'I want to live like common people'. Narratives, semantics, and pictures of the popular within the populist transformation of political discourse
Sebastian Dümling (Universität Basel)
Johannes Springer (University of Göttingen)
Politics and Social Movements
Aula 29
Wednesday 17 April, 9:00-10:45, 11:15-13:00 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

The panel's aim is to shed light on one important aspect of contemporary populist transformations: the references to 'the common people'. The hypothesis asserts that one can observe the renaissance of the motif "the common people" in politics, popular culture, subcultures etc.

Long abstract:

As diverse as the global populist movements might seem - from Modi's Hindu radicalism, the British Brexit-nationalism to the US altright-movement - a common thread that binds them together is the crucial importance of constructions of "the people". While "the people" is a very embattled category, which can be appropriated from different political projects particular emphasis in most of the current movements is placed on the juxtaposition with governing, political, cultural, economic elites (mostly imagined and pictured as corrupt). This dialogic relationship must be understood as culturally productive in all sorts of ways. After all, contemporary discourses abound with narratives, semantics, and pictures of the popular and its opponent - the elite. This might be the reason for their success, as new interpretations of social, cultural and political realities, with the figure of "the common people" at its core, are shaped and carved out, always tapping into culturally available patterns of the people in past movements and times of crisis. This motif can not only be found in spheres of politics proper, but also in popular cultural, subcultures etc.: Heroes as stand in for the common people are a mainstay of Hollywood, experts and gatekeepers of traditional media fields are being discredited as academics in discourses in different fields like climate change or migration while the common sense becomes the new point of reference.

Invited are papers dedicated to this complex from either ethnographic or text analytic perspectives, trying to understand the current conjuncture of "common-people-politics" in synchronic or diachronic approaches.