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Dr Alexandra Homolar, Leverhulme Research Fellowship

Populist Fantasyland: How Dystopian Security Images Mobilise Voter Support

Populism, a political style that drives a wedge between “the elite” and “the people”, stokes perceptions of disempowerment and loss in order to mobilise political support.

Populist politicians have become well-known for their ability to create chilling images of insecurity and crisis. From countries "overrun by migrants" to "economic collapse", populist narratives often tie existential anxieties to concerns about immigration, globalisation, integration and political correctness. As Dr Alexandra Homolar’s Leverhulme Research Fellowship will show, a cornerstone of populist security narratives is their conjuring of distorted images of the past, present, and future to manipulate fears and grievances.

To understand how such populist dystopian security images motivate political support, the project will develop a new account of how populist security rhetoric works at the level of everyday emotional experiences.

Building on her earlier populism research, the project will bring together insights from populism research, security studies, political psychology, and communication studies.

Populist politics emphasises the idea of "the ordinary people" and often juxtapose this group against "the elite."

Dystopian futures and mythical pasts form a key element of populist rhetoric.

From a past of national greatness to a bleak present and future

As the project demonstrates, because much of populist rhetoric is built around creating a temporal rupture between a past of national greatness and a bleak present and future, it creates an emotive tension that can mobilise electoral support in favour of what John le Carré once labelled ‘mob orators’.

Driving a discursive wedge between dystopian futures and mythical pasts is a key element of populist rhetoric that generates feelings of anxiety, loss, and humiliation. Dr Homolar's "Populist Fantasyland" research project will show exactly why these everyday insecurities are politically consequential.


Find out more about Dr Homolar's research