The ‘Populist Moment’: Temporality, Transformations, Crises – 4th Populism Specialist Group (PSA) Workshop, 2-3 April 2020, University of Brighton

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.


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