Populism in Power: Discourse & Performativity in SYRIZA and Donald Trump

Event time: 
Thursday, January 25, 2024 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Virtual () See map
Event description: 

Shifting attention away from policy achievements and effects on democracy, this talk focuses on the charismatic function of populist discourse – comprising antagonistic narratives, transgressive style and appeals to the common people.

The presentation puts forward an integrative approach that brings together discourse analysis, analysis of digital media, in-depth interviews and ethnographic methods, and places into comparative perspective the cases of SYRIZA in Greece and Donald Trump in the United States. Theorising populism through the lens of collective identification, the presentation places the rhetorical and emotional dynamics of populist performativity at the core of the analysis, offering a rigorous yet flexible conceptulisation of populism in power. Against theoretical expectations, findings suggest that both SYRIZA and Trump retained, to different degrees, their populist character in power, although their style and vision differed vastly.

This talk urges researchers, journalists and politicians to adopt a reflexive approach to analysing the political implications of populism for politics, polity and society, and to challenge the normatively charged definitions that are uncritically reproduced in the public sphere. It will appeal to researchers of political theory, populism, comparative politics, sociologists and ethnographers.

Giorgos Venizelos is Fellow in Political Polarization at the Democracy Institute, Central European University. His research is situated at the intersections of contemporary political theory and comparative politics with a special focus on populism, anti-populism and discourse theory. He has published in journals including Political Studies, Constellations, Critical Sociology and Representation . He co-convenes the Populism Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association ( www.giorgosvenizelos.com).