How radical right-wing populism deals with demographic challenges. An international workshop



Oscar Mazzoleni, Emilia Meini, Antoine Lehmann (OVPR, Université de Lausanne)

Vendredi 29 septembre 2023 au samedi 30 septembre 2023 - Géopolis - Salles 2224 GEO et 2230 GEO

*Detailed program in English below

Les 29 et 30 septembre prochains aura lieu à Géopolis un workshop de recherche international sur le thème du populisme de droite et des enjeux démographiques. Le workshop, lié au projet FNS-WAVE « Populism and conspiration theory », vise à rendre compte de la manière dont l’immigration, la défense de la religion chrétienne, de la famille traditionnelle et de la natalité, font parties prenantes de l’agenda de la droite populiste. Le regard sera porté sur trois continents (Europe, Amérique du Nord et Amérique du Sud).


In the last decades, new or radicalized actors have become electorally and politically successful in many contemporary democracies. Such actors have been often included in the “family” of radical right-wing populism and have put migrants and immigration at the core of their agenda and narratives across continents. In fact, immigrant flows, mainly from the poorer to the richer countries, have opened a wide and persistent political opportunity for radical right-wing populism.

However, immigration is not the sole issue of this ideological “family” and the migration flow is not the unique structural opportunity framed and exploited by radical right-wing populism. Nowadays new issues take increasing relevance concerning structural, social and cultural transformations, such as the attack against “gender ideologies”, abortion, LGBTQ rights, Islamophobia, etc.

However, academic literature has often considered these plural sets of issues as separate research topics. The depenalization of abortion, recognition of same-sex marriage, fluid sexuality, etc. are framed by radical right-wing populism as the causes of the crisis of the traditional family model. Immigration from non-European/non-Christian countries is seen both as prosperity and threat, as a danger to the Christian/Western/traditional family’s model. At the same time, the defense of the traditional family model is presented as a crucial response against demographic threats undermining the “true” people (e.g. declining birth rates, decreasing shares of Christians and white people, etc.).

The workshop deals with a redefinition and a dramatization of the “cultural backlash” by radical right-wing populism on demographic-related issues in many democracies, in Europe and the Americas. Right-wing populism ideologically politicizes and takes advantage of official projections which foresee, for instance, a significant decrease of the EU residents in the next decades. The main official explanation of the EU demographic decline is the lowering of birth rates and the growth of the aging population. For the US, the demographic decline mainly refers to the non-Hispanic white population. In Brazil, population projections also expect a decreasing trend after 2050 and a shrinking proportion of the white population.

The workshop will address the following main research question:

How/to what extent the current radical right-wing populist agenda/issues/ideological stances might be interpreted as responses to key demographic challenges, connected to changes related to gender, sexual relations, and family models?

The workshop pursues the following goals:

· Connecting scholars interested in studying radical right-wing populism but working in different and often separate topics/sub-fields (immigration, gender, family-related issues, religion, etc.);

· Highlighting the different framing of demographic-related issues by radical right-wing populism in different contexts, assuming each actor (i.e. leader, movement, party) shapes and frames demographic challenges in different ways;

· Developing and sharing a theoretical discussion on radical-right-wing populism and demographic populism;

· Drawing a collective and cohesive project of an edited book.

Friday 29th September 2023

Géopolis, Room 2224

09:00-09:30 Introduction


Michał Krzyżanowski, Uppsala University, Sweden, Natalia Krzyżanowska, Örebro University, Sweden, Monica Colombo, University Milano-Bicocca, Italy

Re/Definitions of the ‘Family’ in/and the Discourse of European Right Wing Populist Parties: Strategies of Pre-Legitimising and Normalising the Politics of Exclusion

Discussant: Marianna Griffini


Carlos de la Torre, University of Florida

Comparing the racial and gender projects of right and left populists in Latin America

Discussant: Javier Corrales

Coffee break


Carol Mason, University of Kentucky

Opposing Abortion, Protecting Women, and Transnationalizing US Populism

Discussant: Mattia Diletti


Javier Corrales, Amherst College

Polarization, Policy Extremism, and Homophobia under Populist Governments

Discussant: Carol Mason

Lunch break


Alberta Giorgi, University of Bergamo, Italy

Grounding anti-immigration and pro-traditional family values on science

Discussant: Michał Krzyżanowski


Marianna Griffini, King’s College London

Demographic entanglements: colonial reflections in the discourse and policy of the populist radical right on natality

Discussant: Juliana Chueri

Coffee break


Oscar Mazzoleni and Emilia Meini, University of Lausanne

The Challenge of conspirational right-wing populism. The Great Replacement in Western Europe

Discussant: Reinhard Heinisch

Saturday 30th September 2023

Géopolis, Room 2230


Juliana Chueri, University of Amsterdam,  Catarina Ianni Segato, University of São Paulo

Bolsonaro's Gender Politics: Social Policies and Attitudes Among Female Supporters

Discussant: Alberta Giorgi


Reinhard Heinisch and Diana Lucia Hofmann, University of Salzburg

The Effects of Othering: Anti-Islamic Mobilization in Austria

Discussant: Oscar Mazzoleni

Coffee break


Mattia Diletti, University La Sapienza

Transatlantic nostalgia. Traditional family and global conservative networks

Discussant: Carlos de la Torre


Final remarks


CIVIS Meeting



This event is organized with the support of :

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