CFP: Populism - the 17th summer school of cultural studies; 3.-5.6.2010, Jyväskylä


University of Jyväskylä, June 3 – 5, 2010

In Finland as elsewhere in Europe, rapid social change, multicultural
challenges, and the way different kinds of threat are disseminated by the
media for public imagination, have given rise to populist appeals to
cultural values and to populist political movements. Such appeals and
movements are not limited to Europe or to the West, but the main empirical
emphasis in the Summer School will be on Finnish and European forms of

”Populism” is an ambivalent concept. In its etymology, it refers to ”the
people”, and the common definition has it as a particular way of appealing
to the people. It generally has a negative connotation: the populist
appeal is at the same time black-and-white and diffuse, it shuns
difference, it is grounded in mythisized fundamental values, and it unites
by discrimination. Today, this kind of populism is most clearly
articulated in right-wing political movements, but it is not difficult to
find variations of this rhetoric throughout the political spectrum. Thus
populism can be regarded as a special kind of rhetoric which may contain
different cultural values and serve various political agendas.

Populism unites mass appeal with strong exclusions. However, it is part of
the ambivalence of the concept that it has also been used (especially in
the American context) as a designation for radically inclusive democratic
movements such as the civil rights movement. It has been said that
”populism” has no referential unity; rather, it is a social logic, closely
linked with the notion and practices of hegemony, which cuts across
different kinds of phenomena. Understood in this way, critical discussion
of populism tends to move from the mode of persuasion to the specific
contents and agendas themselves, to the meanings and values promoted or
countered with populist rhetoric.

The relationship between ”the popular” and ”populism” also belongs to the
themes of the Summer School. The term ”cultural populism” refers to a
rejection of elitism by adopting a diametrically opposed default position
where no attention is paid to the possible ideological or reifying
elements in popular culture, and where any provided meanings or modes of
appeal are viewed in terms of the consumers' sovereign power.

The Summer School has a multi- and cross-disciplinary orientation. It
invites presentations addressing concrete phenomena or focusing on
theoretical issues arising from the ambiguity or cross-referential nature
of the concept and practice of populism. The main emphasis lies on
contemporary phenomena, but historical perspectives are also welcomed. The
frame of possible subjects comprises multiculturalism and immigration,
nationalist and ethnic agendas, religious allegiances and gender issues.
Within such frames, what kinds of power struggle and protest find
expression in populist movements? In which ways are the elite and the
people, the subjects and the objects of power played against each other in
populist rhetoric? Which ideological and affective discourses are included
in different populist agendas, and how are they rhetorically composed?
What is the relationship between productive and repressive power in this
context? Who is empowered and who is disempowered?


Jim McGuigan is Professor of Cultural Analysis in the Department of Social
Sciences at Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK. His interests
cover contemporary social theory, cultural studies and policy, and
television and representation. He has published a number of books, among
them "Cultural Populism" (1992). Currently, he is working on two main
research themes: ‘cool capitalism’ and ‘funny politics’. His most recent
publications include "Cool Capitalism" (2009).

Petri Ruuska is Research Fellow in the Department of Social Research at
the University of Tampere, Finland. Since 2007, he has been an Academy
Research Fellow for "Nationspeak in action" and "Suuri murros 1905 ja
kansapuheen variaatiot" ["The Great Divide 1905 and the Variations of
Nationspeak"]. He is the co-author of the recently published "Kuriton
kansa. Poliittinen mielikuvitus vuoden 1905 suurlakon ajan Suomessa"
["Wayward Nation. Political Imagination and the Great Strike 1905 in
Finland"] (2009).

Chair: Prof. Erkki Vainikkala, the Research Centre for Contemporary
Culture, Department of Art and Culture Studies, University of Jyväskylä.

The seminar sessions are meant for post-graduate students whose work is
related to the topic of the summer school, while the adjoining lectures
are open for everyone. The summer school is free of charge. During seminar
sessions, each paper will be allotted about one hour, out of which 10–15
minutes are reserved for the actual presentation. The teachers will be
giving feedback on the papers, but peer discussion is emphasized.

The language of the summer school is English. Please note that attendance
is required throughout the summer school.

The summer school is part of the activities of the Society for Cultural
Studies in Finland. It is organized by the Research Centre for
Contemporary Culture, Department of Art and Culture Studies at the
University of Jyväskylä. The organizers thankfully acknowledge the support
of the Faculty of Humanities.


Please send your application by Friday, April 16 to:

Kulttuurintutkimuksen seura
c/o Nykykulttuurin tutkimuskeskus
PL 35, 40014 Jyväskylän yliopisto
Society for Cultural Studies in Finland
c/o Research Centre for Contemporary Studies
P.O.Box 35
FI-40014 University of Jyväskylä

Or by e-mail to:

Your application should include:

• an abstract of 100-200 words, based on the paper you will be presenting
• a short presentation of yourself and  your research topic with its
theoretical orientation, methods and materials

The applicants will be notified of the decision Friday, April 23.

Deadline for papers is May 17.

For more information:

e-mail minna.m.nerg(at)
phone +358 14 260 1317
or visit