Populist Discourse and Claims to Authenticity in Brazil, India and Ukraine

What role does authenticity play in the discourses of populism in Brazil, India and Ukraine, and what is the significance of mediality in this framework? Debates on authenticity as found in post-colonial or post-socialist social contexts have to date been lacking from theoretical reflections on populism and its authoritarian tendencies, and that is precisely where this project comes into play. Fundamentalist and (right-wing) populist movements that put pressure on existing dominant discourses are on the increase worldwide, including in Brazil, India and Ukraine. Populists claim to be advocates for the true and authentic voice of the ‘people’. Precisely because attentiveness is a scarce commodity in the digital age, their attempts to outshout the competition and find an audience for their claims of authenticity are shrill and piercing. The emphasis on authenticity can be viewed as a protest against mainstream constructivism or as confirmation of the pluralisation of opinions. Interdisciplinary and comparative discussions are being held jointly with experts from Brazil, India and Ukraine; examining the way in which populist discourses are used to construct claims for authenticity, how such discourses are reflected in different media formats, such as textbooks, and what role the inherent dynamics of social media play in the radicalisation of discourses. The focus is on country-specific social controversies concerning historical narrative and remembrance practices, the parties involved and their interests as well as the media strategies applied.

The Volkswagen Foundation will fund the project from August 2017 to January 2019. The lead institution is the Georg Eckert Institute – Leibniz Institute for International Textbook Research (GEI). The project team includes: Christoph Kohl (GEI and Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, PRIF), Barbara Christophe (GEI), Heike Liebau (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, ZMO) and Achim Saupe (Centre for Contemporary History, ZZF). The project is a cooperative venture within the Leibniz Research Alliance Historical Authenticity.

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Christoph Kohl

Department Textbooks as Media

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Phone: +49 531 59099-393
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