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The End Of the Liberal Order? Central, East, and Southeast European Populism in Comparative Perspective

The Fourth Annual Conference of the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies was dedicated to populism in Central, East and Southeast Europe. Internationally renowned scholars, representing different disciplines and fields of study, presented and discussed comparatively their respective research on backgrounds, forms and strategies of populism in history and the present. The conference was organized in cooperation with the University College London's School of Slavonic and East European Studies and took place in Regensburg on June 1-3, 2017.

The dream of a united Europe seemes to be on the ropes. Anti-EU platforms are on the rise, producing the first major faits accomplis such as Brexit. Hungary and Poland are governed by parties that portray Brussels as a second Moscow and oppose the European federalist ideal. Arguably, the most shocking event in this development is the election of a right-wing populist as President of the United States. The big-tent parties in Europe, which have so far maintained the post-war liberal order, have found no effective antidote to the wave of populism. In the post-socialist countries, the democratic achievements since 1989 seem under threat by policies that draw a clear line between "us" and "them", foster hatred and offer easy solutions to complex problems. However, populism also indicates wide-spread frustration about inequality and alienation under the current capitalist system.

The 2017 conference put populism in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe in perspective: it drew comparisons with other regions of the word and elucidated the contexts of populist politics. The four panels of this interdisciplinary conference engaged with the languages of populism; the typologies of populist politics; the historical trajectories of populism in the region; and populist subjectivities. In a special round-table, journalists reporting from the region discussed the causes and likely consequences of populist politics.

Keynote speakers were: the author and journalist John B. Judis (Washington), the media scholar Prof. Dr. Michał Krzyżanowski (Örebro/Liverpool) as well as the Slavist and then director of the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies Prof. Jan Kubik (London) together with PhD candidate Marta Kotwas (London).

Friday night a public debate in German language with renowned journalists explored populism and its impact on Central, East and Southeast Europe: Andreas Ernst (Belgrad / Zurich), Boris Schumatsky (Berlin) and Reinhold Vetter (Warsaw / Berlin); the session was chaired by Marie-Janine Calic (Munich).

You can find the program of the Annual Conference here.

See also the Conference Report of H-Soz-Kult. See also the Review in the Annual Report 2017 of the Graduate School.


Thursday, June 1

18:00 Opening

Ulf Brunnbauer (Regensburg) and Martin Schulze Wessel (Munich)

18:30 - 20:00 Keynote

John B. Judis (Washington): The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics

Chair: Ger Duijzings (Regensburg)

Friday, June 2

9:30 - 10:30 The Language of Populism

Keynote: Michał Krzyzanowski (Örebro): Populism in/and Politicisation and Mediatisation of Immigration: The Case of the ‘Refugee Crisis’

Chair: Björn Hansen (Regensburg)

10:45 - 12:45 Daniel Weiss (Zurich): How (not) to Recognise Populist Discourse? A Glance at East European Varieties

Tanja Zimmermann (Leipzig): "Alternative" Histories in Fake Environments

Peter Zusi (London): The Literature of Dark Charisma: Hermann Broch and Viktor Dyk

14:00 - 15:00 Keynote

Unfortunately, the keynote with Gwendolyn Sasse (Berlin) was cancelled. 

15:00 - 17:45 Typologies of Populism

Eric Gordy (London): "Don't mourn, Balkanise:" What the Post-Democratic West Can Learn from the Balkans

Martin Mejstřík (Prague): Current Populism in Central East Europe. Threat to Liberal Democracy?

Alan Sikk (London): Populist Parties and Other Creatures: Towards a Typology of ‘Populism’ in Central and Eastern Europe

Florian Bieber (Graz): Populism at the European Periphery: Negotiating Popular and External Legitimacy

Chair: Melanie Arndt (Regensburg)

18:00 - 19:30 Public Roundtable / Öffentliche Podiumsdiskussion (IN GERMAN)

Andreas Ernst (Belgrad/Zürich), Boris Schumatsky (Berlin) und Gregor Mayer (Budapest): Das Ende der liberalen Ordnung? Zentral-, Ost- und Südosteuropäischer Populismus im Vergleich

Chair: Marie-Janine Calic (München)

Saturday, June 3

9:00 - 10:00 Historical Trajectories Part I

Keynote: Jan Kubik (London) and Marta Kotwas (London): Beyond Populist Politics: Communities of Despair, Rudderless Lives, and Cultures of Redemption

Chair: Martin Schulze Wessel (Munich)

10:15 - 12:15 Historical Trajectories Part II

Egbert Klautke (London): Antisemitism, Charisma, Infrastructure: Karl Lueger and the Invention of Populism in Vienna 1900

Elizabeth White (Bristol): ’Narodnichestvo’ and ‘neo-narodnichestvo’: Revolutionary Populism in Russian, Soviet and Eastern European History

Balázs Trencsényi (Budapest): Comparing Populist Discourses in East Central Europe in the Twentieth Century - Continuities, Contexts, and Typologies

13:15 - 15:15 Populist subjectivities

Ger Duijzings (Regensburg): Smears and Insults: Performative Acts of Denigrating Others

Margit Feischmidt (Budapest): Policing of Borders, Production of Boundaries: Structural, Political and Cultural Conditions of Anti-Migrant Mobilization in Rural Hungary

Don Kalb (Budapest/Utrecht): From Populist Reason to the Rationality of Populists

Cathrine Thorleifsson (Oslo): In Pursuit of Purity: Understanding the Appeal of UKIPs Populism in Precarious England

Chair: Čarna Brković (Regensburg)

15:30 - 16:00 Concluding discussion