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The regime’s worst nightmare: the mobilisation of citizen democracy. A study of Podemos’ (aesthetic) populism and production of affect in political discourse
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2016 (English)In: Cultural Studies, ISSN 0950-2386, E-ISSN 1466-4348Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

In spite of not even being officially registered three months before the European Parliament Elections of 2014, the Spanish upstart party Podemos captured almost 8 percent of the vote, while barely nine months after its formation, in October 2014, social surveys were citing the party as the leading force in national politics. The overall purpose of this paper is to explore how Podemos’ aesthetic and its discursive strategies are being used to mobilize affect and create collective identities in the battle for political hegemony in Spain. I argue in dialogue with Laclau [2005. On populist reason. London: Verso], Errejón and Mouffe [2016. Podemos: in the name of the people. London: Lawrence & Wishart] that: (a) the articulation of a new political grammar and discursive conflicts in which the popular majority can identify themselves as subjects in opposition to an adversary ‘Other’ plays a central role in constructing ‘the people’ as a new form of political culture, especially in times of crisis whereby; (b) the notion of populism transgresses categories such as ‘oversimplification’ and/or ‘demagogy’ and can also be regarded in terms of exhibiting sensitivity to popular demands and participatory democracy. My findings show that welfare politics are not necessarily best communicated through traditional left-wing symbols, due to the left’s popular link with communism and political defeat; these having been repeatedly recounted by the media/culture industry throughout history. Indeed, many may share the idea of protecting a nation’s common social services without wanting to position themselves within a Marxist (leftist) framework. I point to the representative crisis as an affective crisis where there is a potential affective space to be filled. From here, I stress that resistance movements seem to need to learn the current media logic of conflict and recognition in order to mediate affect and produce identification.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016.
Keyword [en]
Podemos, discourse, populism, political aesthetics, affect, austerity
National Category
Communication Studies Media Studies Cultural Studies
Research subject
medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-127049DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2016.1264004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-127049DiVA: diva2:1040368
Available from: 2016-10-27 Created: 2016-10-27 Last updated: 2017-04-06
In thesis
1. The mediation of affect: security, fear and subversive hope in visual culture
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The mediation of affect: security, fear and subversive hope in visual culture
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The overarching purpose of this study has been to problematise how visual practices and the mediation of affect is linked to the capacity to produce (new) perceptual realities, sensations and imaginaries, ultimately aiming to legitimate or counter-legitimate the hegemonic discourses and practices mobilised in the name of security. The first part of my thesis approaches this matter through an analysis of media cultures and discursive systems circulating within the court and the state military. Here, I discuss the impact of affect in the judicial-policial production of visible evidence (paper 1; published in the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law) and the state military (visual) narrative of threat (paper 2; published in MedieKultur: Journal of media and communication research). Additionally, as affect runs counter to hegemonic power relations as well as reinforces them, the second part of my thesis focuses on the way in which different resistance collectives cultivate affective dimensions through aesthetic practices in order to foster political attitudes that contest the established discourses of the (in)secure. Here, I examine the online activist group Anonymous’ visual political communication (paper 3; published in TripleC - Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society), and the Spanish movement Podemos’ visual and verbal discursive strategies (paper 4; forthcoming in Cultural Studies). In terms of theoretical and methodological approaches, I have my roots in, among others, Mouffe’s (2005) notion of conflict and (political) affect, Foucault’s (1980) concept of power/knowledge, and Thompson’s (1984; 1990) three-dimensional framework of ideology- analysis. In paper 1, my findings suggest that camera-produced images and technical and dramaturgical elements may have unintentional judicial consequences when they are read as evidence. I detail how this production of visible evidence can potentially stimulate and elicit emotional reaction, as well as discussing the degree to which pictorial crime evidence fails to be an instrumental and neutral representation of truth. In paper 2, my findings point in the direction where the military representation of the ‘Other as threat’ connects to aspects of economic globalisation and the (inter)national production of defence materiel. In article 3 (co-authored with Lindgren 2014) my findings suggest that citizen participation in public matters can be made engaging through the mobilisation of that which Anonymous calls ‘the lulz’; a tickling joy/pleasure (also, a sense of meaningfulness) of standing against power abuse through, for example, online direct action and culture jamming practices. Paper 4 explores the relationship between the affective and the visual using a broader security framework. Here, my findings indicate that Podemos’ discursive battle for social protection and economic security in a context of the crisis of political representation, is no longer framed through the traditional left-right conflict, but within the post- ideological (affective) articulation of ‘the new’ versus ‘the old’ and/or other discursive differences. I show how affect works as a potential for social change, by analysing the strategic production of a ‘We-Them’ discourse using Podemos’ take on social media and the media logic of mainstream television.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2016. 91 p.
Series
Medier & kommunikation, ISSN 1104-067X ; 16
Keyword
affect, emotion, aesthetics, visual culture, discourse, Otherness, power, security
National Category
Media Studies Communication Studies
Research subject
medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-127052 (URN)978-91-7601-595-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-11-25, hörsal D, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå, 08:30 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-11-04 Created: 2016-10-27 Last updated: 2016-12-14Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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