International Symposium 2022

Populism and Borders. Theoretical Reflections and Empirical Insights

Università di Losanna - 11-12 novembre 2022/Géopolis, Sala 1620


Christian Lamour (LISER, Luxembourg), Oscar Mazzoleni & Grégoire Yerly (Université de Lausanne)

Program  (228 Ko)

Symposium Poster  (5833 Ko)

14:00 – 14:15: Introduction -  Oscar Mazzoleni, University of Lausanne and Christian Lamour, LISER, Luxembourg)


Session 1, Chair: Massimiliano Demata, University of Turin


14:15 – 14:40: James Scott, University of Eastern Finland

Internal Bordering as a Populist Strategy: Examples from Orban’s Hungary and Trump’s America

Popular discontent with what is perceived to be status quo politics has opened up opportunities for populist political forces. Arguably, the most potent form of anti-democratic political mobilisation is that of illiberalism and its manipulations of anxieties related to questions of national and socio-cultural identity. At heart is a questioning of national societies as pluralistic communities with shared core values. In the cases of Viktor Orban’s political regime in Hungary and Donald Trump’s four-year presidency (and its aftermath) we find a pronounced attempt to create narrative hegemony of a sense of nation built upon Christian civilisation and foundationalist understandings of national identity. As part of this identity-based practice of “divide and rule”, we see in both cases processes of socio-cultural as well as spatial boundary-making (or bordering). These processes are reflected in social norming and discursive othering that create distinctions based on degrees of national “authenticity.” At the same time, social bordering as a political project intersects with psychological processes such as “enclave deliberation” and group self-referentiality that reflect deeper divisions within national societies. In this paper, an ontological security approach will be employed in order to compare in the cases of Hungary and the US how socio-spatial bordering processes have been exploited as a source of illiberal political power. Despite many similarities, the actual mobilisation of popular support reflects local conditions and has resulted in rather different outcomes.  

14:40 – 15:05: Ruth Wodak, Lancaster University

“Some are more equal than others?!” - “Collective Amnesia” and the Normalization of a Rhetoric of Exclusion

In my contribution, I first present a summary of recent quantitative and qualitative studies on media reporting and political communication that deal with the so-called "migration problem". Simply by being called a "problem", a thousand-year-old phenomenon is perceived as disruptive, burdensome, and threatening; a problem that now must be “solved” – instead of being understood as inherent part of the history of civilization. The dehistoricization is also manifested by the term "illegal migrants", which immediately criminalizes all migrants and refugees. Furthermore, for example, the use of the term “Fortress Europe” is negatively connotated, which is frequently used and not challenged. Indeed, we are confronted with various huge contradictions in the field of asylum and migration policies which are essentialized and taken as given – the well-known TINA-argument! In this way, numerous euphemisms in the Orwellian tradition support and inspire the normalization of right-wing populist agendas (Wodak 2021).

15:05 – 15:30: Michal Krzyzanowski, Uppsala University

Crisis and the Normalization of Politics of Exclusion: Discursive Shifts in European Far Right Imagination

This presentation looks at the strategic role of crises in the dynamics of contemporary far-right politics. Special attention is paid here to how crises are constructed and mobilised as well as outright ‘performed’ (Moffitt 2016) by the far right thus remaining central strategic tools of not only the dynamics of rhetoric of European right-wing populism but also its actions aimed at normalising a much deeper – and indeed long lasting – far right nativist politics of exclusion (Krzyżanowski et. al. 2022; Krzyżanowski & Krzyżanowska 2022). The presentation will first discuss the key tendencies in how crises have traditionally been constructed in the discourse and politics of the European far right (Krzyżanowski & Ledin 2017; Wodak & Krzyżanowski 2017). It will then show that crises have effectively been made into one of the central pre-legitimatory tools (Krzyżanowski 2014) that enabled initiation of a number of wider ‘discursive shifts’ (Krzyżanowski 2018a, 2018b, 2020b) by the far right in contemporary European public spheres. Here, the analysis will focus on various strategies of amplification of crises that directly/overtly or indirectly/implicitly have been – in the course of the said ‘discursive shifts’ initiated by the far right – strategically connected to immigration and cultural diversity. As will be shown, imaginary amplification of such crises has often allowed the latter to both criticise its political opponents and self-style themselves as the champions of anti-immigration – and the wider anti-diversity and anti-pluralism – agenda. The latter has been, as a result, eventually normalised (Krzyżanowski 2020a, b) across the wider social and political spectrum and across a number of European countries. 

15:30 – 16:00: Coffee break

16:00 – 17:00: General discussion

Documenti da scaricare

Scott 2017.pdf  (140 Ko)

Wodak 2018  (1140 Ko)

Wodak 2022a  (258 Ko)

Wodak 2022b.pdf  (27 Ko)


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