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2017/18 Seminar: Populism

With the U.S. presidential election of 2016, public debate about “populism” has intensified. Trumpism as a populist phenomenon is certainly linked to systemic shifts in the United States and the specific relations of forces there today. But it should also be understood in relation to a worldwide rise of anti-democratic forms of authoritarian and plutocratic rule whose power has strong populist, nationalist, and xenophobic roots.

These developments raise innumerable questions regarding the changing structural relation between state, society, and economy; shifting configurations of nation, class, and race; the future of parliamentary politics; the power of social media; the relation between “truth” and power; the status of “ideology” and the place of symbolism, affect, and (collective) psyches in contemporary politics; “elitism” and the politics of ressentiment; the relation between imperialism, nationalism, and populism; the relation between populism, fascism, and white supremacy or liberal democracy; the relation between “the people” and “the popular”; the difference between right-wing and left-wing populisms and identity politics; the development of authoritarian populism and the prospects of anti-racist and anti-capitalist resistance, popular insurgency, or democratic socialism.

We propose to spend 2017-2018 thinking together about the global history, character, and future significance of populism. We invite applications from scholars whose work engages this issue from any time period, scholarly field, geographic areas, and theoretical perspective.