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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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The Cultural Side of Populism. Politics, Emotions, Subcultures and Music in populist times

This workshop contributes to the debate about cultural aspects and emotions in the study of politics and populism in particular, by addressing the topic from an interdisciplinary perspective (political science and political sociology, together with cultural and media studies and musicology) and from a standpoint of methodological pluralism.

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Organizers: Manuela Caiani, Scuola Normale Superiore (collaborator of the Volkwagen Stiftung research project ‘Popular Music as a Medium for the Mainstreaming of Populist Ideology in Europe’ ); Francesca Feo, Scuola Normale Superiore; Osservatorio Internazionale per la Coesione e Inclusione Sociale (OCIS), Reggio Emilia

The last two decade have seen the marked growth of populist movements and parties across Europe, which are calling into question some of the EU’s founding principles such as pluralism, democracy, human rights, etc. Populism has been the subject of many studies, however most of them have concentrated on the political and economic dimensions of populism success, neglecting the importance of cultural and cognitive as well as emotional aspects of the phenomenon. In fact, scholars have only recently brought emotions back into the analysis of social and political movements, power relations and institutions (e.g. Goodwin, Jasper and Polletta 2001), yet populist actors and leaders mainly mobilize emotions for their success.

As has been recently pointed out, populism can be understood as ‘a performance of crisis’ (Paxton 2018). In particular, significantly, practically no studies consider the role of popular culture and music in the formation and dissemination of populist collective identities and ideologies. (Dunkel et al. 2018). Yet, music has been tied to concepts of ethnicity, nationality, (collective) identity, self-expression, spatial belonging, and authenticity – ideas that populists emphasize in their rhetoric. In addition, music has always been an effective medium for the propagation of extreme-right ideologies (e.g. neo-Nazi subcultures), as well as left wing identities.

This workshop addresses these issues, by including contributions that address the topic from an interdisciplinary perspective (political science and political sociology, together with cultural and media studies and musicology) and from a standpoint of methodological pluralism. The aim is to contribute to the debate about cultural aspects and emotions in the study of politics and populism in particular.

The workshop will be organized in three sections: The first (SESSION 1: POPULISM AND EMOTIONS) will set the overall analytical framework; the second one ((POPULIST) POLITICS AND MUSIC) will explore in more depth the relation between populism and culture(s), including music and political ‘subcultures’, with empirical evidence drawn from different case studies in Europe and beyond, both past and present. The final set of contributions (SESSION 3: SUBCULTURES, POLITICAL POWER AND SYMBOLS) will examine the relation between populist ‘cultural’ productions and practices and their communication via the media, as well as providing a critical discussion of potential future directions for ‘populism’ research.

See the full programme for more information on speakers and topics.

News

16/07/2021

Prof. della Porta to lead VolkswagenStiftung-funded ECSEuro project

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Reflecting the European challenge of transnational cooperation and multiple crises, this project asks how local political initiatives across Europe enact citizenship and solidarity and contribute to the vision of a more democratic Europe from below.

09/07/2021

SNS announces 7 fully-funded PhD positions

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The Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the Scuola Normale Superiore announces 7 fully-funded PhD positions. Deadline for applications: 21 August 2021.

28/09/2020

Four post-doctoral research positions on the pandemic

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The Scuola Normale Superiore announces four post-doctoral positions to be activated as part of the research project “After the coronavirus pandemic: The effects of the health emergency on society and knowledge.” 

26/02/2020

CFP Athens conference "Capitalism, Democracy, Contention: A Decade of Crisis" 13-15 May 2020

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Aspiring to shed light on the Greek experience in the era of crisis in a comparative, inter-disciplinary perspective, the Laboratory on Contentious Politics (Department of Political Science and History, Panteion University, Athens), the Centre on Social Movement Studies (Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence) and the Hellenic Political Science Association are organizing an international conference to be held at Panteion University, on 13, 14 and 15 May 2020.

12/12/2019

Prof. Donatella Della Porta to Be Awarded Honorary PhD

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On Friday 13, 2019, the University of the Peloponnese (PSIR) will award an honorary doctorate to Professor Donatella Della Porta, Dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences at the Scuola Normale Superiore.

22/07/2019

Protest for a future: international report on #FridaysForFuture and the climate strike

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Composition, mobilization and motives of the participants in Fridays For Future climate protests on 15 March 2019, in 13 European cities. A multi-country collaboration report, with contributions from COSMOS researchers Lorenzo Zamponi, Donatella della Porta, Martín Portos, Niccolò Bertuzzi and Daniela Chironi.

Publications

Edited Volume - 2021

Varieties of Populism in Europe in Times of Crises

Manuela Caiani & Paolo Graziano
Populism is booming across all the nuances of the political spectrum. It occupies relevant positions in national parliaments, in governmental coalitions with mainstream parties or as successful challengers of the political status quo. This volume sheds new light on the topic from different methodological and theoretical angles and offers evidence from a variety of cases on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions on populism’s emergence and consolidation in Europe over the past 30 years.

Journal Article - 2021

Forging, bending, and breaking: Enacting the “illiberal playbook” in Hungary and Poland

Andrea Pirro & Ben Stanley
We first argue that illiberal changes are ideologically founded and identify how both populism and nativism figure in the policymaking of illiberals in power. We then show how these practices emerge from a common “illiberal playbook”—a paradigm of policy change comprising forms of forging, bending, and breaking—and elaborate on the notion that illiberal governments are using legalism to kill liberalism.

Edited Volume - 2021

Contentious Migrant Solidarity. Shrinking Spaces and Civil Society Contestation

Donatella della Porta & Elias Steinhilper
Building upon social movement and migration studies, this book maps the two sides of ‘contentious solidarity’: a shrinking civic space and its contestation by civil society.

Journal Article - 2021

Learning from Democratic Practices: New Perspectives in Institutional Design

Andrea Felicetti
Drawing from literature on democratic practices in social movements and democratic innovations, the article illustrates three ways to advance institutional design in the wake of the systemic turn.

Journal Article - 2021

Far-right protest mobilisation in Europe: Grievances, opportunities and resources

Pietro Castelli Gattinara, Caterina Froio & Andrea Pirro
In this article, we bridge previous research on the far right and social movements to advance hypotheses on the drivers of far-right protest mobilisation based on grievances, opportunities and resource mobilisation models. We use an original dataset combining novel data on 4,845 far-right protest events in 11 East and West European countries (2008–2018), with existing measures accounting for the (political, economic and cultural) context of mobilisation.

Journal Article - 2021

Populism between voting and non-electoral participation

Andrea Pirro & Martín Portos
The article focuses on a neglected aspect of populist mobilisation, i.e. non-electoral participation (NEP), and elaborates on the extent to which populist party voters engage politically outside the polling station. While challenging common understandings of populism as inherently distrustful and apathetic, and protest as an exclusive practice of the left, the study critically places NEP at the heart of populism in general, and populist right politics in particular.

Monograph - 2021

Migrant Protest. Interactive Dynamics in Precarious Mobilizations

Elias Steinhilper
This book explores the interactions and spaces shaping the emergence, trajectory, and fragmentation of migrant protest in unfavorable contexts of marginalization.

Journal Article - 2020

We protect the forest beings, and the forest beings protect us: Cultural resistance in the Ecuadorian Amazonia

Leonidas Oikonomakis
The inhabitants of Sarayaku have forged an anti-colonial, anti-extractivist, and anti-capitalist resistance culture. How did that culture develop? How is it articulated? Moreover, how is kawsak sacha positioned in the discussion over the rights of Nature in Latin America? Based on three months of ethnographic research in the community of Sarayaku and more than twenty-five interviews with community members, this article addresses those important questions and argues that securing legal protection may not be a long-term resistance strategy.

Monograph - 2020

The Contentious Politics of Expertise. Experts, activism and grassroots environmentalism

Riccardo Emilio Chesta
Based on mixed-methods research and ethnographic fieldwork at various sites in Italy, this book examines the relationship between expertise and activism in grassroots environmentalism. Bridging the sociology of expertise and contentious politics, the book shows how conflict transforms, rather than inhibits, expertise production into a ‘contentious politics by other means’.

Journal Article - 2019

Alliance building and eventful protests: comparing Spanish and Portuguese trajectories under the Great Recession

Martín Portos & Tiago Carvalho
Social movement research has shed light on the relationship between processes of alliance building and multiple factors related to political opportunities, framing, identities, networks and resource mobilization. However, less is known about the impact of eventful protests on coalition building dynamics.