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Session Overview
SP02: Populism, Racism and Everyday Life in Europe - with Miranda Christou, Christian Fuchs and Farzana Shain
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
9:00am - 10:30am

Session Chair: Monica Massari, University of Milan
Session Chair: Lena Margareta Näre, University of Helsinki
Location: BS.G.36
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Ground Floor Oxford Road

Session Abstract

organised by the ESA Executive Committee

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The Appropriation of ‘Difference’ by the Extreme Right

Miranda Christou

University of Cyprus, Cyprus

In this paper, I argue that the growing success of the extreme right in mainstreaming its ideology is based on upending the meaning of ‘racism’ in ways that produce a differend (Lyotard, 1983). More specifically, I examine how extreme right-wing rhetoric appropriates the use of ‘difference’, ‘freedom’ and ‘oppression’ in order to turn accusations of racism into an incommensurable language game. This rhetorical method allows them to position themselves as the champions of pluralistic democratic ideals while pushing for policies that directly undermine these values. The paper is based on a study of the right-wing, nationalist party ELAM in Cyprus. ELAM is closely associated with Golden Dawn in Greece and has gained parliamentary presence for the first time in 2016. The study is located within larger debates about citizenship, the rise of ethno-nationalism and its appeal to youth (Pilkington, 2016; Miller-Idriss, 2018). Data collection took place between September 2016 and December 2017 and includes: a) 48 interviews (ELAM leadership, ‘Youth Front’ members and ‘Women’s Front’ members); b) observations of public events and demonstrations and, c) data from internet sources (website, social media). Analysis was conducted with the use of the Discourse-Historical Approach (Wodak, 2001; Reisigl & Wodak 2005). The paper ties these data to examples from other extreme right-wing parties that belong to the Alliance for Peace and Freedom (e.g. Golden Dawn and Forza Nuova) and the Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom (e.g. FPӦ and RN). The paper points out how the language of ‘diversity’ has been colonized by the extreme right and concludes that the differend of ‘difference’ exposed the vulnerabilities of postmodern discourse which celebrated ‘diversity’ over ‘equality’ (Flecha 1999).


Miranda Christou is an Assistant Professor in Sociology of Education at the University of Cyprus. Her research interests focus on questions of nationalism, globalization and the expansion of youth extreme right-wing movements. She has worked on multiple European projects such as: “INCLUD-ed: Strategies for Inclusion and Social Cohesion in Europe from Education” (FP6, ΙP, Integrated Project, 2006-2011) and “SOLIDUS: Solidarity in European Societies: Empowerment, Social Justice and Citizenship” (Horizon2020-Euro-Society-2014, Euro 3-European societies after the crisis, 2015-2018). She has published her work in various journals including Current Sociology, Qualitative Inquiry and British Journal of Sociology of Education. She was co-editor (with Spyros Spyrou) of the book Children and Borders (2014, Palgrave Macmillan).

Towards a Critical Theory of Nationalism and Contemporary Authoritarian Capitalism

Christian Fuchs

University of Westminster, United Kingdom

This presentation asks: How can we critically theorise nationalism and right-wing authoritarianism today?

In the first part, a criticism of using the notion of “populism” for characterising contemporary far right movements is given and a criticism of the two most-cited books on nationalism is presented: Ernest Gellner’s “Nations and Nationalism” and Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities”.

In the second part, an alternative theoretical approach is presented that focuses on foundations of a critical theory of authoritarianism, nationalism and authoritarian capitalism. It advances a critical concept of nationalism grounded in the works of Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, and Eric J. Hobsbawm. The approach of Rosa Luxemburg as critical theorist of nationalism is discussed in relation to the approaches of Otto Bauer and Lenin.

In the third part, a typology of how nationalist ideology is communicated in the public sphere is presented.

The fourth part presents an analysis of the communication of nationalism in four case studies:

1) Donald Trump’s use of Twitter in the US Presidential Election 2016;

2) user-comments on Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage’s Facebook-pages in the 2016 Brexit Referendum;

3) the use of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in the German Bundestags-election 2017 by the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and its supporters;

4) user-comments on Facebook posting made by the leaders of the Freedom Party (FPÖ: Heinz Christian Strache) and the Conservative Party (ÖVP: Sebastian Kurz) during the 2017 Austrian general election.

The analysis shows the inherent connection of nationalism, hierarchic leadership, the friend/enemy-scheme, militarism, and patriarchy in contemporary authoritarian ideology.


Christian Fuchs is a Professor at the University of Westminster. He is the Co-Director of the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) and co-editor of the open access journal tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique ( He is a former chair and current board member of ESA RN18 – Sociology of Communications and Media Research and was a member of the ESA Executive Committee from 2015-2017, where he was the chair of conference committee planning the 2017 Athens conference. His research focuses on critical sociology and the political economy and critical theory of communication. He is author of books such as Critical Theory of Communication (2016), Reading Marx in the Information Age (2016), Social Media: A Critical Introduction (2nd edition 2017), Digital Demagogue: Authoritarian Capitalism in the Age of Trump and Twitter (2018), and Rereading Marx in the Age of Digital Capitalism (2019, forthcoming).

Generation 9/11: British Muslim Girls Talk About Their Past, Present And Future Lives

Farzana Shain

Keele University, United Kingdom

Media and policy attention surrounding Muslim girls and young women in Britain has been heavily dominated since 9/11, by a focus on ‘extremism’ and ‘security’ at the expense of other factors that may shape their lives. The literature on the perceived radicalisation of young Muslims (Field, 2011, ISD, 2015) has grown exponentially in the last decade, as has critical terrorism research (Brown, 2008, Spalek and Lambert 2008, McGhee, 2008, Jackson 2009, Lynch 2013). Yet, there are many and varied issues facing young British Muslims from questions of cultural belonging to schooling and employment/unemployment. For example, despite high rates of participation in further and higher education, 71% of Muslim women are not in employment and according to the British Social Mobility Commission (2016), Muslim Pakistani and Bangladeshi women who do work, earn less than their counterparts from other ethnic minority groups. This paper reports the findings of Leverhulme Trust funded research (2017-2019) exploring British Muslim girls’ accounts of growing up and being educated in the shadow of 9/11. Drawing empirically on in-depth interviews and focus groups and theoretically on feminist and postcolonial approaches (Brah and Phoenix 2004, Mirza 2012), the paper explores the strategies that the young women draw on to navigate a range of competing pressures. The analysis offers insights into the cultural, political and economic factors that underpin the interaction of gender/race/religion/class and education in the era in which Muslims are identified primarily through the lens of the ‘war on terror’.


Farzana Shain is Professor of Sociology of Education at Keele University, England. Her research includes work on education policy and politics, inequalities, education and the ‘war on terror’ and children and young people’s political engagement and activism. Her books include The Schooling and Identity of Asian Girls and The New Folk Devils: Muslim Boys and Education in England. She is one of the Executive Editors of the British Journal of Sociology of Education and is currently a Leverhulme Research Fellow (2017-2019), researching ‘Muslim girls’ accounts of their past, present and future lives’.

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