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Populism and Religion

Online seminar series

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Published on Thursday, August 17, 2023


Formerly under the umbrella of Lund’s research platform on Christianity and Nationalism, the seminar series on populism and religion is now organized by the Lund University-based research project Beyond Truth and Lies: Conspiracy Theories, Post-Truth, and the Conditions of Public Debate. The series focuses on the theoretical, philosophical, and theological dimensions of populism, with special attention to how conspiracy theories intersect with populism.



Certain conceptions of politics – including political community, political processes, and political decision-making – characterize typical formulations of populist thought. A fundamental conviction of this seminar series is that we must investigate these conceptions if we want to engage in dialogue that goes beyond plain-sense descriptions of, or explanations for, facts, and which deeply addresses questions about how society is – and ought to be – organized. Conspiracy theories – including corresponding elements of culture that shape and are shaped by conspiracy theories – have become increasingly more public in their significance on politics, political decisions, and political movements. We welcome to our seminars a range of intellectually interested parties to discuss these matters, including senior and junior scholars, doctoral students, and beginners.

Seminars are in English, unless otherwise specified. Seminars are open to the public; you may attend by joining on Zoom.

Seminar Series: Populism and Religion

Autumn 2023 — three seminars online

(1) Political Performance: How Donald Trump Uses Professional Wrestling Strategies to Construct Loyalty

Shannon Bow O’Brien

September 7, 16h15–18h00, Swedish time [CEST]

Zoom: https://lu-se.zoom.us/j/62645329724

Meeting ID: 626 4532 9724

Donald Trump uses professional wrestling tactics as political techniques and deploys them into a world largely unfamiliar with wrestling norms. He encourages loyalty by utilizing theatrical tactics commonplace in this medium. While many people dismiss unconventional political activity, some political actors (past and present) use them effectively. Entertainment mediums have a significant impact on average citizens to help cultivate opinions and attitudes. This talk focuses on the tools Donald Trump uses, how they were developed, and their influence. What can we learn from these tactics? How can spectacles persuade people? Are bread and circuses more salient than policy?

Shannon Bow O’Brien is an Associate Professor of Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin. She specializes in American Politics, focusing on the American Presidency and Political Development. She has published two books, Why Presidential Speech Locations Matter: Analyzing Speechmaking from Truman to Obama (2018) and Donald Trump and the Kayfabe Presidency: Professional Wrestling Rhetoric in the White House (2020). She received her doctorate in Political Science from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.

(2) Fake Empowerment: On Conspiracism and Political Judgement

Rickard Andersson

October 12 2023, 16h15–18h00, Swedish time [CEST]

Zoom: https://lu-se.zoom.us/j/62645329724

Meeting ID: 626 4532 9724

In contemporary conspiracism, people are often urged to go, by themselves, beyond what things seem to be and reveal the real truth hidden beneath surface phenomena. This is epitomized in the phrase “Do your own research!”, common in conspiracist discourse. With such encouragements, conspiracism offers empowerment through factual knowledge and the ability to make independent and informed political judgements. On the other hand, its questioning and suspicion is so profound that it covers not only what is real but also the meaningfulness of realness. Drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, I highlight the important connection between a shared sense of reality and political judgement and argue that conspiracism rather impairs political judgement and offers only fake empowerment. 

Rickard Andersson is a research fellow in political science at the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, Lund University. His research is mostly on political theory and the history of Western political thought, and he is currently involved in a project concerning conspiracy theories and post-truth politics. 

(3) Populisms and Prejudice

Isabelle Aubert

November 27, 16h15–18h00, Swedish time [CET]

Zoom: https://lu-se.zoom.us/j/62645329724

Meeting ID: 626 4532 9724

Whether on the right or on the left, populism is a shifting political form that can combine reactionary and progressive tendencies, while at the same time justifying its contradictions and inconsistencies in the name of the "people" it claims to represent. The development of populism in contemporary democracies, especially thanks to powerful communication media, is a testimony both to the vitality of civil society, which is necessary for democracy, and to the embrace of the masses, which is highly anti-democratic. This ambivalent position makes it difficult to define populism precisely and to determine whether it is good or bad for democracy. However, it can be deciphered when the authoritarian tendency takes over. Drawing on the analyses of prejudice carried out by various members of the Frankfurt School in the United States in the 1940s, this paper will look at populist rhetoric to show how the evolution of different populisms (progressive or reactionary) renders obsolete the ideal of a left-wing populism that would differ in its aspirations from conservative populism by being the expression of a genuine radical democracy.

Isabelle Aubert is Associate Professor in philosophy at Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University (France) and a member of the Institut Universitaire de France. She is the author of Habermas. Une théorie critique de la société (2015). She has co-edited Dialogues avec Habermas (2018), La pensée et les normes (2020), Luhmann. Une théorie générale de la société (2023), Adorno. Dialectique et négativité (2023), and The Archives of Critical Theory (2023). She conducts research on Critical Theory, contemporary political philosophy, and rights. She tranlated Gunther Teubner’s book Verfassungsfragmente. Konstitutionalismus in der Globalisierung (2012) into French.

Event attendance modalities

Full online event


  • Thursday, September 07, 2023
  • Thursday, October 12, 2023
  • Monday, November 27, 2023


  • populism, politique, complotisme, théories de conspiration, religion,


  • Patrik FRIDLUND
    courriel : patrik [dot] fridlund [at] ctr [dot] lu [dot] ce
  • Aaron James GOLDMAN
    courriel : aaron [dot] goldman [at] ctr [dot] lu [dot] se
  • Rickard ANDERSSON
    courriel : rickard [dot] andersson [at] ctr [dot] lu [dot] se

Information source

  • Patrik FRIDLUND
    courriel : patrik [dot] fridlund [at] ctr [dot] lu [dot] ce


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Populism and Religion », Seminar, Calenda, Published on Thursday, August 17, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1bon

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