Monday, October 31, 2016

CFP: Populisms in Central and Eastern Europe in the 20th Century

Deadline: 30 November 2016

Workshop and publication of the proceedings in the review Connexe. Les espaces postcommunistes en question(s)
11-12 May 2017
EHESS, Paris, France
Organizer: Roman Krakovsky, post-doctorate at LabEx Tepsis, associate researcher at CERCEC (EHESS) and IHTP (CNRS), Paris, France

Since the 1990s, several political movements qualified as “populist” have emerged in Central and Eastern Europe, drawing the attention of political scientists. If we want to understand why these movements exercise such attraction and why they are so relentless in this space, it is necessary to cross the study of current politics with the analysis of long term developments. Indeed, since the 19th century, Central and Eastern Europe has known several movements and political parties that have called themselves or have been labelled as "populist". In this sense, the long-term approach allows considering the similarities and the differences, according to different contexts and periods, and identifying the reasons and the mechanisms of action of these movements. At last, this historical approach helps to consider the specificity - if there is any specificity - of these movements in Central and Eastern Europe and to evaluate their impact on political cultures of the region.

In dialogue with the extensive historiography devoted to the analysis of current populisms in Central and Eastern Europe, this workshop will address the phenomenon in its historical developments, from the late 19th century to the fall of communism in 1989. It will consider the space labelled during this period under the term "Central and Eastern Europe", that is, before 1918, the territories of Austria-Hungary and the German, Ottoman and Russian empire, the Romania and the Bulgaria, during the interwar period and the Second World War, the territories of the successor states of these empires and states, and, after 1945, the countries of the "Eastern bloc".

I. Defining "populism"
The indeterminate nature of populism is one of the major reasons of its political effectiveness, as Ernesto Laclau has argued (On Populist Reason, Verso, 2005). It can incorporate different contents from the right and the left but at the same time, it does not accommodate with all. One way to unravel this extraordinary semantic ambiguity is to consider the following topics:

1. Labelling populism. What are the terms used for the populist phenomenon? In different Central and East European languages, several expressions often coexist: the Polish, for example, uses ludowość (based on the Slavic lud, the people) and populizm (based on the Latin populus, by analogy with the English term "populism", encompassing a more pejorative connotation), etc. What does this semantic diversity says about populist movements and political parties and their assessment by their contemporaries?

2. Using the term "populist". Who is qualified and who calls himself as "populist" in Central and Eastern Europe? Why are these qualifications mobilized by different political actors and with what consequences? What are the reasons and effects of the use of the term - and its avoidance – in political or academic sphere?

3. The circumstances of appearance and use. In what contexts populist movements and political parties appear? What relationship do they maintain with other ideologies and political doctrines that Central and Eastern Europe has known during the 20th century: democracy, liberalism, nationalism, fascism and communism?

II. The constitution of the "people" as political community

These ideologies and political doctrines define the political community according to the dynastic principle (monarchies), the nation (nation states), the race (fascist regimes) or the class (communist regimes). How populist movements consider these definitions of political community? How do they use, in these different contexts, the notion of "people" and how they reflect political pluralism? To consider these issues, we propose to deal with the following themes:

1. The boundaries of the political community. Who, in these different contexts, is considered as being part of the "people" and who is excluded from it, and with what consequences? How populist movements express the relation to the endogenous and to the other?

2. The relation to the elites. How populist movements express the relation between the "people" and the "elite" / "establishment" in these different contexts, particularly during the period of political transition (anti-cosmopolitanism, society without class antagonism, etc.)?

3. The relationship between the individual and the political community. If populist movements proclaim a unity of the "people", how they organize this same "people" in practice? How do they connect the individual to the collective?

III. The representation of the political community
In general, populist movements claim to be the only legitimate representatives of the people. How they recognize the spirit of the people (as political community)? How is it implemented? One way to consider the mechanisms of political representation is to answer the following questions:

1. The spirit or the will of the people. How populist movements mobilize the people in order to strengthen the participation to political life and decisions-making?

2. The leader, the party and the "people". How populist movements and its leaders embody the spirit of the "people"?

3. The vocabulary and the rhetoric. What is the rhetoric and the vocabulary used by various populist movements to mobilize the "people"?

IV. Populism in action
One way to identify populist movements and parties is to observe their behaviour, whether in opposition or as a ruling body, especially in times of political conflict and struggle for power (coup d’état, political crises, elections, etc.). We propose to address this issue from the following prospects:

1. Relations with other political actors. What are the relations between populist movements and their partners and political enemies?

2. Action on institutions and legal system. How populist movements act on the legal system (laws, constitutions), especially considering the checks and balances, political pluralism and the mechanisms by which the will of the people is voiced (elections, plebiscites, referendums, membership to political parties, etc.)?

3. Communication in the public space. Finally, what is the relationship between populist movements and media and how do they act in public?

These themes may be considered through a comparative case study of the phenomenon, while remaining within the chronology and geographical scope defined, or through a case study.

The schedule and the submission of proposals
To submit your proposal, thank you to send a summary in English or in French (between 400 and 800 words), accompanied by your CV, by 30 November 2016, to Roman Krakovsky (

15 December, 2016 Deadline for submitting proposals
10 January 2017 Announcement of participants
11-12 May 2017 Workshop
30 June 2017 Deadline for submitting the manuscripts for publication
December 2017 Publication of the proceedings of the workshop in Connexe. Les espaces postcommunistes en question(s)

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