The Passionate Politics research project, the UCL European Institute and the UCL Centre for Transnational History are happy to announce the symposium Populism in Historical Perspective.



Friday November 11, 2016, 9:00 – 18:30
Common Ground
UCL Institute of Advanced Studies
South Wing, Wilkins Building
Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT


The event is free to attend, but registration is required. To register your attendance, email

Below is the programme of the event:

9:00 – 9:30 Coffee & Registration
9:30 – 11:00

Panel One: ‘The People’ (Chair: Harry Stopes, UCL History)

Populists tend to portray themselves as standing for the marginalised. Yet they seek to be majoritarians, and their coalitions often encompass a large range of publics, characteristically cutting across divides (socio-economic, cultural, regional, occupational) which other political formations treat as normative. What is the class composition of populist movements and to what extent is the formulation ‘the people’ used to shape a politics that lies outside class (or other) conflict? Who in turn lies outside the people?
Chetan Bhatt (LSE): Populism, Autoritharianism, Xenology: Recent Changes in the Relation between Formal Politics and Violence
Philippe Marliere (UCL): Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the Incarnation of Left-Wing Populism in France?
Ken Cheng (UCL): From ‘Proletariat’ to ‘People’: Revolutionary Modernity and the Social-Democratic Origins of European Populism


11:00 – 11:30 Coffee Break
11:30 – 13:00

Panel Two: ‘Values of Populism’ (Chair: Uta Staiger, European Institute)

Populists characterise themselves as defenders of a particular set of values, often under attack by a distant elite. What social structures, cultural practices and economic interests shape these values? How do these values translate into political decisions? How do they inform notions of legitimacy, democracy, and authoritarianism.
Mara Sankey (UCL): Treating Populism with Populism? US Democracy Promotion in Latin America, 1980-89
Andrew W.M. Smith (UCL): ‘Because the Past Flows into the Future’: Wine, Europe and the Lure of Populism in Béziers (1984-2014)
Tom Arnold-Forster (Cambridge): The Scopes Trials and American Populism
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch Break
14:00 – 15:30 Panel Three: ‘Languages of Populism’ (Chair: Alessandro De Arcangelis, UCL History)

Populism often deploys the language of ‘common sense’, both as a persuasive rhetorical tool and an articulation of the subjectivity of a group which feels it has been neglected or ignored. How are these knowledges formed, communicated and mobilised? What is the role of the media, both as a mouthpiece for populist politics, a force in shaping the context in which it emerges, or as a focus for anger on the part of publics. What role have new forms of media played in allowing contemporary populists to communicate with their publics?
Thomas Niehr (Aachen): The Language of Populism: A Multi-Dimensional Phenomenon
Elinor Taylor (Westminster): On Populist Realism: the Novel of the British Popular Front
Marko Grdesic (Zagreb): Constructing ‘the People’ in Late Socialist Serbia: the Case of Letters to the Press
15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break
16:00 – 17:30 Plenary Session

Maxine Molyneux (UCL) & Thomas Osborne (Bristol): Populism, Liberalism and History: a Deflationary View

17:30 – 18:30 Wine Reception

If you have any questions, please email Alessandro De Arcangelis or Harry Stopes.