Torgeir Uberg Nærland, Populism and Popular Culture: The Case for an Identity-Oriented Perspective in:

Benjamin Krämer, Christina Holtz-Bacha (Ed.)

Perspectives on Populism and the Media, page 293 - 312

Avenues for Research

1. Edition 2020, ISBN print: 978-3-8487-5561-5, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-9739-2,

Series: International Studies on Populism, vol. 7

Bibliographic information
Populism and Popular Culture: The Case for an Identity- Oriented Perspective Torgeir Uberg Nærland Why should scholars and students of media and populism care about popular culture? I will start this chapter by offering three initial motivations for such an interest. The first motivation concerns scale: a significant proportion of the media content circulating in the public sphere can be labeled popular culture, be it in the form of music, TV series, film, or comedy. Popular culture makes up a substantial part of people’s media diets— perhaps more so than news and political communication. The sheer scale of the circulation and consumption of popular culture should thus incite interest among researchers of media and populism. The second motivation concerns sense-making. Different forms of popular culture engage citizens with narrativized accounts of the world and the relations within it—often with considerable emotional intensity. In this way, popular culture offers citizens the means to make sense of the social and political world and their place within it. Such sense-making, and the social and political imaginaries it feeds, is fundamental both to how citizens navigate the world of politics and to the strategies by which politicians appeal to citizens. The third motivation concerns the nature of politics. Politics and entertainment are intertwined. Politicians draw upon features of popular culture when addressing voters and may even have a background in entertainment. The media’s framings of politicians and political issues may draw upon tropes from popular culture, be it through dramatization or spectacle. Voters' connections to politicians may take the form of fandom, a mode of appreciation with origins in popular culture. In this way, popular culture becomes significant to how populist politicians can appeal to people’s sensibilities and the success with which they forge ties to voters. As this chapter will highlight, an emerging but small body of literature offer insights into how popular culture matters to populism. Diverse in empirical scope and theoretical framing, this body of research offers valuable insight and basis for further exploration. The first objective of this chapter, then, is to chart and discuss this body of research as well as to indicate how these efforts can inspire further research. To my knowledge, no 293 works as yet have been published that attempt to bring together and systematize this literature. A notable exception is de Cleen and Nærland’s (2016) special issue on expressive culture and right-wing populism in Europe. However, whereas this previous effort mainly concentrated on the relationships between populist parties and music, this chapter is wider in scope; it aims to take into account a wider variety of genres and to mobilize emergent perspectives on populism in order to illuminate a wider spectrum of connections to popular culture. The second objective of this chapter is to outline what I argue is a critical yet neglected area of inquiry: popular culture’s role in citizens’ sociopolitical identity formation. Populism is conceptualized in differing ways, including as ‘thin’ ideology (Mudde, 2004), as logic (Laclau, 2005), as discourse (Panizza, 2005), as style (Moffitt & Tormey, 2014) and as strategy/ organization (Weyland, 2001). While these approaches differ in emphasis, they nonetheless broadly agree on the basic constitutive dimension of populism: the antagonistic relationship between the monolithic ‘people’, the elite, and various outgroups. Thus, a central task for communication researchers has been to explore the various ways in which the media contributes to or facilitates this antagonism. The main foci have been political actors (and their communication with supporters); media organizations (as platforms or actors); or citizens as targets for populist messages, together with their media preferences and political attitudes (for overview, see de Vreese, Esser, Aalberg, Reinemann, & Stanyer, 2018). In this chapter, I argue that through appeals to identity, popular culture plays a key yet significantly overlooked role in fueling people-elite antagonisms. In this article, I first clarify what I mean in this chapter by popular culture, then briefly outline existing research on popular culture and politics in general. In the next section, I focus on populism, where I chart and discuss the existing literature that deals explicitly with popular culture in relation to populism. I organize these contributions into six key perspectives, each highlighting a distinct take on how popular culture matters to populism. I end this chapter by outlining and qualifying what I call an identity-oriented perspective on popular culture and populism. Torgeir Uberg Nærland 294 1. Popular Culture and Politics The interactions between popular culture and populism have only started to gain attention the past ten to fifteen years. However, there is rich and longstanding tradition that elucidates the significance of popular culture for politics in a broader sense. This body of research shows that popular culture matters to politics in a multitude of significant ways, ways that research on populism has only started to take into account. In the following, I will briefly outline the key strands of this tradition and indicate their relevance to the study of populism. First, there is need to specify what is meant by popular culture in this chapter. Popular culture has been conceptualized in a number of ways (see Raymond Williams, 1983). In influential contributions from cultural sociology and cultural studies, popular culture is typically conceptualized as ‘a way of life’. Mukerji & Schudson (1991, p. 3), for instance, define popular culture as “…the beliefs and practices, and the objects through which they are organized, that are widely shared among a population.” While such an inclusive understanding of popular culture is valuable for situating popular artifacts and practices in social life, for our purpose, the notion of popular culture must be narrowed down. This chapter focuses on expressive popular culture. Expressive culture (Burstein, 2014) designates how ideas, emotions, or identities are expressed aesthetically through works of art and culture. Thus, this chapter focuses on such forms as music or TV series, while cultural practices like skateboarding or beer-brewing fall outside the scope of inquiry. Furthermore, this chapter is primarily concerned with mediated popular culture—forms of popular culture, from drama to music, that engage citizens through their circulation in the mediated public sphere. One influential strand of the literature centers on the ideological ramifications of popular culture and its uses. This strand can be traced back to Plato and his call to abolish music in the republic, due to its subversive effects on the youth. In the last century, the ideological perspective came to be succinctly articulated in the works of Frankfurt School writers, such as Adorno (1973), famously arguing that cultural industries reduce their audiences to passive dupes for domination. Through the lens of cultural studies, popular culture was later positively reinterpreted to be valuable as a resource for ideological resistance, not least through subversive subcultural practices (e.g., Hebdige, 1979). A second strand in the literature emerges from cultural studies: popular culture and identity. Here, a number of writers (e.g., Frith, 1997; Storey, 2003) have emphasized how popular culture and its consumption consti- Populism and Popular Culture: The Case for an Identity-Oriented Perspective 295 tute an important source for the formation of both individual and collective identities. This work has primarily been concerned with the significance of popular culture for identity categories, such as gender, race, sexual orientation, or class. As I will argue, this strand also offers a valuable perspective on how citizens develop sociopolitical identities. This is a theme I will return to in the last section of this chapter. A third strand emphasizes how popular culture embodies and, through the media, circulates discourses of social order, gender, race etc. (e.g., Brooks, 1997). As I will show in the literature review, this is a perspective that has been taken up by scholars of populism, who argue that popular culture becomes the site for a discursive struggle over the meanings of key notions, such as ‘the people’, ‘the elite’, and ‘the popular’. Whereas the previous strands center on themes such as domination, identity, and meaning, other strands have situated popular culture more concretely within political action. A rich body of literature documents the centrality of popular culture in social and political movements (e.g., Eyerman & Jamison, 1998), in political subcultures (e.g., Futrell, Simi, & Gottschalk, 2006), for mobilization and protest (e.g., Garofalo, 1992), and as a platform for political agendas (Street, Hague, & Savigny, 2007). As I will highlight, these interests resonate with the extant literature on populism and popular culture. Other strands of the literature have emphasized the civic importance of popular culture. Starting from theories of deliberative democracy, scholars (e.g. Gripsrud, 2009; Nærland, 2015) have shown that popular culture is integral to public discourse, sometimes serving as material for political opinion- and will formation. Other work has focused on the role popular culture have for people’s ability to function as citizens. Work informed by the notion of cultural citizenship has shown how people’s use of popular culture is important to their sense of civic belonging, civic passions (Hermes, 2005; Street, Inthorn, & Martin, 2013), and their ability to make political judgments and reflections (van Zoonen, 2005). Other work informed by the notion of public connection (Couldry, Livingstone, & Markham, 2010) show how citizens’ consumption of popular culture may forge both weak and strong orientations towards the sphere of politics (Nærland, 2018). This body of literature is relevant to the study of populism because it highlights the importance of people’s use of popular culture for their engagement with and navigation within the world of politics. In parallel, a strand of research within the political science literature has employed quantitative methods to survey links between cultural consumption and ‘hard’ variables of political engagement, such as voting or partici- Torgeir Uberg Nærland 296 pating in organized politics. In his landmark study Bowling Alone, Putnam (2000) concluded that people’s increased time spent on entertainment constituted one important reason for the decrease in both civic participation and social capital in the United States. Other empirical work from the same tradition give nuance to this declinist narrative with regard to both audiences’ values (Besley, 2006) and type of entertainment (Hooghe, 2002; Shah, 1998). 2. A Roadmap of the Existing Research A growing yet still-small body of literature focuses explicitly on the intersections between popular culture and populism. The contributions within this body are diverse; they vary in terms of theoretical perspective, national context, and the forms of popular culture under scrutiny. In the following, I organize these contributions into six key perspectives, each highlighting a distinct take on how popular culture matters to populism. These are: popular culture as political communication, as political narrative, in discursive struggle, as political style, as socio cultural appeal, and as part of public discourse. Neither the contributions included here nor their thematic organization are exhaustive in terms of all possibly relevant studies or all the ways in which popular culture can matter to populism. Rather, the aim of this review is to highlight key efforts and the perspectives these entail, and thus provide a roadmap to the existing terrain. Moreover, this review addresses studies and perspectives about the role of popular culture for populism. As indicated in the previous section, a number of efforts have explored neighboring issues, such as the role of popular culture in fascism, the extreme right, or subcultures. Such topics fall outside the scope of this review. Popular Culture as Political Communication This perspective emphasizes how popular culture itself can function as an aesthetically enabled means of political communication. In the existing literature, a few studies have explored the role of popular culture in mobilization, either for or against populist actors or organizations. In Hungary, Szele (2016) explores the aesthetics of Nemzeti Rock (national rock), a genre that he shows as having a close connection to right-wing populist politics. Szele shows that Nemzeti Rock has proven to be an effective 2.1 Populism and Popular Culture: The Case for an Identity-Oriented Perspective 297 means of mobilizing for the radical right party, Jobbik (The Movement for a Better Hungary). His study (2016, p. 9) finds that, as a genre, Nemzeti Rock “expresses the main tropes and ideological themes of the political radical right—such as nativism, heroic masculinity, and populism.” Szele further points out a seemingly-paradoxical feature of popular music that works in the service of right-wing populism: the insistence on being simultaneously both a popular phenomenon and a counterculture. Other works have looked at the role of popular culture in mobilization against right-wing populism. In Norway, I have analyzed how hip hop music can function as an aesthetically enabled form of anti-populist political communication (Nærland, 2014). Musical and lyrical analysis highlights how the hip hop aesthetic (beats and rapping) is particularly suitable to giving shape to political articulations, and also to anti-populist sentiments. In other work (Nærland, 2015), I have shown how hip hop music, through mass appeal and media circulation, functions as a vehicle for engaging populist politicians and others in public debate. Popular Culture as Political Narrative This perspective highlights how popular culture can circulate narratives that promote populist worldviews. As already argued, all popular culture has an inherently ideological dimension. Works of popular culture—be they film, music, or television drama—are always imbued with narratives of the social and political world. By naturalizing certain values, relations, or arrangements, these narratives work to both promote and counter populist world views. In the U.S., Grindstaff (2008) argues that the circulation of such narratives was part of a concerted political effort to construe liberal culture as radical, uppity/elitist, and immoral: It is a feat of popular culture when conservative ideas are considered populist and liberalism is successfully branded as a threat to everything “real” Americans hold dear. Politicized narratives—about politics and the economy, about the environment, about the “war on terror”— have to be “tried on” and then “sold” to ordinary people, and popular culture is crucial to this effort. (Grindstaff, 2018, p. 2017, original emphasis) This argument resonates with Krämer’s (2014) conceptualization of ‘media populism’. Krämer highlights how the media may itself promote populism by constructing in- and out-groups, by constructing antagonistic relations to elites, and by appealing to moral sentiments. As Krämer notes, these are 2.2 Torgeir Uberg Nærland 298 also possible features of the forms of popular culture that circulate in the media. In a survey of Dutch citizens’ media preferences, Hamerleers, Bos and de Vreese (2017) found that populist voters consume tabloidized and entertainment-based media diets and self-select media content that articulates the divide between the “innocent” people and “culprit” others. However, as of now, systematic scrutiny of how different forms of popular culture may promote populist narratives is lacking, as is systematic scrutiny of how the production and circulation of these narratives are embedded in the political economy of the media. Both these issues, and their interrelation, are important areas of future inquiry. Popular Culture in Discursive Struggle This perspective emphasizes how popular culture is a site for the struggle over meaning and value in ways that are important to populist politics. From a discourse theoretical perspective, de Cleen (2009) has shown how popular culture becomes important as the focal point for discursive struggle about notions, such ‘the people’ and ‘the popular’. As he points out, such notions are key to constructing the antagonistic people-elite relation that characterizes populist narratives. De Cleen demonstrates how populist actors, artists, and the media engage in rhetorical contestation over the meaning and value of these key notions. As several authors have highlighted (de Cleen 2009; Nærland 2016), popular culture may also fundamentally challenge the antagonistic peopleelite narratives evoked by populist actors. Popular culture—be it hip hop music, comedy, or soap drama—can be widely popular and commercially successful and can appeal to audiences through an inclusive aesthetic. Therefore, when popular artists express anti-populist sentiments, they cannot easily be dismissed as an elite inherently hostile to ‘the people’. This strategy of dismissal has, in contrast, been highly successful when artists associated with high culture issue critique against populists (for an example, see Nærland, 2016). This brings attention to a significant, overarching aspect of the relationship between popular culture and populism. Although in very different ways, both popular culture and political populism claim to have a rooting in ‘the popular’ – that which attends to the tastes and sensibilities of most people (de Cleen & Carpentier, 2010; see also Krämer, 2014 for a discussion of this argument). The success of populist parties partly stems from their claim to represent the popular. Thus, when critique against populism is issued from within popular genres such as hip 2.3 Populism and Popular Culture: The Case for an Identity-Oriented Perspective 299 hop, comedy or soap, it represents a real challenge to people-elite narratives, or more precisely, the credibility of such narratives. Popular Culture as Political Style This perspective emphasizes how elements from popular culture are incorporated into the style and performances of populist actors. Moffitt and Tormey’s (2014) conceptualization of populism as style offers a starting point for elaborating on this perspective. In their conceptualization, populism should not only be understood as an ideology or as a type of arrangement, but as “a ‘political style’, a repertoire of performative features which cuts across different situations that are used to create political relations” (Moffitt & Tormey, 2014, p. 394). Populism-as-style clearly assumes a role for popular culture. At the most basic level, popular culture background may serve as the source of celebrity for politicians, providing them with a stage for their endeavors. Moreover, the style and performance of populist politicians may draw upon features of popular culture, such as film, music, or wrestling. In a similar vein, the ways in which the media frame populist politicians and their activities may draw on tropes from popular culture, such as dramatic spectacle or well-known film narratives. Moreover, voters’ appreciation of politicians may take the form of fandom, which we know from the consumption of popular culture (Dean, 2017). These dynamics can be seen at play in the case of celebrity populist politicians. As John Street (2019, p. 3) writes: [C]elebrity politicians like Trump acts as stars, whether of reality television, rock music or film. They do not just resemble stars, they are them. This is evident in how they are represented, how they perform and how their ‘fans’ respond to them. Thus, as an ingredient of populist style, popular culture may in this way become important to how populist politicians address voters and the success to which they both ‘represent’ them, appeal to their cultural and social sensibilities and, ultimately, make collective identifications as ‘the people’ come into being. 2.4 Torgeir Uberg Nærland 300 Popular Culture and Sociocultural Appeal This perspective emphasizes how strategic appeals to cultural tastes and sensibilities are a potent means of forging connections to voters. Ostiguy’s (2017) sociocultural approach to populism offers a starting point for elaborating on this perspective. Ostiguy emphasizes how the high-low dimension of politics is key in mobilizing antagonistic schisms between ‘the people’ and elites. By ‘flaunting the low’ through coarse, less-sublimated, personalistic style, populist politicians deliberately appeal to voter’s ‘low’ sensibilities. The ‘low’ is in turn constructed in opposition to the ‘high’ sensibilities of the elites. Culture, high and low, constitutes a key source for such appeals. For one, culture offers stylistic and performative input (consider, for instance, Donald Trump’s evocation of wrestling jargon or Rodrigo Duterte’s selfstaging as action movie ‘hardman’). Importantly, people’s taste for culture is a prime marker of the low and high. As forcefully demonstrated by Bourdieu (1984), culture is inscribed with social hierarchies and arguably constitutes the most important site for social distinction and for social boundary-making. Ostiguy (2017, p. 79) points out that this sociocultural component of populism is in fact “a politicization of the social markers emphasized in the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu in his classic work of social theory on taste and aesthetics.” Thus, from this perspective, strategic appeals to cultural tastes become a potent means to forge connections to voters and ignite or fuel people-elite antagonisms. In Norway, I have in previous work (Nærland, 2016) argued that such taste appeals have been instrumental to the right-wing populist Progressive Party’s (FRP) evocation of people-elite narratives. The FRP has consistently sought to align themselves with artists and cultural practices of low culture (e.g., dance bands and caravan parks), and simultaneously rail against the artist and art forms commonly identified as high culture. Consistent with both Moffitt and Tormey’s emphasis on style and Ostiguy’s emphasis on sociocultural appeals, FRP politicians have been able to nurture what I have called a ‘charisma of spectacular commonness’. One telling example of such charisma-building was when the FRP politician Jan Simonsen suggested that the National Theatre should be converted into a disco. 2.5 Populism and Popular Culture: The Case for an Identity-Oriented Perspective 301 Popular Culture in Public Discourse This last perspective emphasizes how (popular) culture becomes a focal point for public discourse involving populist actors and issues of importance to their agenda. In Belgium, de Cleen (2016) has shown how culture may take center stage in populist parties’ efforts to mobilize people-elite divisions. Based on comprehensive case studies of public discourse about anti-populist concerts and theater, de Cleen found that the right-wing populist party Vlaams Bloc/Vlaams Belang’s (VB) rhetorical strategies had mixed merits. De Cleen found that the VB’s ‘positive’ populist strategy of trying to associate with popular Flemish artists and genres had only limited success; yet, in contrast, the VB’s ‘negative’ populist strategy of denouncing artists critical of the party as part of the elite was instrumental in delegitimizing the critique. De Cleen further argues that the VB’s rhetoric about culture was central to constructing the antagonism between “on the one hand the anti-Flemish and multiculturalist political, cultural, media, and intellectual elite and on the other hand the people and the radical and exclusionary Flemish nationalist VB as the party of the people” (de Cleen, 2016, p. 69). In Norway, several studies have highlighted how the field of cultural policy has become a site through which populist politicians can mobilize people-elite narratives. Characterized by the rhetorical trope ‘the cultural elite’, the Progress Party (FRP) has conjured images of the state-financed cultural sector as being decadent, parasitical, and out of touch with the tastes of ordinary people. A recurring claim has been that artists operating within the sphere of high culture do not produce anything relevant to most people, yet still drain public budgets. However, as shown by Hylland (2011), in Norway, cultural policy has been neither a prioritized policy field for the FRP nor an area in which they have had much actual impact. All the same, their cultural policy is alongside their immigration policy, arguably the issue that has drawn the most extensive and aggressive critique from other parties and actors. As Hylland (2011, p. 51) points out: On the one hand, FRP has represented the most visible and loud opposition to a cultural policy that (in Norway) is to a large degree marked by consensus. On the other hand, FRP’s stance on cultural policy is most often made visible by an almost unanimous criticism. Thus, cultural policy has constituted a rhetorical arena in which the FRP has distinguished itself from the other parties and where the FRP has positioned itself as being in line with the opinions and tastes of ‘the ordinary 2.6 Torgeir Uberg Nærland 302 people’. This Norwegian case highlights the symbolic potency of culture as a means to evoke antagonistic people-elite narratives. The Need for Further Research As outlined in this review, the existing research on popular culture and populism includes a range of perspectives and illuminating cases. Each of these perspectives warrants further research, in regards to both specific national contexts and different forms of popular culture. However, a number of important issues remain unexplored. One such issue is how entertainment and popular culture are used as part of populist campaigns, and political communication more broadly. Another issue is the role of popular culture in social media communication between populist politicians and voters. Likewise, the relationship between media ownership, populist actors, and the narratives promoted through popular culture stands out as an important area of future inquiry. However, one issue emerges as both particularly urgent and largely overlooked: the role of popular culture in forging collective and individual identities. As I argue in the next section, the people-elite antagonism that fuels populism is a matter of social identifications and antipathies, and popular culture is a catalyst for such identifications and antipathies. In the next section, I outline and qualify what I call an identity-oriented perspective on popular culture and populism. 3. Popular Culture and Populism: An Identity-Oriented Perspective My fundamental argument is that popular culture constitutes a key yet overlooked source of the social identifications and antagonisms that fuel populism. Through popular culture and entertainment, citizens engage with value-laden representations of the lifestyles, experiences, and worldviews of themselves and their significant others—including political and cultural elites and various outgroups. Therefore, we should direct systematic attention to citizens’ experiences of popular culture and how such experiences affect their sociopolitical identifications and antipathies. In the following, I first make the case that identity matters to populism. Thereafter, I highlight how media in general, and popular culture in particular, plays a key role in forging and energizing sociopolitical identities. I conclude this 2.7 Populism and Popular Culture: The Case for an Identity-Oriented Perspective 303 section by suggesting empirical research strategies that employ this perspective. Populism and Identity The question of identity is implicit to most understandings of populism. As established by early theorists of populism (Ionescu & Gellner, 1969), the antagonisms between the ‘people’, the ‘elite’, and outgroups intrinsic to the populist imaginary (Müller, 2016) rely on matters of social identifications and antipathies. This understanding is reflected in recent populism research, including Panizza’s (2017) stress on voter identification practices as well as Melendez and Rovira Kaltwasser’s (2017) research on political identity formation. Likewise, social identity theory is essential to research on affective polarization (e.g. Iyengar, Sood, & Lelkes, 2012). Ostiguy’s (2017) sociocultural approach to populism places questions of identity at center stage. Explaining how populist politicians forge ties to voters, he argues that social and political identity are intertwined: [M]anners, publicized tastes, language, and modes of public behavior do become associated with, and even defining of, political identities. In such cases, social identities with their many cultural attributes interact with political identities. (Ostiguy, 2017, p. 80) All these contributions imply that identity is integral to populism, albeit in various ways. Whereas identity is a feature in political projects of all colors, I argue that it is nonetheless particularly pertinent to populism. A number of scholars now point to identity as a chief explanatory factor for the ongoing populist surge. In his book Identity, Fukuyama (2018) argues that at the heart of the global populist insurgency lies a ‘politics of resentment’. This resentment, experienced by large segments of people, is fueled by collective experiences of misrecognition—the negative affirmation of a group or person from the surroundings. Horschield (2016) and Bude (2017) both argue that collective experiences of displacement bolster the anti-elite sentiments that are central to the populist surge. This line of thinking is supported by an extensive body of empirical research on the sociodemographics and attitudes of voters of populist parties (for an overview of the research, see e.g., Inglehart and Norris, 2017; Reinemann, Matthes, & Shaefer, 2017). This research has found that populist voters are more likely to have low socioeconomic status, to hold fears of social decline, and to feel injustice and indignation. From this perspective, Reinemann, Aalberg, Esser, Strömbäck and de Vreese (2017, p. 19-20) note that 3.1 Torgeir Uberg Nærland 304 populism is closely related to the basic human need for belonging, wherein populism as an ideology essentially fulfills its followers’ needs for community building. Moreover, there are distinct affinities between the concept of populism and the concept of collective identity. Consider for instance Brubaker and Cooper’s (2000, p. 19) non-controversial definition of collective identity as “the emotionally laden sense of belonging to a distinctive, bounded group, involving both a felt solidarity or oneness with fellow group members and a felt difference from or even antipathy to specified outsiders.” If the definition expressly stated a belonging to ‘the people’ and an antipathy towards outsiders like ‘the elite’ and immigrants, this definition would fit quite a few of the populist movements we are currently seeing in Europe and beyond. Media, Popular Culture, and Identity In the field of media scholarship, the electoral success of populist parties and politicians has led to a renewed interest in questions about identity and media representation. Couldry (2010) connects the populist surge to a crisis of ‘voice’, in which considerable segments of the people lack the capacity to make narratives about their own lives. In the context of journalism and news, Kreiss (2018) and Wahl-Jorgensen (2019) argue for redirecting attention to matters of identity. In the context of entertainment, Hesmondhalgh (2017) argues that a key contributing factor to the anti-elite Brexit mobilization was the media’s failure to adequately represent the white working class. Mounting empirical evidence suggests that anti-elite identifications are connected to mis- or non-representation in the media. In Norway, Figenschou, Eide and Nilsen (2018) have found a steady decline of coverage of working-class actors from the 1960s through the present day. In the context of both news and entertainment, Jakobson and Stiernstedt (2018) have documented systematic mis- and non-representation of working-class citizens in Sweden. In genres like reality TV, many studies have found that working-class participants are often humiliated, ridiculed, and presented as inadequate (e.g., Skeggs & Wood, 2011; Erikson, 2015). Thus, as vehicles for representation, popular culture and entertainment emerge as a key symbolic condition for the formation of antielite identities. A vital question, then, is how audiences experience such media representations, and how these experiences matter to their sociopolitical identifications. The relationship between identity and the consumption of popular 3.2 Populism and Popular Culture: The Case for an Identity-Oriented Perspective 305 culture remains a longstanding concern in audience research and especially in cultural studies. Douglas Kellner offers one often-quoted account of this relationship: Radio, television, film, and the other products of the culture industries provide the models of what it means to be male or female, successful or a failure, powerful or powerless. Media culture also provides the materials out of which many people construct their sense of class, of ethnicity and race, of nationality, of sexuality, of ‘us’ and ‘them’. (Kellner, 1995, p. 1) How citizens experience works of popular culture as constructing an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, and how such identifications transform into the ‘ingroups’ and ‘outgroups’ that constitute the populist imaginary, emerge as a critical yet overlooked topic in our understanding of the relationship between media and populism. An Identity-Oriented Perspective: Avenues for Further Research I argue that we need to commit serious attention to how audiences experience popular culture and how these experiences affect their social identifications and antipathies. I suggest that marginalized citizens—whether socio-economically or -culturally—are of particular interest in this regard. Exploring these citizens’ media experiences would provide specific insights into the role of popular culture in igniting, energizing, or bolstering people-elite antagonisms—and conversely, how such experiences can also counter or ease such antagonisms. This task calls for both quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative methods can provide systematic knowledge about the relationships between socioeconomic background, cultural consumption, and attitudes, while qualitative methods—whether ethnography, interviews, or focus groups—can explore citizens’ experiences of popular culture and how such experiences are integrated into their lifeworlds. Finally, I argue that the concept of recognition (Taylor, 1994) offers a key theoretical lens through which we can understand the media experiences discussed above. 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This volume assembles a wide range of perspectives on populism and the media, bringing together various disciplinary and theoretical approaches, authors and examples from different continents and a wide range of topical issues. The chapters discuss the contexts of populist communication, communication by populist actors, different types of populist messages (populist communication in traditional and new media, populist criticism of the media, populist discourses related to different topics, etc.), the effects and consequences of populist communication, populist media policy and anti-populist discourses. The contributions synthesise existing research on this subject, propose new approaches to it or present new findings on the relationship between populism and the media. With contibutions by Caroline Avila, Eleonora Benecchi, Florin Büchel, Donatella Campus, María Esperanza Casullo, Nicoleta Corbu, Ann Crigler, Benjamin De Cleen, Sven Engesser, Nicole Ernst, Frank Esser, Nayla Fawzi, Jana Goyvaerts, André Haller, Kristoffer Holt, Christina Holtz-Bacha, Marion Just, Philip Kitzberger, Magdalena Klingler, Benjamin Krämer, Katharina Lobinger, Philipp Müller, Elena Negrea-Busuioc, Carsten Reinemann, Christian Schemer, Anne Schulz, Christian Schwarzenegger, Torgeir Uberg Nærland, Rebecca Venema, Anna Wagner, Martin Wettstein, Werner Wirth, Dominique Stefanie Wirz


Der Band vereint ein breites Spektrum von Perspektiven auf das Thema Populismus und Medien. Er bringt verschiedene fachliche und theoretische Ansätze, Beitragende und Beispiele von mehreren Kontinenten und ein breites Spektrum aktueller Themen und Herausforderungen zusammen. Die Kapitel behandeln den Kontext populistischer Kommunikation, Kommunikation durch populistische Akteure, verschiedene Typen populistischer Botschaften (populistische Kommunikation in traditionellen und neuen Medien, populistische Medienkritik, populistische Diskurse zu verschiedenen Themen), Wirkungen und Konsequenzen populistischer Kommunikation, populistische Medienpolitik, aber auch antipopulistische Diskurse. Die Beiträge systematisieren vorhandene Forschung, schlagen neue Ansätze vor oder präsentieren neue Befunde zum Verhältnis von Populismus und Medien. Mit Beiträgen von Caroline Avila, Eleonora Benecchi, Florin Büchel, Donatella Campus, María Esperanza Casullo, Nicoleta Corbu, Ann Crigler, Benjamin De Cleen, Sven Engesser, Nicole Ernst, Frank Esser, Nayla Fawzi, Jana Goyvaerts, André Haller, Kristoffer Holt, Christina Holtz-Bacha, Marion Just, Philip Kitzberger, Magdalena Klingler, Benjamin Krämer, Katharina Lobinger, Philipp Müller, Elena Negrea-Busuioc, Carsten Reinemann, Christian Schemer, Anne Schulz, Christian Schwarzenegger, Torgeir Uberg Nærland, Rebecca Venema, Anna Wagner, Martin Wettstein, Werner Wirth, Dominique Stefanie Wirz