Discourse, populism and democracy - (TrUMPo)

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Discourse, populism and democracy - Tracking the uses of populism in media and political discourse (TrUMPo)

In contemporary democracies, there is not a day without the word populism being used in political and media discourse. For many observers worldwide, the spread of populism is one of the main threats to democracy. This has led to the development of a booming literature on populist political parties and politicians. Nevertheless, one major aspect of populism remains understudied, namely the use of the term populist itself by political and other actors, which is the subject of a real political struggle. Populism is indeed used by some political actors to disqualify political opponents but also as a positive category/label demonstrating proximity to people’s concerns in order to gain legitimacy. These uses of populism lead to fierce debates about the role and place of the people in democracies, and about who can pretend to best represent the people since the way the word and the notion of populism are defined, used and circulated is directly related to competing conceptions of democracy.
 
In order to understand how the construction of this category of populism contributes to shaping our collective imagination of democracy, TrUMPo seeks to understand in which contexts and situations this notion is used, which meaning it conveys in actual discursive practices, and how it circulates in the public debate. As a result, the topic will be studied from a threefold perspective: political science, communication studies and linguistics.
 
Since TrUMPo’s aim is to understand how discourse about populism plays a crucial role in the mediatized political debate in European democracies, the project will compare these discourses in the four domestic contexts – French- and Dutch-speaking Belgium, France and Spain. Project data will come from the parliamentary arena as well as mass and social media. The data will be analyzed through qualitative and quantitative methods.
 
The multidisciplinary project is carried out under the supervision of Prof. Min Reuchamps (ISPOLE) as coordinator together with Prof. Barbara De Cock (ILC), Prof. Philippe Hambye (ILC) and Prof. Sandrine Roginsky (ILC). Further project collaborators from ISPOLE are Catherine Goossens, Christoph Niessen and Ferdinand Teuber.

Contact: TrUMPo@uclouvain.be