Bice Maiguascha, University of Exeter

13th November 2018

My paper explores the meteoric rise of the concept of populism and its now widespread circulation in academic, media and political circles and suggests that it should give feminists cause for alarm for at least three reasons. The first concerns the conceptual commitments of prevailing narratives of populism and the implications that they have for long standing feminist theories of resistance and emancipation.

The second has to do with the political use being made of this term and the fact that it now has become commonplace to characterize any politics – from Podemos and Syriza to UKIP and Corbynism – that seeks to challenge the established liberal democratic consensus as potentially populist and, therefore, dangerous. Last but not least, along with the elevation of populism as the main political scourge of the 21st century, have come renewed, fervent calls to, once and for all, set aside the two century old, apparently anachronistic, ‘left-right’ distinction. Populism, it seems, now trumps what Steven Lukes has called “the grand dichotomy of the 20th century”.

My argument is that feminists should resist these pervasive politicized efforts to discipline and recapture the contemporary political terrain and, at a minimum, not collude with the dismantling of the conceptual and normative edifice upon which feminism has grown and flourished. I will defend this claim in 3 sections of the paper, highlighting why I think feminists have an interest in acknowledging and tackling each of these challenges.

Bice Maiguascha is a lecturer at the University of Exeter. Her academic research centres on the theory and practice of social movement activism or what I call the ‘politics of resistance’. Empirically, she has done substantive research into the origins, political practices and ideological/normative agendas of two contemporary international social movements that is, the international indigenous people’s movement and the women’s reproductive rights movement. At the theoretical level, she is interested in exploring the intersections between critical theory, so called postmodernist approaches and feminist theory for insights into the theory and practice of oppression and resistance. Her current research focuses on women’s activism within the so called ‘anti-globalisation movement’ or alternatively called ‘global justice movement’.

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