History of Populism

Historicizing Ethno-populism: In Search of a New Framework of Interpretation 

Coordinators: Balázs Trencsényi and Constantin Iordachi  


Timeframe:  January 2023-December 2026 


Department of History, CEU PU Vienna 

Democracy Institute, Budapest 

Participants: Joint student faculty research 


 Our ongoing framework project focuses on ethno-populist mobilization in a comparative historical perspective. In contrast to approaches which start from a normative definition and then seek to analyze particular manifestations, we hold it more fruitful to bring in a  dialogue a number of research traditions and regional competences, generating a more context-sensitive understanding of the phenomenon. Particularly interesting in this sense is the comparison among East Central European, Western European and non-European cases, as well as the interdisciplinary combination of intellectual history, social history, political science, and legal perspectives.

Using these approaches as vantage points for a multi-dimensional analysis, we focus on five aspects in particular: 1) perceptions and symptoms of socio-economic and cultural crisis triggering populist responses; 2) the modalities of populist mobilization – social networks, symbols, rhetoric, narratives of identity; and 3) populists in government – policies and (para)legal frameworks, similarities with past configurations of authoritarianism, 4) the structural and genealogical links to other ideological families, like fascism, conservatism, or (neo)liberalism 5) and, last but not least, the question of the modalities of containing and resisting ethno-populist movements and regimes in the past and present. 

 Pasts, Inc. Center for Historical Studies, in cooperation with a number of international partners, seeks to moderate a multi-level international cooperation on the topic, involving CEU faculty and students, as well as global expertise. We hold research seminars, roundtables, and lectures, and work towards setting up a broad transnational research network.