Interpretive Policy Analysis (IPA) Conference 2017: Activism, Populism, and the Future of the Democratic State

05. July 2017 14:00 - 07. July 2017 14:00
Registration Deadline
30. June 2017

"Left, right or in the middle? At the margins or at the core? Questioning the categorisation of populism"

Call for Papers for a panel at the 2017 Conference on Interpretive Policy Analysis, 5-7 July 2017, Leicester

Across the globe, we witness an alleged rise of ‘populist’ movements and a polarisation of political controversies and conflict. To make sense of these developments, observers from politics, media and academia typically localise these within the societal space and the political spectrum: is it the ‘middle of society’ which is increasingly infected by populism or is this phenomenon confined to the ‘periphery’? Are we in danger of losing the ‘middle ground’ of politics due to the rise of populist attitudes? And what are the implications for policy-making and the democratic state when the ‘centre’ loses ground to the ‘extremes’?
From an interpretive perspective, these attempts to make sense of conflict and contestation by means of ‘the middle’ and ‘populism’ are not to be seen as neutral observations of objectively given phenomena. Instead, they constitute performative socio-political practices which are informed by a variety of (implicit) assumptions about how modern societies and democratic states are composed. In order to investigate what these interpretations and categorisations ‘do’, we need to understand the functions of references to ‘populism‘, how its emergence is related to constructions of ‘the middle’ and how this relationship informs our understanding of conflict.
The aim of the panel is to gather papers which interpretively investigate, critically problematise or empirically substantiate a broader focus on populism. In the literature, there generally seems to be an implicit understanding of populism as an extreme and solely political phenomenon. However, its logics are not limited to the political realm and its extremism can easily be questioned. Therefore, in this panel the practices of categorising populist phenomena will not be taken for granted but analysed in terms of underlying normative assumptions, argumentative strategies and/or political implications. With these perspectives, we may gain a better understanding of how the challenge of ‘populism’ is contingent upon how we collectively make sense of this phenomenon by positioning it in relation to its constitutive others.

Proposals should include: panel number; paper title; name, role, institutional affiliation and email address; abstract (no more than 300 words). Authors should submit their proposals to the conference e-mail at no later than 17th February 2017.

Department of Politics and Public Policy, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK