Glance back at the HEPP4 Conference

Thank you letter to all participants

Dear Participants,

In this letter we reflect the past conference and kindly ask you to give some feedback on HEPP4 (please find the feedback form here or from the end of this letter).   

It’s been a month since we met at the Fourth Conference on Emotions, Populism, and Polarisation (HEPP4) in snowy wintry Helsinki, Finland. We hope that since then, you had a chance to rest and recover during the holidays and started the new year full of energy and new ideas.  

This letter is an invitation to look back and reflect on everything that you and your colleagues brought about at the HEPP4 Conference, be it tentative outlines of new projects, presentations of the fruits of your labours over many years, or calls for cooperation on something yet to be materialised.  

The participation of every single one of you made the Conference what it truly is: a dynamic international platform for encounters of scholars at all career stages, a collaborative space for you to exchange ideas that allow us all to delve deeper into the complexities of our world. The HEPP4 Conference was a genuinely diverse and international event with more than 170 presenters and over 220 online and on-site participants from all over Europe and North and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The programme offered a wide selection of topics to choose from: eight parallel sessions with 40 thematic panels tackled topics as diverse as populist mobilisation, radicalisation, and extremism, the role of gender and emotions in politics, the rise of ethnonationalism and religious populism, the impact of crises and conspiracy theories, the role of datafied communication and many more. Now, it seems like the right moment to go back to our MS Team channel and check out some of the presentations you might have wanted to attend but missed for some reason.  

The three keynote speakers of the Conference – Mercedes Barros, Benjamin De Cleen, and Hande Eslen-Ziya – offered their unique insights into critical debates in populism studies.  

The Conference started with a speech by Mercedes Barros, who discussed the (uneasy) relationship between populism and rights. Focusing on the connections between feminism and populism, she challenged the synonymisation of populism with the anti-gender and anti-migrant rhetoric of the far right.   

On the second day, Benjamin De Cleen and Emilia Palonen presented frameworks for studying populism today. Challenging common preconceptions in populism studies, Benjamin De Cleen started a discussion on the populism of the privileged, while Emilia Palonen discussed Benjamin’s take on populism through her approach using ‘populism’ as a heuristic tool. Following the presentations, both speakers engaged in a debate on the essence of populism.  

On the third and final day of the Conference, Hande Eslen-Ziya offered her perspective on the relationship between populism and science. Highlighting the crisis of truth and the growing vulnerability of academics in the face of alternative epistemologies and populist actors, Hande Eslen-Zilya called for greater academic sustainability that needs to be encouraged by society as a whole.  

Similarly, you can still watch all the keynote sessions in full on our MS Team channel.  

We hope you enjoyed the quality of theoretical and empirical debates at the Conference and feel that our conversations in Helsinki may have set the research agenda in populism studies and beyond until our next meeting in the same place in 2025.  

We also want to inform you that the third volume of the HEPP Working Paper Series is coming out in late spring 2024. The publication offers you a chance to learn in greater detail about the ongoing work of HEPP4 participants worldwide.  

While we’re wrapping up the conference, we need to learn your opinion on it too! Please share with us what you think of HEPP4.  

In the meantime, we’ve already started preparing for the next edition of the HEPP Conference, so sign up for our newsletters not to miss it! You can also find us on social media (Instagram, Facebook, X).  

We look forward to meeting you again soon.  

With the warmest wishes from sunny (and frosty) Helsinki,  

Feeza Vasudeva (Chair, HEPP4)  

Alexander Alekseev (Co-Chair, HEPP4)  

HEPP4 Organising Committee