Populism is a category which is often abused in public discourse nowadays. For this reason, it is a category historians will have to face more and more frequently.
In spite of this, it is undeniable that the issue is usually looked at from the perspective of political science or cultural studies, clearly dominated by a need for conceptualization and abstraction of the category.
As some scholars have pointed out, the clear difficulty in reaching a unique and unitary definition of the phenomenon shows how indefinite its outline is and how problematic it is to ascribe different experiences to a single ideal-type.
This limit is clearly reflected in the difficulty of historical disciplines to thematize the phenomenon. Nonetheless, the study of historical cases is a necessary preliminary task. This also demonstrates the importance of creating a link between the reflections of political scientists, sociologists and philosophers and those of historians. Furthermore, it also shows the need to set up a critical debate on how historical disciplines can contribute to a better understanding of this category.
Four bi-monthly workshops on the subject will be organized in Florence (Italy) during 2013-14, under the sponsorship of the Italian Society for the Study of Contemporary History (SISSCo).
The seminars aim to discuss - through a survey deployed on a large temporal and spatial horizon - how different features of the populist phenomenon (privileged relationship between leadership and masses, criticism of the established order, anti-political nature, strongly nationalistic orientation and recovery of a mythic vision of the mother country, etc.) transform in correspondence to national and international historical developments.
The workshops will be structured as follows:
- The first workshop, preparatory to the discussion, will aim to open a channel of dialogue and discussion among historians and political scientists, in order to launch a debate on the declination of the populist phenomenon and identify some assumptions concerning the methodological differences that both disciplines find when analysing the phenomenon
- The second workshop will focus on the analysis of the first populist or "proto-populist" experiences that took place in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
- The third workshop will deal with experiences on the European and international scene in the inter-war years. On this occasion, it will be essential to examine and debate on the populist (or not) nature of the authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.
- The fourth workshop will be dedicated to "populist" experiences after WW2
We invite those who are interested to send proposals examining the phenomenon of populism in a historical perspective.
Proposals which intend to examine the following topics will be well-appreciated:
- The US People’s Party
- experiences and theories of populism in Eastern Europe
- Populism in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes
- L’Uomo Qualunque
- Le Poujadisme
- Populism in Latin America
Please send an abstract (max 300 words) and a biosketch (max 100 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 June 2013.
Dipartimento di scienze politiche e sociali
Università degli studi di Firenze
Via delle Pandette
50123 – Firenze
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