Abstract Book

Below you will find the link to the HEPP4 Abstract Book. In this document, we have collected all the abstracts of the papers presented during the Fourth Helsinki Conference on Emotions, Populism and Polarisation.
Keynote Abstracts

As a political phenomenon with a long tradition, populism has always been "suspected" of fostering abuses and a climate unfavorable to the protection of individual rights. Indeed, the so-called new right-wing populisms of the new millennium and their repeated displays of authoritarianism reinforce this suspicion. However, several political experiences that can be qualified as left-wing populism have been auspicious for the expansion of individual and/or collective rights. Specifically, we have seen at different moments in the history of the Latin American region, for example, that it was under populist governments that new rights were sanctioned and old rights were extended to groups previously excluded from the reach of such prerogatives. Nevertheless, the extensions of rights under populist interventions have been questioned for their apparent lack of universality or for their circumstantial and/or arbitrary origin. In light of these views, my presentation aims to contribute to the debate on the problematic link between populism, democracy and the rule of law by analyzing certain cases of reconfiguration of the sphere of citizens' rights produced by the populist experience in Argentina. Through this investigation, the central objective of my proposal is to advance in the understanding of the ways in which this type of political construction coexists with democratic forms and with the sphere of individual and collective rights, in order to finally decipher the kind of citizen subject that prevails in these political configurations: a form of political agency that, far from being subject to the right, is itself a new subject of rights.

Populism of the privileged? People, elite, privilege and the study of populism

Presenting themselves as alternatives to illegitimate and unresponsive ‘elites’, populists claim to represent ‘the people’, a category associated with underrepresentation, underprivilege and subordination – or, at the very least, an absence of privilege and political power. However, the relation between populism and privileged social groups is far less straightforward than populist discourse has it. Populists can belong to privileged groups, populist politics can be supported by privileged groups, and populist strategies can be used to defend and further privileged societal positions.

Such forms of populism have not received the dedicated attention they deserve, with commentators and academics often either treating them as ‘not really’ populist or taking at face value their populist claims to represent the underprivileged and ignored. In this talk I critically explore the use of populism by comparatively privileged groups through the concept of “the populism of the privileged” (De Cleen & Ruiz Casado 2023). The argument is not merely that ‘populisms of the privileged’ are also forms of populism, but that they warrant a specific label that allows for sharper analysis and critique.

I first discuss the intersections between populism and privilege on the levels of populist actors, support for populism and beneficiaries of populism as, respectively, populism by, with and for the privileged. I then present a discursive conceptualization of ‘populism of the privileged’, drawing on but also critically engaging with discourse-theoretical approaches to populism. Based on this, I ask what analytical strategies are needed for the study the ‘populism of the privileged’. Finally, I reflect on what the questions raised by the existence of ‘populisms of the privileged’ can teach us about the study of populism more generally.

Peopleism and populism: what is in the form?

Anticipating some friendly debate, in her response to Benjamin De Cleen, Emilia Palonen presents the radically anti-essentialist immanent reading of Ernesto Laclau’s work that sees populism as a heuristic. In this tradition that draws on rhetoric and tropology, the populism as a logic is seen as an ontological category that can be applied to different contents in political action and analysis alike. Palonen introduces her form of populism, affectively loaded us-building and othering that constitutes political communities – vertically and horisontally. Populism – which Laclau saw as the anti-thesis is present in moments rather than being a regime, Palonen argues. It is part and partial of democracy – while overdosing on populism may end up undemocratic. The understanding of populist logic is key to also making a distinction between the far right, far left or green contents that can inhabit the form: it matters how the form is articulated. Emilia’s work is one of the cornerstones of HEPP, expanded recently with Marina Vulovic, and it can also be useful for other approaches studying the constituting people as a key signifier.

This presentation offers a comprehensive examination of the intricate interplay between populism, scientific authority, and societal perceptions within the realm of academic discourse. The discourse navigates the emergence and implications of counter-knowledge as a response to established scientific authority challenged by the paradigm of epistemological populism.

The keynote investigates the contours of epistemological populism, unveiling its impact on traditional scientific authority and the emergence of alternative knowledge authorities within political discourse. It explores the role of emotions in shaping counter-knowledge, particularly within hybrid emotional echo- chambers, intensifying affective polarization and reshaping societal beliefs.

Furthermore, the presentation sheds light on the vulnerabilities faced by scholars, notably within polarizing fields, amidst attacks on academic freedom fueled by anti-gender movements and neoliberal policies. It advocates academic sustainability, prioritizing autonomy, scholars' well-being, and addressing precariousness within academia, especially concerning gender scholars. This exploration transcends mere observation, aiming to propose resilience-building measures and advocate for supportive structures within academia. It challenges prevailing notions, offering pathways for an inclusive academic sphere that celebrates diversity and confronts patriarchal ideologies.

In essence, the keynote invites a profound rethinking of approaches, envisioning a more resilient academic landscape that embraces inclusivity, equity, and the preservation of academic freedom and autonomy.