant analytical and conceptual frameworks sufficient, or are they in need of development? And what are the reactions that the global rise of populism triggers? These and other questions will frame the Populism SG’s fifth PSA conference, and the pervasiveness of populism indicates that we will provide and provoke engaging analyses of our current (and past) political conjuncture.

The Populism SG is issuing a Call for Papers for the 2020 Conference of the PSA and, for the first time, we are inviting panel proposals from our members. We are also interested in putting together panels that investigate the relationship between populism and: race; Brexit; ‘moderate’ or non-populist politics.

The PSA places limitations on the number of panels that each SG can put forward. Recently, the number of paper proposals that we received have comfortably exceeded those that we can propose to the PSA. As a consequence, we have set an early deadline, so that we can evaluate the proposals and inform you of our decision early, such that – if unsuccessful – you can send your proposal directly through the PSA.

Please send a paper title and brief abstract of no more than 200 words as well as your panel proposals to by 7th October 2019.

Populism, Liberalism, Democracy – 3rd Populism Specialist Group (PSA) Workshop, 12-13 April 2019, Loughborough University

*All the panels take place at Room K105, Manzoni building. The Keynotes take place at Room U.0.05 Brockington Extension building.



08:30-09:00 | Registration

09:00-09:15| Welcome by hosts/organisers

09:15-10:30 | Panel 1: Populism and Performativity

Angelos Kissas (University of Cambridge) ‘The digital performativity of populism: the case of the charismatic personae on Twitter’

Lone Sorensen (University of Huddersfield) ‘Performance and ideology in populist claims to democracy in transitional and established democracy’

Imogen Lambert (Loughborough University) ‘Crisis and representation of events within populist discourse

Chair: Yannis Stavrakakis

10:30-11:00 | COFFEE BREAK

11:00-12:30 | Panel 2: Populism, Metaphors, Representation

Máté Mátyás (Corvinus University of Budapest – University of Tartu) ‘Media-polity relations and populist electoral success: Comparing the Brexit referendum and the 2010 general elections in Hungary’

Massimiliano Demata (University of Turin) ‘Riding the populist wave. Metaphorical constructions of populism in news media’

Thomas Zicman De Barros (Sciences Po Paris) ‘Beyond the “Return of the Political”: ls “Symptom” an adequate Metaphor tο describe populism?’

Josefin Graef (Hertie School of Governance) ‘Representative Democracy and the Populist Politics of the Extraordinary’

Chair: Andy Knott

12:30-13:30 | LUNCH BREAK

13:30-15:00 | Panel 3: Non-Populist Populism?

Theo Aiolfi (University of Warwick) ‘Leaderless populism and the limits of representative democracy: the French case of the yellow vests’

Panos Panayotu (Loughborough University) ‘The Transnational Aspects of Populism: A Way Forward? The Case of DiEM25’

Salome Ietter (Queen Mary University of London) ‘Anti-populism, populism and ‘Gilets jaunes’: democracy in question’

Petra A. Honová (Charles University-Prague) ‘“Fighting Fire with Fire”: Progressive Populism of DiEM25 as a reaction to the crisis of liberal democracy’

Chair: Giorgos Katsambekis

15:00-15:30 | COFFEE BREAK

15:30-17:00 | Panel 4: Populism in Power

Grigoris Markou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) ‘Radicals in government: The populist experiment of the SYRIZA-ANEL alliance’

Seongcheol Kim (WZB Berlin Social Science Center) ‘Because the Homeland Cannot Be in Opposition: A Discourse and Hegemony Analysis of Fidesz and Law and Justice (PiS) from Opposition to Power’

Giorgos Venizelos (Scuola Normale Superiore) ‘Conceptual and methodological propositions in the study of populism in power’

Syed Tahseen Raza (Aligarh Muslim University) ‘The Rise of Populism in India: A Geneological Account’

Chair: Emmy Eklundh

17:15-18:15 | KEYNOTE 1: Ruth Wodak (Lancaster University/University of Vienna) ‘“Revisiting Orwell’: The Shameless Normalization of Exclusion’




09:00-10:30 | Panel 5: Populism and Global Orders

Jenna Higham (Lancaster University) ‘Leave or Remain? Populism as a political tool in the battle for Brexit’

İlke Civelekoğlu, Lerna Yanık, Umut Korkut (Ιstanbul Ticaret University, Has University, Glasgow Caledonian University) ‘Matrushka Populism(s): Conceptualizing the Link Between Populism and Foreign Policy in Turkey and Hungary’

Ying Miao (Aston University) ‘If Populism is the Answer, What is the Question? Identity Politics and Populist Discourses in China’

Francesco Melito (Jagiellonian University in Krakow – Institute of European Studies) ‘Finding the Roots of Neo-traditional Populism in Poland. “Cultural Displacement” and European Integration’

Chair: Andy Knott

10:30-11:00 | COFFEE BREAK

11:00-12:30 | Panel 6: Challenges to the Liberal Order

Alen Toplišek (SOAS University) ‘Liberal Democracy in Crisis and the Populist Quest for the State’

Carola Schoor (Maastricht University) ‘The Clashing Freedoms of Populism and Liberalism’

Emmy Eklundh (King’s College London) ‘Populism, sovereignty, masculinity: A decolonial critique’

Aman Gaur (LSE) ‘Beyond economics and culture: explaining populism in Australia as a loss of trust in government’

Chair: Yannis Stavrakakis

12:30-13:30 | LUNCH BREAK

13:30-14:30 | KEYNOTE 2: Michael Freeden (University of Oxford/SOAS University of London) ‘Where is the debate on populism taking us? Academic hurdles and conceptual conundrums’

14:45-16:15 | Panel 7: Defining the people

Rajat Roy (Presidency University, Kolkata, India) ‘The Crisis of the Category of People in India: Towards an idea of the Dalit as new Universal’

Maria Ivana Lorenzetti (University of Verona) ‘Discursive Representations of ‘the People’ in Populist Discourse and the Representation of Democracy: The case of Italy’

Yuliya Moskvina (Charles University, Prague) ‘Who are the people in left-wing populist movements? The relationship between populism and democracy’

François Debras (Université de Liège) ‘The singing of sirens: when right-wing populist talks about democracy’

Chair: Emmy Eklundh

16:15-16:45 | COFFEE BREAK

16:45-18:15 | Panel 8: Populism, Anti-populism and Authority

Maren A. Schäfer (University of Heidelberg) ‘The Impact of Populist Anti-Authority Rhetoric on American Democracy’

Anton Jäger (University of Cambridge) ‘Mediation and the Corporate Question in Late Nineteenth-Century Populism’

Halil Gürhanlı (University of Helsinki) ‘Anti-Populism in Turkey: The Centre-Periphery Model and Its Modernist Roots’

Thomas Swann (Loughborough University) ‘Deliberative Democratic Polling as Anti-Populism. An Intersectional Anarchist Response’

Chair: Giorgos Katsambekis

Keynote speakers: 
Ruth Wodak, Emerita Professor of Discourse Studies, 
Lancaster University
Michael Freeden, Emeritus Professor of Politics, 
University of Oxford


Call for Papers

Populism has been a buzzword for quite a few years now. But after Brexit and Trump, and with the rise of new populist actors in Europe and beyond we have been witnessing an unprecedented inflation in the use of the term both in the public sphere and in academic debates. The concept is often applied to antithetical phenomena, left-wing and right-wing, anti-democratic or radical democratic ones. Accordingly, the debate seems to be split between those who see populism as a ‘clear and present danger’ for democracy and those that stress the democratic potential of such movements. A lot depends on the particular definition of democracy one adopts: elitist or participatory, liberal or radical; and thus on the normative position one takes. Indeed, for many researchers and commentators, democracy is often reduced exclusively to liberal democracy, which leads to an almost automatic dismissal of all populist movements either as undemocratic or, at best, as minimally democratic but ‘illiberal’.

The Populism Specialist Group seeks papers that confront these questions. Is populism by definition anti-democratic or illiberal? What is the relationship between the crisis of liberal democracy and the proliferation of populism(s) in today’s world? Is populism, at best, a symptom of this crisis or can it be also envisaged as a solution for the reinvigoration of democracy? What are the conditions leading to the one or the other political outcome?

We are looking for abstracts which engage with the question of populist politics from either a theoretical, empirical, or methodological perspective, qualitative or quantitative, local or global. In particular, we are interested in papers that deal with the various definitions and concrete forms of populism in their ambivalent relationship with liberalism and democracy.

* * *

Please send your abstract to no later than January 10, 2019. Any questions can be addressed to the same email. Please also visit our Facebook and Twitter accounts for the latest updates.

The Populism Specialist Group of the PSA invites paper proposals on the following themes:


Panel 1: Populism(s) in Opposition/Populism(s) in Power

‘Populism in power’ seems to be a rather counterintuitive notion to the extent that public wisdom as well as most academic research are premised on the idea that populism can only be effective in opposition. Indeed, populism is often understood as a political strategy or rhetorical style that may be potentially rewarding while in opposition, while certainly challenging, if not harmful, when in government. In addition, few populist parties have formed governments, especially within the European context. Yet, the cases of many Latin American governments, of the current SYRIZA coalition government in Greece, of the situation in Poland and Hungary, as well as of the new Italian government, to mention just a few indicative examples, invite one to urgently reconsider this rather misleading idea. We invite paper proposals dealing with any aspect of the populist record in power (including economic and social policy, rule of law and polarization, foreign policy, ideology and discourse, etc.) from different political, geographical and cultural contexts. Comparative and historical perspectives as well as case studies will be particularly welcome.

E-mail your paper proposal (paper title, 200-word abstract, institutional affiliation and full contact details) to Yannis Stavrakakis:


Panel 2: Populism and History

Does populism have a history and, if so, what is it? This is a fertile question to enhance our understanding of the explosive phenomenon of populism. To date, much has been written about historical instances of populism, but accounts that attempt to knit together each of these case studies to produce a theory of populism’s history are thin on the ground. This panel invites considerations from across the disciplines to address the question of populism’s history, especially inviting historians, political scientists, political theorists and philosophers to launch this debate.


Email your paper proposal (paper title, 200-word abstract, institutional affiliation and full contact details) to Andy Knott


Panel 3: Brexit and Populism

The issue of Brexit poses numerous questions for the study of populism. In the first place, it elides the distinction between populisms in opposition and in power: Brexit arguably emerged from a paradoxical coalition between a nationalist, right-wing populism with Nigel Farage as its figurehead, alongside key figures within the British government. In the second place, Brexit is playing out before our very eyes with the key players very much emanating from the highest echelons of the establishment or elite, who are leading figures within the government looking to implement Brexit itself. What does Brexit say about populism? And, inversely, what does populism say about Brexit? How does the distinction between populism in opposition and populism in power hold up through the example of Brexit? Is it really populism that has produced Brexit, or is it something else? We invite paper proposals grappling with these questions and more.


Email your paper proposal (paper title, 200-word abstract, institutional affiliation and full contact details) to Andy Knott


Panel 4: Populism and Feminism

Recently, there has been an increased focus on the role of masculinity in populist movements and parties. Some would argue that populism relies on a male leader, looking to Donald Trump and Victor Orbán, among others, as prime example of the workings of populism. However, leaders such as Marine Le Pen in France and Pia Kjaersgaard in Denmark complicate this narrative, turning the focus from male leaders to masculinity. This panel engages with the question of which role masculinity, sexism and chauvinism plays in the construction of populist movements and parties. The panel engages with, but is not limited to, the following questions: To what extent are populist movements and parties reliant on strong leadership exhibiting the common markers of the alpha-male? What role does masculinity play for the far-Right? What role does masculinity play in left-wing populism? How can feminist and critical scholarship help us better understand populism? The panel welcomes contributions across a range of empirical and theoretical perspectives.


Email your paper proposal (paper title, 200-word abstract, institutional affiliation and full contact details) to Emmy Eklundh:


The Populism and Communism Specialist Groups of the PSA invite paper proposals on the following theme:

JOINT Panel: The European Radical Left and Populist Rhetoric: Communication, Strategy and Ideology

For almost two decades now but especially since the onset of the global financial crisis, a conviction emerged in the literature on left radicalism in Europe, that there exists a populist radical left, which manifests itself both in terms of social movements as well as parties. Its key features are said to be chiefly those of evoking the sovereign people as an organic unity in contradistinction to the self-interested and alienated elites. This panel aims at interrogating three aspects of the relationship between the contemporary European radical left and populism as a political discourse: a) to what extent has a populist discourse emerged within Europe’s radical left? Is it a new phenomenon and how is it communicated in relation to other political orientations? b) In which ways does populism’s articulation with a socialist strategy unify or divide the European radical left, either producing broader popular alliances or instigating conflict among activists and partisans? c) How does the ideology of left radicalism absorb populist rhetorical schemas and in turn what influence do the latter have on the articulation of programmatic positions and principles? In its attempt to integrate scholarly research on the left and on populism, this panel welcomes papers, which deal with one or more of the above three issues of communication, strategy and ideology as part of a theoretical, empirical or historical investigation.

E-mail your paper or panel proposal (paper title(s), 200-word abstract(s), institutional affiliation(s) and full contact details) to Giorgos Charalambous:


Internal Deadline for Paper Proposals: 7 October 2018


Applicants will be notified whether they have been included in the PSG’s panel proposals ahead of the final (non-negotiable) PSA deadline (22 October 2018).