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Title: Populist communication in comparative perspective : ideology, performance, mediation
Author: Sorensen, Lone Nerup
ISNI:       0000 0004 7233 7251
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2018
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In this study I investigate how populism can be understood and explained from a communication perspective. Most literature constructs a dichotomy between populist ideology and style. A communication perspective instead emphasises that ideological content and stylistic form are inseparable in populist performances of political representation. For this purpose I compare two populist parties: the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – a radical-left, explosive phenomenon in South African politics – and the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which paved the way for Brexit. These two cases have emerged from contrasting democratic contexts, yet both respond to fault lines in representative democracy and engage in similar practices of symbolic communication. My approach offers a reconceptualization of populism as a communicative process. I achieve this by conducting an in-depth analysis of populist disruptive performances as exemplary manifestations of populist ideology and identifying their key features. A series of disruptive performances – live and virtual – initiated by UKIP and the EFF between 2014 and 2017 provide the inspiration. I approach the analysis through the theoretical concepts of ideology, performance and mediation and enquire into their interrelation in populist communicative processes. These processes are interrogated through a primarily interpretive analysis, supplemented by quantitative analysis, of a broad range of communicative resources sparked by the disruptive performances, including YouTube videos, press releases, legacy media and social media posts. Through this perspective I am able to enrich and deepen our understanding of current debates in the literature, explain populism’s appeal in the hybrid media environment and explicate its characteristic mode of representation. The thesis demonstrates that such a communication perspective explains the thinness of populist ideology, its harmony with processes of mediation and its varied forms around the globe. In combination with the comparative approach it reveals insights into the populist mode of political representation and its implications for democracy.
Supervisor: Voltmer, Katrin ; Parry, Katy Sponsor: University of Leeds
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available