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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Research Centre for the Study of Democratic Cultures and Politics Events & Colloquium

PhD Ceremony - J.F. JANSMA (DemCP), From submission to soumission: populist perspectives on culture

When:Th 09-12-2021 12:45 - 13:45
Where:Academy building

J.F. (Judith) will defend her doctoral thesis on Thursday 9 December 2021.

From submission to soumission: populist perspectives on culture


  • Prof. Dr P. Valdivia Martin
  • Prof. Dr L.P. Rensmann
  • Dr A. Godioli

The University Library publishes the thesis digitally after the defence ceremony.

The first decades of the 21st century have witnessed a remarkable populist upsurge, which has been closely followed by political analysts, academics and the media amongst others. Focusing mostly on the political or socio-economic determinants of the populist success, the importance of cultural factors tends to be underestimated. Populism and culture are usually considered in terms of mutual exclusion; populists reject culture as a waste of time and money (so-called “left-wing hobbies”) while culture considers populism as its disturbing Other. This dissertation will problematize that view, demonstrating that the relationship between populism and culture is in fact multi-faceted. Culture shapes the populist constructs of Self and Other, which in turn are omnipresent in our cultural debates.

Part 1 of this dissertation establishes an interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological framework, with the aim to uncover the complex relationship between populism and culture. In part 2, this framework is applied to two controversial cultural works in the Netherlands and France: the film Submission (2004) by Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the novel Soumission (2015) by Michel Houellebecq. These analyses reveal that populists in both countries are prominent contributors to cultural debates, even if these concern highbrow literary works such as Houellebecq’s. Additionally, the study finds that populist rhetoric is not exclusive to populist politicians, instead there are obvious similarities between populist discourse and that of mainstream parties. This suggests that populism is deeply engrained in our cultural realities, and vice versa.