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Constructing the Sweden Democrats' campaign: From gut feelings to populist authenticity

Authors: Isabel Airas*, University of Cambridge
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography, Europe
Keywords: Sweden Democrats, national populism, political technologies, campaigning, affect, authenticity
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Over recent years, traditional political parties across the globe have undergone significant challenges, including the rise of new movements that unsettle the traditional Left-Right framing of political struggles (Moffitt, 2016). These ‘populist movements’ have in common that they are insurgent, situate themselves along a nationalist - internationalist divide, and, crucially, reject the ‘status quo’. In this paper, I analyse the more-than-human political technologies that are employed by populist parties to galvanise, produce, and sustain momentum behind these movements. The case study used is the conservative and culturally nationalist Sweden Democrats’ campaign strategies during the Swedish 2018 General Election and 2019 European Parliamentary elections. I home in on the affects that the party intended to produce and circulate about the party, focusing on the primary affect campaigners wished to emanate, so commonly associated with the appeal of populist politics: authenticity. The intention - expressed by my participants’ - to alter voters’ ‘gut feeling’ about the party, I argue, adds evidence to the claim made by scholars such as Thrift (2004) that affect is consciously tapped into by politicians to garner support. The party’s strategy - of associating itself with concepts such as “genuinely” and “for real” - is unpacked and I identify the technologies used to convey this message. The analysis addresses a diversity of dimensions of the campaign - from the changes of the party leader's dress style, and the youth wing's ‘Stoppa sosseriet’ t-shirt campaign, to the camera angles adopted in the production of the party’s campaign videos.

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