Territorial fever dreams: Towards geographies of populism and populist geographies 2

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM (MDT)
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Christopher Lizotte
Chairs: Christopher Lizotte


Although debate continues on the precise definition of populism and its nature as a recurring element of democracy, consensus has been reached on its essential feature: the construction of a noble “people” who stands alone against an unresponsive, corrupt, and oppressive elite (Laclau and Mouffe 1985; Lyrintzis 1990; Canovan 1999). As such, populism is not a political ideology but a set of political strategies and tactics – what Moffitt (2015, 2016) has termed a “style” – available to any political movement. However, Anglophone geographers have contributed less to this robust debate; despite contributions from Hart (2013), Gordon (2018), Andreucci (2017), and others, there is not what could be called a coherent “geographies of populism” in the discipline. This is puzzling, given the intersections between recent political events across the world in which populist parties and actors have had a heavy presence, and phenomena that geographers have long been interested in: nationalism, globalization, neoliberalism, and citizenship, to name just a few.

In addition, populist parties and actors are pushing us to reexamine many longstanding assumptions about political coalitions in an era of neoliberal globalization: current populist strategy has largely aimed at rolling back the complex relational and topological geographies of the contemporary world by remaking the terms of territorial sovereignty by reinforcing borders, policing outsiders, or establishing new borders on the basis of national identity. In some settings such an agenda contests the overarching agendas of “third way” political consensuses that have sought to ease the movement of capital and populations around the world. Perniciously, such economic grievances – long held by the political left – have been rearticulated through configurations of racial, religious, and cultural animus that have proven electorally successful. In many cases, state-sponsored or –abetted extrajudicial territorial cleansing campaigns (cf. Egbert et al. 2016) on the basis of ethnic or religious identity are increasingly leveraging social media and other communication technologies to channel populist rage into violence against despised groups.

As it becomes increasingly clear that populism is not transitory, and is in many cases successfully challenging the post-World War II consensus around global trade, migration, and cultural exchange, it is imperative that geographers contribute to understanding how populist movements employ political strategies that are constructed in place, through narratives about place. More specifically, geographers can work towards understanding populism as a strategy of governance that constructs a noble “people” and a corrupt “elite” through tactics of spatial articulations of identity, aspirations, and grievances. This session aims to accomplish that by providing a forum for geographically-informed analysis of movements, actors, and ambitions that can be termed “populist” according to these definitions.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Discussant Sara H. Smith University of North Carolina 20 9:55 AM
Presenter Aditya Mohanty*, University of Aberdeen, Let’s de-territorialize Urban Populism! Notes from an Extended Case Study of RWAs in Delhi’s Valmiki neighbourhoods 20 10:15 AM
Presenter Amit Kumar*, Univeristy of Bonn, Emergent Legal Geographies in Mumbai and the politics of Revanchist Populism 20 10:35 AM
Presenter Kai Bosworth*, Brown University, Five genres of environmental populism in the People’s Climate Movement 20 10:55 AM
Presenter Christopher Lizotte*, University of Helsinki, From the ground up: visualizing populist territorial imaginations 20 11:15 AM

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