Tuija Saresma

Affective Populism: Gendering and Racialization through Social Media

Related to the right-wing populist upheaval across Europe and the US, a backlash against the idea of gender equality is taking place specifically on and through social media. In my talk, I will discuss emotions such as hatred and fear, and how they are harnessed for supporting reactionary ideologies and counterproductive politics. When analyzing these hate-driven, affective discussions on social media, it is not enough to focus only on gender, but other power hierarchies must be taken into account as well. I wish to demonstrate that on the transnational “hatesphere”, or the dark side of the internet, where (neo)nationalist, alt-right, white supremacist and anti-feminist undercurrents are spread and echoed, the affective and performative processes of gendering and racialization are intertwined. The right-wing populist rhetoric draws from the politics of fear, constructing a coherent “us”, and a threatening other as its opposite side. Fighting the currents of liberalism, feminism, and multiculturalism aims at restoring the imaginary glory days of traditional, patriarchal white nation. I will analyse through the affective lens how right-wing populist rhetoric works performatively in producing polarization and othering, both processes being characteristic to populist rhetoric, and both profoundly gendered and racialized.

*Tuija Saresma, Adjunct Professor of Contemporary Culture (JYU) and Cultural Studies and Gender Studies (UEF), is a senior researcher at the Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies, University of Jyväskylä. She has published widely on populism, hate speech and social media as well as performativity and intersectionality. Currently she works in multidisciplinary Academy of Finland funded projects: on mainstreaming populism; on performing belonging and displacement; and on crises redefined.