Normalising Xenophobia and Cosmopolitan Justice: The New Meaning of Populism in Europe

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ulrike VIETEN, Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland
Scott POYNTING, University of Auckland, New Zealand
In recent years we witness the rise of far right racist movements across Europe. In some countries (e.g. Hungary; Denmark) far right wing governments were established whereas in others (e. g. Greece; Spain) radical left wing parties gained, or still struggle to settle for government power. Whereas arson attacks on (potential) asylum buildings have spread in Germany, in August 2015 an overwhelming civil support for refugees in Germany, Austria and in most other countries, occurred. Though national governments differ strongly on the issue of migration, asylum and integration, it seems that European civil societies respond uniquely by welcoming refugees despite being domestically more fractured and fragmented along the lines of xenophobia and cosmopolitan openness.

This paper, first, will discuss the notion of 21st century populism while reflecting conceptually on previous waves of historical populism in Europe, and the meaning of cosmopolitan city space, past and present. Second, it will look at some examples of recent xenophobic attacks in urban and rural areas of different countries, and  the way local anti-racist counter movements respond to this.  We argue that we have to reflect on a paradox process of ‘normalisation’ with respect to open societies that mulitiplies divergent populist positions towards mobility and migration, e.g. creating blurred boundaries between strangers and citizens while constructing new frontiers of difference, belonging and class.