Populism, Protest, and New Forms of Political Organization: Ten Years after the Movements of the Squares

Conference at the FU Berlin on September 8–10, 2021

The past decade has seen the emergence of – and growing scholarly interest in – populism in conjunction with a wide range of protest phenomena from below: from the Arab Spring to Hong Kong, from the Indignados and Occupy to Euromaidan and PEGIDA, from the Tea Party to Extinction Rebellion to the COVID-19 anti-lockdown protests – protest movements worldwide have taken to public squares with the claim to represent “the people,” “the citizenry,” or “the 99%” against entire political systems deemed unresponsive or undemocratic. The sheer diversity of these phenomena has challenged both the notion that the post-2010 movements of the squares constitute straightforwardly radical-democratic phenomena without wider implications for institutionalized politics, on the one hand, and the assumption that populism (from a Eurocentric perspective) is the exclusive domain of the nationalist right, on the other. In the wake of these movements, competing political forces have emerged in turn with the claim to represent the legacy or objectives of these movements within the institutions, transforming in the process the ways in which politics as we know it is practiced and organized: from “movement parties against austerity” to “radical right movement parties,” from “populism 2.0” to the rise of “digital parties” or “platform parties,” new forms of political organization, new categories of academic debate, and arguably new forms of populist phenomena – left and right, radical-democratic and authoritarian, progressive and reactionary – have come to the fore in the aftermath of mass protest episodes.

This conference seeks to bring together this interest in populism, in all its diversity, in relation to the manifold forms of contentious politics that have emerged in the last ten years, with a particular interest in new forms of political organization, institutionalization, radicalization, and transformation of populist movements and/or in specifically populist fashion vis-à-vis other types of movements. Possible lines of inquiry include: the relationship between populism and party organization, populism and radical democracy, populism in and out of or against power, populism and authoritarian consolidation, or populism and digital activism, just to name a few examples.

The conference is jointly organized by the German Political Science Association (DVPW) Populism Group Initiative and the Political Studies Association (PSA) Populism Specialist Group. We expressly welcome theoretical and empirical contributions alike as well as different conceptual and methodological approaches to the study of populism.

The conference is being planned in strict accordance with COVID-19 protocols. In the event that a switch to a digital format becomes necessary, an announcement will be made as soon as possible.

Confirmed keynote speakers: Cristina Flesher Fominaya (University of Loughborough); Paolo Gerbaudo (King’s College London)

Please submit abstracts no longer than 250 words by February 15 to berlinpopulismconference2021(at)gmail(dot)com.

Organizing team: Andreas Eder-Ramsauer (FU Berlin); Seongcheol Kim (University of Kassel); Andy Knott (University of Brighton); Marina Prentoulis (University of East Anglia)

See the Call for Papers (PDF)