New Diversities • Volume 21, No. 2, 2019

Populism Beyond the West: Dissonant Diversities and Fragmented Politics

Guest Editors: Sinem Adar (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) and
Gülay Türkmen (University of Göttingen)


List of Contents

Sinem Adar (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik) and Gülay Türkmen (University of Göttingen)
Populism Beyond the West: Dissonant Diversities and Fragmented Politics

Toygar Sinan Baykan (Kırklareli University)
Populism and the Bourgeoisie: The Role of Intra-Elite Factionalism in the Growth of Populism in Turkey

This paper seeks to examine the role of upper-class elements in the rise of contemporary populism by focusing on the socio-cultural divide and factionalism within the Turkish business class. Current scholarship on populism revolves around the discursive, strategic and stylistic-performative dimensions; but the revival of populism—and the reaction against it—in our age has its own political sociology based on various coalitions of distinct social forces with diverging economic and mobilisational capacities and resources. Classical and contemporary studies analysing the social bases of populism have overwhelmingly focused on the role of lower socio-economic segments. This paper, in contrast, deploys a historical and socio-cultural analysis to highlight the role of upper-classes in the rise of populism today, and argues that economic and socio-cultural factionalism within the bourgeoisie paves the way for the “underdog” bourgeois factions to support populist politics.

Efe Peker (University of Ottawa)
Religious Populism, Memory, and Violence in India

While the literature on right-wing populisms has focused on the phenomenon as an ideology, political style, and economic policy, populist interaction with religions, especially in non-Western cases, remains underexamined. Contributing to the study of religious populism, this article discusses the case of hindutva (Hindu nationalism) in India, concentrating on Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in power since 2014. From a social movements perspective, the analysis amalgamates three interrelated components: framing practices, mobilizing structures, and political opportunities. Regarding framing, the article deals with how the BJP redefines national identity and historical memory in exclusive association with Hinduism—at the expense of religious minorities. Concerning mobilizing structures, the BJP’s grassroots network Sangh Parivar is examined as an extensive set of organizations promoting Hindu pre-eminence, as well as the personalized communication tools centred around Modi himself, fostering a quasi-sacralised image of the leader. Finally, post-1980 sectarian violence is recounted as a key political opportunity that facilitated the BJP’s consolidation of power. Illustrating the aggressive articulation of Hinduism by the BJP via these three mechanisms, and incorporating an array of data such as the declarations of key figures in the movement, movement websites, newspaper articles, reports, as well as other historiographies and analyses, the article makes two theoretical propositions. First, it contends that a social movements outlook allows for a broader analysis of populism, one that takes into account grassroots forces and historical progression, which goes beyond understanding it merely as a rhetorical people-elite distinction. Second, it argues that religion warrants more attention in the literature as a cultural component of contemporary populisms. Shifting the focus to non-Western cases would help advance the study of the populism-religion nexus in its culturally and geographically variegated forms.

Zeynep Yanaşmayan (Department of Law and Anthropology, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle), Ayşen Üstübici (Koç University, Istanbul) and Zeynep Kaşlı (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam)
Under the Shadow of Civilizationist Populist Discourses: Political Debates on Refugees in Turkey

This article explores the extent and limits of anti-immigration discourse in recent political debates in Turkey. Anti-immigrant discourses have been at the heart of exclusionary populisms, where right-wing political actors present immigrants as economic, social and security threats. It is remarkable that this is not yet the case in Turkey, one of the world’s major refugee-receiving countries. Using an original dataset, composed of party programmes, parliamentary records and public statements by presidential candidates in the last two rounds of general and presidential elections between 2014 and 2018, we argue that politicians from both incumbent and opposition parties in Turkey have used the ‘refugee card’ to appeal to the growing social, economic and cultural grievances of their voters but in a rather limited and divergent manner. Debates over migration have oscillated between the Western European right-wing populist perception of ‘threat’ and the pro-Syrian and civilizationist populism of the ruling party that relies on a transnational notion of ‘ummah’.

Shanon Shah (King’s College London)
Populist Politics in the New Malaysia

This article investigates the role of religion in populist politics by focusing on the nascent democratic transition in Malaysia, where a decades-old authoritarian regime was unseated in the 2018 general election. I propose that this result can partly be explained by analysing the moral and populist battle between political rivals, given the dominance of ethno-religious identity politics amid Malaysia’s diverse population. I argue that the nationalist claims of the incumbent regime were overcome by more inclusive claims based on economic justice employed by its political opponents. To illustrate the workings of these competing moral claims, the article briefly examines the debates on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) rights during this political transition. I suggest that public attitudes towards LGBT+ rights provide one clear example of the larger moral and populist contest that forms part of the confrontation between the erstwhile ethno-religious nationalist regime and the new government. This perspective contributes vital insights on the role of religion and morality in populist politics, especially in authoritarian or newly democratising contexts which are also highly diverse. The article is primarily based on public statements made by Malaysian politicians before and during the election campaign.

Marieke Wynanda Slootman (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Open Forum
Ethnic Options: Self-Identifications of Higher-Educated Second-Generation Minorities as Situated Ways to
Negotiate Belonging

Individuals with ethnic-minority backgrounds are persistently labelled as ethnic minorities, as outsiders, and encounter negative stereotyping. Research argues that they lack power to identify as they want, and that their ‘ethnic options’ are limited. This paper explores the ethnic options of higher-educated second-generation Moroccan and Turkish Dutch, focusing on articulated self-identifications in social interactions. In resonance with other literature, qualitative interviews show that mechanisms of exclusion, such as imposing minority labels, do not leave individuals powerless. Furthermore, the assumption that individuals have ‘a’ manner of self-identification appears too simplistic. Minority individuals have various identification strategies at their disposal, ranging from rejection to transformation and adoption of the ascribed label. Which strategy they choose depends on the situation and the audience. This focus on the articulated self-identifications highlights individual agency as used to negotiate belonging in various ways, while acknowledging the coercive power of the social context, revealing the interactive and situational nature of identification and boundary making.

Keywords: Ethnicity, identity, ethnic options, belonging, minorities, second generation.

F. Zehra Colak (KU Leuven), Lore Van Praag (University of Antwerp) and Ides Nicaise (KU Leuven)
Open Forum
An Investigation of Belgian-Descent University Students’
Perceived Barriers to Establishing Contact with Muslim Students

This study investigates Belgian-descent university students’ perceptions of contact with Belgian–Muslim ethnic minorities and the ways they reflect on their own intergroup contact experiences. The results of the study demonstrate that many Belgian-descent students appear to perceive barriers when contacting Muslim students. Their accounts of contact with their Muslim peers suggest that those experiences were often constrained, even when participants framed them as enriching. Such constrained interactions with Muslim students were linked to the perceived barriers in contact. Firstly, students of Belgian descent experienced behavioural insecurities in approaching and interacting with Muslim peers. Secondly, participants seemed to perceive a lack of interest from Muslim students, which formed a barrier in approaching them. Finally, students of Belgian descent described Belgian culture as being reserved and introverted, thus hindering realization of contact with Muslims. While the university offers a context that provides all students with intergroup contact opportunities, these were rarely taken up, partly due to ethnic-majority students’ perceptions of barriers in establishing or deepening contact with Muslim students.