18. April 2017

21st Century European Right-Wing Turn: Trapped Between Fear and Populism?

“We need the anxious to move majorities”, said Frauke Petry, a leading German right-wing populist politician from AfD (Alternative für Deutschland) in 2015. Populism to a large extent exploits the fears of the people while offering simplified explanations - we against the others, good versus bad - to complex socio-economic and political situations in a globalised world. It is thus also a vehicle for group-focused enmity and hatred and a communications tool. The refugee crisis, for example, has exacerbated social and political tensions towards migration in European countries and beyond. Fear of the unknown, the stranger, fear of social and economic decline, to name but a few, has enabled populist leaders in many liberal democracies to gain ground in politics. For many citizens, the influx of refugees (on top of everything else) seems to manifest deeply rooted fears that society and life as we know it is at stake.

The conference aims to explore the role and potential of artistic and cultural approaches (i.e. including modes of thought and behavior, attitude, communication, identity etc.) to tackle and confront a rhetoric of fear and existing societal rifts. It also hopes to identify innovative ideas and practical approaches as to how the existing rifts in society, interactions of people of different backgrounds and nationalities, can be bridged, thus integration and solidarity be advanced. Finally, we are interested in lessons-learned from peace building contexts as we believe that tools and concepts developed and implemented to create more social harmony and reconciliation in cycles of violence might open useful insights for developing and/or enriching preventive tools hereabouts.

We invite contributions by scholars, practitioners and scientists from all disciplines willing to present and discuss individual papers on topics and questions including but not limited to:

  • What can we – i.e. civil society, politics, academics, media etc. – do, to advance social harmony in the given context (rise of populism/nationalism, disintegrating societies, role of relationship building)? What innovative approaches (also in a global perspective, e.g. peace building) offer best practice and lessons learned? What strategies can we engage to mitigate fear-based rhetoric? How can we foster a cultural understanding of “the other” in such a way that manages the existing fears?

Please send abstracts of max. 500 words (word or pdf-format) for presentations lasting no more than 20 minutes to the conference organizer Natalia Lombana at before May 21st 2017. Also include name, contact information and affiliation where applicable. Please provide a brief biography (max.100 words) and a list of keywords (max. 5), and use the subject heading: ‘’Fear and populism” followed by your name and surname. Also kindly register below (at  where you can also upload your documents. The date of the conference is yet to be fixed but is envisioned for late 2017. For more information on conference (eg. Keynote Speakers) and hosting organization, please stay tuned: or write us directly to