University of Helsinki

CfP: Populism and radical right politics in Central and Eastern Europe: rethinking the role of media, public discourse and their publics (25-28/08/15, 12th ESA – Prague, CZ); DL: 28/01/15.

Part of the 12th Conference of the European Sociological Association (25-28 August 2015, Prague, CZ), the RN32 Political Sociology organizes Session 4: The Populist Radical Right as Political Actor in Europe. The proposed panel on populism and radical right politics in Central and Eastern Europe is organized by Gabriella Szabó (CSS, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, HU) szabo.gabriella[at] and Ov Cristian Norocel (CEREN, University of Helsinki, FI) cristian.norocel[at], and is envisaged to fit within this framework.

Already a decade ago it was aptly noted that the study of populist radical right in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) resembles the efforts of aiming at a target in motion. Since then, several researchers have explored the populist radical right political landscape in the region. Still, we believe that studies of populism and radical right are facing the dilemma of whether categories of Western-oriented research properly describe the populist and radical right politics in CEE countries. A case in point, anti-immigration and Islamophobia seem to be non-issues in the CEE contexts, whilst ethno-nationalism (such as in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania), fundamentalist Catholicism (like in Croatia, Poland) and the frustration over the loss of past glories of the country (Hungary) are often hard to synchronize with Western developments. All the more important, the study of populist radical right parties needs to take into account the increasing inequality and growing intolerance to difference (be it ethnic, religious, etc.) in the societies across the CEE. The much needed comparative analyses on European trends of populism and radical right radicalism should be supported by deeper theoretical, conceptual and empirical knowledge on the regional specificities in CEE countries. It is especially true for the ‘soft’ factors of radicalization such as the role of media and public discourse in the dynamics of populism and radical right. Therefore, we seek comprehensive assessments of mainstream media response to the populism and radical right radicalism.

The panel aims to examine the extent to which public discourses are penetrated by populism and the level of visibility of the populist and radical right actors are in the public debates. We also address the question of the rather under-researched populist and radical right publics. The social media are believed to be intensively used by populist and radical actors to connect with each other and mobilize electoral support. If it is the case, we are interested in studying the impact and the patterns of this interactive way of populist and radical right communication in CEE countries. The international literature lacks reliable information on the rapidly growing media universe of populism and radical right radicalism with a powerful mix of social media, traditional formats of written press and radio and TV broadcast to balance the hostile mainstream media environment. In other words, we are interested to examine both in a comparative perspective and in case studies whether populist and radical media products have entered into the mainstream or they remain on the fringes of media sphere. We encourage contributions that investigate complex social manifestations, such as the examination of the subcultural environment in the CEE, the intersections of popular culture (skinhead music, rock festivals, and football hooliganism), mass gathering (marches, rallies, festivals) and identity construction (with particular attention to intersections of gender, ethnicity, and sexuality).

Please, send your abstract (no more than 250 words) to both organizers at szabo.gabriella[at] and cristian.norocel[at] by January 28 2015. The potential participants will be informed in due time whether their papers have been accepted and be directed to submit the abstracts through the conference official submission platform before February 1 2015.

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Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 Research No Comments

CfP: From Welfare States to Welfare Chauvinism under the Sign of Economic Crisis: Nationalism and Exclusionary Politics vs. Communitarian and Cosmopolitan Positions in the Nordic Context @ ESA RN32 Interim Conference (University of Milan 30.11.12-01.12.12); DL: 15.04.12

We are pleased to announce a call for papers for the panel we organize for the Second Mid-Term Conference of the RN32 Political Sociology to be held at the University of Milan (Italy) (30.11.2012-01.12.2012).

From Welfare States to Welfare Chauvinism under the Sign of Economic Crisis:
Nationalism and Exclusionary Politics vs. Communitarian and Cosmopolitan Positions in the Nordic context

The ongoing economic crisis has had polarizing effects across the entire Europe. In the Nordic context, it was accompanied by the emergence of strong appeals for exclusionary politics, such as the bold emergence of radical right populist parties at the forefront of parliamentary politics across the region, and the sharpening of the debate about the future of the Nordic model of welfare state.

The Nordic welfare system, underpinned by comprehensive labor force participation, promotion of gender equality, egalitarian and far–reaching levels of redistribution and benefits, and comprehensive fiscal policy, has been confronted with the sweeping wave of neo–liberalism and economic globalization.

With this in mind, the panel encourages the submission of papers exploring the emerging political cleavage along the nationalist vs. cosmopolitan dimension. Particular emphasis is put on the intensification of dichotomies such as that between forms of particularist
nativism (i.e. narrow definitions of the modern Nordic societies as welfare chauvinistic projects) versus universalist cosmopolitanism (integrative and accommodating definition of the welfare state in the age of globalization).

Abstract (200 words maximum) must be sent within 15 April 2012 to both panel chairs (Susi Meret: meret[at] and Ov Cristian Norocel: cristian.norocel[at] ). The panel description with the accepted abstracts will be submitted by the panel chairs to the conference organizers (for details on the conference, see conference details bellow). The final answer will be communicated by 30 May 2012.

Keywords: exclusion/ inclusion, nativism/ cosmopolitanism, Nordic region, radical right populism, welfare state/ welfare chauvinism.

Panel chairs: Susi Meret (Aalborg University) & Ov Cristian Norocel (University of Helsinki/ Stockholm University)

ESA Research Network 32 – Political Sociology

The European Sociological Association’s Research Network on Political Sociology (RN32) is pleased to announce its second mid-term conference, to be held at the University of Milan (Italy), 30 November and 1 December, 2012:

Political Participation and Beyond
Multi-level dynamics of inclusion/exclusion in times of crisis

Political participation is a founding theme of political sociology. In broadest terms, it refers to all forms and activities through which individuals or collectives express opinions and also exert influence on decisions that are of common concern. While concerned with apathy, abstention and “exit”, political sociology has also described and categorized a broad and ever-changing repertoire of citizen (and non citizen) voice, i.e. activism and formal or informal involvement whether individual/ collective, manifest/ latent, institutionalized/ unconventional, direct/ mediated, online/ offline. In an age of globalization and multilevel (local, national, supranational, global) networking of collective decision-making processes, in which social and political boundaries are being reshaped and new dynamics of social and political inclusion and exclusion are emerging, this scope of political participation is potentially wider and rapidly changing. One may wonder if participation is heightened in times of crisis, which favour more exclusive forms of governance and tend to mobilise new forms of protest, or on the contrary generates anomie.

The aim of this conference is to explore the extended scope of political participation in relation to transnational government arrangements and processes. Within this broad theme, all crucial concepts of political sociology are embraced. These include: challenged legitimisation of democratic representative institutions; changing power relationships between citizens and the state; the making of a new political order across the interaction of macro- and micro-level actors; the battle for cultural, social, and institutional change involving networked individuals and organized groups at local, national and global levels.

A number of key contemporary political and social phenomena can therefore be analysed from a political participation perspective:

  • Globalizing forms of protest and new forms of political mobilization
  • Changing interactions between public opinion, political elites, mainstream media, and social media
  • The plebiscitary nature of leader-followers relationships as regards populist parties
  • Party primary elections and campaigning
  • New patterns of electoral turnout and volatility
  • Citizens’ deliberations and experiments in participatory democracy
  • The emergence of a new political cleavage along the nationalism vs. cosmopolitanism value dimensions
  • The ongoing conflict over norms of citizenship
  • Processes of agenda-setting and the role of migrants’ organizations in key policy areas
  • Political dimensions of immigrant integration and the politics of voting rights
  • Urban governance and urban conflicts

Proposals can relate to all levels of – local to global – mobilization and participation in the polity. Studies employing a European comparative perspective or EU-wide framework, that address the multi-level dimension of participation, or discuss more recent challenges to citizens’ participation and legitimacy in times of financial and economic crisis are particularly welcome.

Abstract submission: Both panel proposals and individual paper proposals are encouraged. For panel proposals please submit a short description of the theme of the panel and at least three individual paper abstracts.

Deadline: The deadline for panel and paper proposals is Friday  30 April 2012. Please submit abstracts of max 200 words to: rn32mtc2012[at]

The conference committee will notify applicants by 30 May 2012.

Conference venue and organization: The conference will be hosted by the Department of Social and Political Studies, University of Milan (Italy). The Department is located in the centre of Milan. Participants are asked to make their own travel arrangements and book accommodation. We will suggest a list of hotels. Information will be available at:

To encourage participation by a broad range of early career researchers and experienced academics, there is no registration fee. To register, please write to rn32mtc2012[at] with the following information: name, position, affiliation with postal address, country, email address and dietary preferences.

Further information: Contact  Mauro BARISIONE at  rn32mtc2012[at]

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Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 Research No Comments

UPDATE: Workshop at the XLIII FPSA (20-21.01.2011, University of Jyväskylä/ Jyväskylän yliopisto Finland)

The Workshop “Moulding Identity, Trust and Commitment in the Nordic Countries: Balancing between Assimilation and Accommodation in the (Post)Multicultural World?” organized with the occasion of the XLIII Politiikan tutkimuksen päivät/ XLIII Annual Meeting of Finnish Political Science Association (FPSA, conference web-page in Finnish, tässä; English, here) will be taking place at the University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä Finland on 20.01.2011 between 14:30 and 18:00.  The workshop is allocated room AgB201. The room is in the second floor of the Agora building in Mattilanniemi (here).

The following papers are scheduled to be presented within the workshop (the language of the workshop panel will be English):

1. Borders of the Finnish Nation: ‘Gang Rapes’ in the Rhetoric of Anti-Immigration Activists and Politicians
Suvi Keskinen (Department of Social Research/Sociology, University of Turku) (details, in Finnish, tässä; in English, here)

In recent years a European trend, that has been called the ‘backlash against difference’ (Grillo 2007) or the ‘multiculturalism backlash’ (Vertovec & Wessendorf 2010), has gained foothold in Finland too. While multiculturalism was previously considered a positive goal and future vision, it has more recently been subjected to critique and claims of ‘having gone too far’. One sign of this ‘backlash’ is the rise of neo-nationalist and anti-immigration forces in municipal and national elections. In Finland neo-nationalist and anti-immigration rhetoric is used especially by politicians in the True Finns party and by activists on the internet. However, such rhetoric has spread itself through the political field and been adopted by representatives of several political parties.

Issues related to gender and sexuality prominently appear in neo-nationalist and anti-immigration rhetoric. References to forced marriages, honour-killings and sexual violence are frequently used to construct dichotomous divisions between ‘us’ and ‘them’. In this presentation I will analyze how the events called the ‘gang rapes in Oulu’ in 2006-2007 were used by anti-immigration activists on the internet and by the politician Jussi Halla-aho to promote neo-nationalist and anti-immigration agendas. Although (or maybe because) the perpetrators of the rapes were never identified, the events were used to construct an overwhelming threat of the ‘other’ man towards both local communities (such as Oulu) and national safety. The boundaries of the Finnish nation were evoked through a threat from the outside, caused by growing numbers of asylum seekers and refugees from non-Western countries, as well as a threat from the inside, embodied by migrant people who were residents of the country but not regarded as belonging to the nation. The border-policing rhetoric was based on a racialization of criminality – a process in which criminal acts were stereotyped and turned into characteristics of certain ethnically or racially defined groups.

Furthermore, the presentation analyzes the blog text of the politician Jussi Halla-aho in which he comments on the ‘gang rapes’. It will be shown how, in his text, the discussion about the threat of the ‘other’ man turns into a discussion about the hindrances that white femininities create for the performance of patriotic masculinity. The gendered and classed figure of the ‘lady in a flowery hat’ (kukkahattutäti) is analyzed as the metaphor for the educated women in the Finnish society who speak for multiculturalism and work with integration or immigration affairs. The rhetoric will be analyzed in relation to how oppositions are constructed in present-day Finnish politics based on distinctions of gender, class and ‘race’/ethnicity.

Keywords: multiculturalism, neo-nationalism, racism, sexual violence, radical right populist parties, criminality

2. Regulation and encouragement of participation by ethnic minorities in Finland and Denmark
Marjukka Weide (Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)

Resident foreigners in Finland and Denmark enjoy relatively extensive political rights. The level of political participation by resident foreigners and naturalized immigrants, however, remains low. A question arises as to how the two states are addressing this situation. Societal participation and related areas, such as naturalization, are at least in part governed by different bodies than those responsible for general immigrant affairs. This is why the answer cannot be provided by examining only one branch of government, as many immigrant policy studies do.

My aim in this paper is to identify the various policy locations in the two countries, which contribute to regulating participation by people with migratory backgrounds. On the basis of an extensive institutional mapping, I locate four policies of relevance in the sphere of traditional “immigrant policy”: 1) naturalization policy, 2) state “integration policy”, including language/integration courses, 3) municipal “integration” and minority policy, including advisory boards/integration councils 4) state institutions for minority representation. Furthermore, I find three other policy areas to be in a significant position: 1) electoral policies, 2) state policy of civic participation, and 3) municipal participation policy.

Regulation of immigrant participation can be of restricting character, as in the case of access to nationality, or of “proactive” character, i.e. spurring certain types of activity, as in the case of support to associations or organising elections to integration councils. In Denmark, political citizenship of new ethnic minorities is mainly addressed under the heading of integration policies; in Finland the policy area of “democracy policy” is of increasing importance. While the state level is decisive in the forming of the overall policy framework in both countries, municipal solutions, for example, determine the position of integration councils or multicultural boards.

Keywords: Denmark, Finland, immigrant policy, integration policy, minority representation

3. The Nation (Re)Imagined
Peter Holley (Department of Social Research (Sociology) / CEREN, The Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)

In recent decades there has emerged a significant debate within Western societies as to the nature of ‘the nation-state’ and the place of the migrant ‘other’ within its borders (cf. Benhabib 2002; Fortier 2008; Goldberg 1994; Modood 2005; Parekh 2006). In fact, in the Finnish context, a comparatively recent opening up of national borders followed by a modest flow of immigration (particularly to towns and cities in the capitol region) implies that a sharp change from a once perceived homogenous culture to a new understanding of a Finnish heterogeneity is now taking place. Such transforms therefore result in a new Finnish multiculturalism in which the migrant ‘other’ seeks to negotiate her belongings and identifications. How then, we might ask, do such migrants make sense of their position(s) within their ‘host’ society? And how do they articulate a space in which they too might be included within the ‘national family’? Moreover, to what extent is a fundamental change in Finland’s national identity currently taking place due to the impact of migration?

Keywords: Finnish identity, (political) belonging, transnational migration, multiculturalism and citizenship.

4. ‘Chauvinism’, ‘Xenophobia’ and ‘Flowered Hats’
Niko Pyrhönen (CEREN, The Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)

The municipal elections of 2008 marked the inception of the steep rise in the support for the True Finns party and their political agenda – in polls and in public debates the sentiments towards immigration and multiculturalism have become more hostile. However, significant challenges remain in attempts to explain the growth of anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalist (AIAM) voices in the public debate. In the recent scientific work their proliferation has commonly been attributed to relatively abstract developments, such as “work-related precariousness”, “the challenging of traditional ideas on national unity” or “ethnocentric in-group bias”. While these meta-narratives remain coherent, they also leave a crucial aspect of the phenomenon unexplored if they are not linked to actual articulations of AIAM sentiments that narratives seek to explain.

My work in progress seeks to help in filling this empirical gap by looking at the articulations of AIAM sentiments within the most commented news threads on the discussion boards of Helsingin sanomat during the years 2008–2010. My initial findings suggest that AIAM sentiments are not most commonly articulated with reference to concepts of identity and belonging such as “the national unity” or “the Finnish way of life.” Rather, these articulations appear to be outnumbered by references to redistributive issues whose implications go to the core of welfare ideology and its institutional manifestation in welfare state politics. This would suggest that the existing narratives behind the growth of AIAM sentiments need to be complemented with reference to the proliferation of an instrumental discourse whose AIAM underpinnings are regarded as rising from the redistributive demands of the welfare system.

Keywords: immigration, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, welfare policy, public debate.

5. Nationalisms and Europeanness in media discourses on Islam
Karin Creutz-Kämppi (CEREN, The Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)

The global aspects of media stories bring with them changes in spatial consciousness. This
means not only a greater involvement in events in other parts of the world, but also a
reassessment of one’s own position in the enlarged society. When the individual’s subjective world of knowledge is widened from the immediate surroundings to a global perspective, the self-categorization needs to be redefined to obtain relevance in the new context. In this paper, I examine the concepts that within the discursive othering of Islam
represent the notion of a We-collective. Through discursive polarization the boundaries for collectivity are clarified; these boundaries consist of typifications and routinized perceptions. As collectivity on a global level is distant to the everyday-life of the individual, without attachment to daily practices, it is from a sociological viewpoint interesting to look at how these conceptions of belonging are rhetorically constructed and legitimized as positions for identification. This assessment simultaneously shows articulations of the discursive power of specific institutionalized knowledge forms.

Nationalism is a central ideological aspect of boundary making – the nation, however, has a less important role as factor for identification in connection to global discourses on Islam. Instead the notions of Europe and the West function as the entities where the “own” and “right” values and traditions prevail. By excluding specific values, norms and cultural attributes from these concepts, denominators for collective identifications are constructed. Media rhetoric is a central element in the societal knowledge production; an inquiry in how the notions of collective identification are rhetorically mediated provides insight in the premises and knowledge structures of these positions. The analyzed data in this case study consists of all opinion articles debating the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad from seven Swedish-language dailies in Finland from a six months period in 2006.

Keywords: Othering, Islam representations, nationalisms, Europeanization, sociology of knowledge, media rhetoric

6. The Rhetorical (Re)Constructions of the Swedish Folkhem: A Feminist Reading of Conceptual Metaphors
Ov Cristian Norocel (Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki/ Department of Political Science, Stockholm University) (details in English, here)

Acknowledging that the construction of radical right populism around the metaphorical depiction of the national family at the beginning of twenty-first century is a little researched area, this article explores the discursive redefinitions of Swedishness enabled by the folkhem conceptual metaphor so that to accommodate centrally located heterosexist masculinities at the intersection of gender, class, and “race”, as it is heralded by the main Swedish radical right populist party, the Sweden Democrats (SD) and its leader Jimmie Åkesson.

In order to do so, the main tenets of the conceptual metaphor theory are discussed and criticisms to the present methodologies are presented leading to the suggestion of a new, genealogical approach. The research material is then analyzed with the help of the proposed method, evidencing Åkesson’s use of the national family metaphor over time. The concluding part provides with an overview of the findings and indicates possible extrapolations for studying masculinities in radical right populist discourses with the aid of the suggested methodological apparatus developing conceptual metaphor theory.

Keywords: conceptual metaphor theory, feminism, genealogy, heteronormativity, Jimmie Åkesson, Sweden Democrats

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Friday, December 10th, 2010 Research No Comments

UPDATE: Workshop at XLII Annual FPSA (11.03.2010 University of Helsinki, Helsinki/ Helsingfors Finland)

The workshop titled Can Others Become Part of Us? Questions of National (Im)Purity,  which I have organized for XLII Politiikan tutkimuksen päivät/ XLII Annual Meeting of Finnish Political Science Association (FPSA, conference web-page in English, here), will be taking place at the University of Helsinki on 11.03.2010 in Helsinki/ Helsingfors Finland. The workshop is scheduled to take place at the University of Helsinki main building, Fabianinkatu 33/ Fabiansgatan 33, Room 4 (3rd floor).

The following papers are scheduled to be presented within the workshop (the language of the workshop panel will be English):

1. Indigenous Subjectivity Challenging Ethnic Particularity
Tanja Joona (University of Lapland) (details in English, here)
Sanna Valkonen (University of Lapland) (details in Finnish, tässä)

The Sámi have constructed national unity since 1950’s by creating their own political institutions and by defining the Sámi symbols and cultural features. Since 1970’s the Sámi unity and subjectivity have been constructed as an indigenous people. The indigenous Sámi discourse is connected to the crowing awareness and political activity of the indigenous peoples globally and to the strengthening of their international position. Nowadays the Sámi of Finland have a constitutionally recognized position as an indigenous people, and they have a cultural autonomy in an area situated in the Northernmost Finland, e.g. Sámi Homeland. The cultural autonomy is implemented by the Sámi parliament. A Sámi definition of the Sámi Act defines the legal Sámi subjects legitimate for instance to vote in the Sámi elections. However, striving to define the Sámi subjects has caused protection of Sámi cultural purity in a situation in which most of the Sámi don’t live in a traditional Sámi way anymore.

Our presentation deals with the problematic related to the indigenous subjectivity both from the viewpoint the ILO convention no. 169, which is the most important international treaty concerning the indigenous peoples, and also from the “Sámi viewpoint”. We examine the ambiguous practices of ethnic and indigenous lining and labeling in regard to an empirical example of so called “Lapp discussion”. The concept “Lapp” refers to people who are no longer recognized as Sámi among the Sámi but who descent from the original/indigenous inhabitants of the region and are thus potential indigenous subjects and right holders according to national and international law.

Keywords: Sámi, Lapp, ILO Convention, subjectivity, ethnicity, indigenous people.

2. Orchestrating Integration into Finnishness. Top-down Representations of National Identity through Discourses of Othering in Media, Parliamentary Debates and Legislative Documents
Niko Pyrhönen (CEREN, University of Helsinki) (details in English, here)

European regimes of immigration law, especially in the Nordic welfare countries, are often understood as being increasingly constrained by the international discourse of human-rights and free mobility stressed in treaties of the European Union. I argue, however, that nation-specific identity constructions and the subsequent considerations for political prudentiality play a major part in the formulation and evaluation of policy programmes for regulating immigration and organizing immigrant integration. This is particularly true in Finland, underlined by the fact that a markedly heated political debate has evolved over the phenomenon, even though the country has experienced levels of immigration significantly below that of EU-15 countries.

In my paper, I examine the Finnish Integration Acts of 1999 and 2009 and the Foreigner Act of 2004 in order to assess how Finnishness is reconstructed through a legislative discourse of Othering as presented on three different levels.

Keywords: immigration, integration legislation, national identity, othering.

3. Defending Romanianness and Heteropatriarchy. Masculinity Metaphors in Romanian Radical Right Populism
Ov Cristian Norocel (University of Helsinki)

The present paper investigates the recent history of the Romanian family as a heteropatriarchal matrix for metaphors of masculinity at the beginning of the 21st century, as it is heralded by the main radical right populist party Greater Romania Party (Partidul România Mare, PRM). Focusing on Greater Romania Magazine (RRM, Revista România Mare) – the party’s main media outlet- the analysis focuses on PRM leader’s editorials during a well defined timeframe in recent history of Romanian radical right populism, from the preparations for presidential elections in 2000, which witnessed PRM leader’s surprising run off, through the subsequent presidential elections in 2004, and up EU Parliamentary elections in 2009, that enabled PRM to send three representatives to European Parliament.

The staunchly restrictive definition of the family, portrayed as the exclusive heteronormative domain of the Romanian male, has developed across time with the help of the NATION IS A FAMILY and the STRICT FATHER conceptual metaphors to proscribe the existence of family narratives including ethnically diverse or any sexually different Others. The article accounts for the discursive (re-)definitions of Romanianness enabled by conceptual metaphors so that to accommodate centrally located heterosexist masculinities, and underlines the need for further explorations of the radical right populist narratives of Romanian purity.

Keywords: conceptual metaphors, heteropatriarchal family, masculinities, radical right populism, Romanian purity.

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Thursday, February 4th, 2010 Research No Comments