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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for Arts in Society

Pop and Populism - NICOLE CURATO (University of Canberra): "The Spectacle of the Strongman"

When:Th 21-10-2021 16:00 - 18:00
Pop and Populism poster. On the left is the programme. On the right is a drawing by Eva Vázquez. A black and white image of an ancient roman column lies in shards. Seven people are around it with tools, attempting to clean it up and/or repair it. The bottom of the poster contains information on the organizers.

POPulism: Popular Culture and Populism is an interdisciplinary online lecture series that brings together leading international scholars and practitioners from different disciplinary backgrounds to give insights into the various forms of interactions between populism, the radical right, and popular culture.

Populism builds on a worldview based on the antagonistic opposition of ‘the good people' and the ‘corrupt elite’, and is often connected to ideologies such as nativism, misogyny, authoritarianism, and racism. In their attempt to redefine cultural hegemony, populists make use of cultural strategies; leaders, parties and movements often explicitly draw on popular cultural means to disseminate their ideologies, for instance, by using social media, internet memes, and computer games.

From popular music, performance, and celebrity politics, to normalization, online recruitment, and mobilization, the speakers of POPulism explore the relationship between culture and populism, unpacking how it can both promote and challenge populist and radical right discourses.


Populist leaders thrive on spectacles. They are known for visually striking performances that simplify politics as a battle between virtuous citizens and dangerous others.

This presentation examines the role of spectacles in sustaining the legitimacy of Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous regime in the Philippines. It characterizes the cultural production, technological mediation, and popular reception of the strongman’s populist performances and argues that while spectacles have a legitimizing power, they are also a battle ground to contest populist lies and legacies.

The presentation concludes by reflecting on the normatively ambivalent character of spectacles and how these performances can be used to promote democracy and public deliberation.

About the speaker

Nicole Curato is a Professor of Political Sociology at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra.

She is the author of the prize-winning book Democracy in a Time of Misery: From Spectacular Tragedy to Deliberative Action (2019, Oxford University Press) and the editor of The Duterte Reader (2017, Ateneo de Manila University Press/Cornell University Press).


Registration is required. After registration, you will receive the Zoom link via email.

Register: send an email to popandpopulism