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Familiarity as a tool of populism

Mittwoch, 10.1.2018, 12:00h

Tuukka Ylä-Anttila

Familiarity as a tool of populism

In the vein of recent theorizing, populism can be seen as a cultural repertoire or
“toolkit“ to make political demands which claim to represent “the people“ against
“the elite.“ By analyzing a public debate in Finland, in which nationalist populist
arguments appropriate a culturally shared, familiar experience—that of singing
Suvivirsi, the Summer Hymn, in spring ceremonies at school—I argue that
evoking familiarity is an effective way of “doing populism.” I have studied media
texts from 2002 to 2014 and a questionnaire to political candidates in 2011
using Laurent Thévenot’s work on the regimes of familiarity and justification, as
well as recent research on populism as a cultural practice. I claim that political
appeals to the familiar hymn are particularly compatible with the populist
valorization of the experience of the “common people.” Familiarity thus
constitutes a capable tool in the toolkit of populism. Remembering the shared
experience of singing the hymn bonds the assumed “people” together, and
gives an emotional charge to populist claims. I place this argument in a broader
context of how populism appeals to “common sense” and redemption, against
bureaucratic and technocratic expertise and governance, which is deemed
illegitimate by populism.

Tuukka Ylä-Anttila is Postdoctoral Researcher in sociology at the University of
Tampere. He holds a PhD from the University of Helsinki. His work deals with
populism as a cultural practice, emotional appeals in politics, online public
spheres, and alternative knowledge claims in populism. He currently works in
two research projects: “Citizens in the Making“ on youth participation and nonparticipation in politics, and “Mobilizing the Disenfranchised“ on populist
countermedia. His most recent publication is “Familiarity as a tool of populism:
Political appropriation of shared experiences and the case of Suvivirsi“ in Acta

Veranstaltung in englischer Sprache