Special Issue "Populist Performances and Religion in Global Perspective"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2021) | Viewed by 11244

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization, Deakin University, Melbourne, VIC 3125, Australia
Interests: religion; populism; authoritarianism; secularism; securitization; Islam
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The phenomenon of populism has become part of mainstream politics in the 21st century. We read, hear and watch populism being performed daily. Its contested meanings and various shapes inform many aspects of political and social life across the world. In some cases, it emerges in the form of an individual leader; in others, in the form of a social movement or a political party. Moreover, populism has found itself fertile ground in a “post-truth era” where connectivity is rampant, but verifiable information is often lost amid “fake news.”

Populism is a widespread and significant phenomenon. Therefore, it is important that we understand not merely its defining features and causes, but also its relationship with other social phenomena. While populism’s relationships with globalisation, nationalism, and race are regularly discussed in the scholarly literature, the relationship between populism and religion remains relatively understudied. This is unfortunate, because it is now accepted that religion, like nationalism, can be a significant component of populist narratives, performances, styles, and political mobilization strategies (DeHanas and Shterin 2018; Arato and Cohen 2018; Zuquete 2017). Religion is now playing an important role in new populisms. Political leaders, parties, and movements have across the world incorporated religious rhetoric and appeals to a religion based identity in their populist performances. At the same time, some religious movements and actors have also made use of populism styles, discourses, and strategies.

On the one hand, populism is an opportunistic identity politics that “hijacks” religion to divide the society into us and them (Marzouki and McDonnell 2016). Populists also use religion as a mobilization strategy, in particular, as a host identity. Populists refer to religious symbols and culture in order to construct an exclusionary identity. Religion is also effectively used to make convincing moral claims to incite anger and disillusionment in the face of what is perceived to be an unfair treatment by individuals. On the other hand, there is a political aspect of religion which “creates a sense of belonging and identity”, emanating from religion’s persistence in the contemporary society despite decades of modernization (Morieson 2017). More recent work demonstrates that, “far from being passive actors, organised mainstream religion (be it through denominational leaders, factional figureheads, or publicly aligned politicians) is actively competing for political status and power” (Roose 2020).

This phonemena manifests not only in the West, where the relationship between religion and populism has been most studied, but also across Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. Further examination of the relationship between populism and religion is important, then, and may help us understand whether populism is a temporary phenomenon brought on by problems in contermporary social and political systems, or a permanent aspect of the 21st-century politics around the world.

Therefore, this Special Issue invites contributors to consider questions/topics which are not limited to, but inclusive of, the following:

  • Populist narrative construction and religion;
  • Populist interaction with religions, especially in non-Western cases;
  • Mutual links between populist and religious sentiments and performances;
  • Emotive political mobilization and religion;
  • Performative populism (gestures, emotional tone, imagery and symbolism) and religion;
  • Perspectives of the targets of religious populism: religious minorities;
  • The relationship between fundamentalist religion and populism in history;
  • Challenges that populism poses to established religions and their institutions;
  • Populist religious movements and their influence on social life;
  • Religious nationalism and populism case studies.

Prof. Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • populism 
  • religion 
  • narratives 
  • performances 
  • political mobilisation 
  • emotions 
  • minorities 
  • Belief v. Belonging

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Article
Ethnoreligious Conflict and Populism: Emotive Political Response in the Rohingya Conflict
Religions 2021, 12(10), 816; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100816 - 28 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 583
Abstract
The rise of populism in the twenty-first century has been marked by the use of religion and national identity as emotive mobilizing forces to increase in-group solidarity and demarcate the notional boundaries of communities. The process often leads to the exclusion of vulnerable [...] Read more.
The rise of populism in the twenty-first century has been marked by the use of religion and national identity as emotive mobilizing forces to increase in-group solidarity and demarcate the notional boundaries of communities. The process often leads to the exclusion of vulnerable ethnoreligious minorities and to increased violence against them. This article analyses the role of fear as a principal emotion in the context of ethnoreligious conflict with reference to the Rohingya conflict in Myanmar. The article is divided in three parts. Part one explores notions of collective fear with reference to religious and ethnic conflict. Part two illustrates how collective existential fear has fuelled populist religious infused responses to the Rohignya conflict leading to the latest mass exodus of 2017. The final part considers whether fear can be an instrument of construction rather than destruction, to help build bridges than destroy, to connect people than isolate them. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Populist Performances and Religion in Global Perspective)
Article
Hinduism, Hindutva and Hindu Populism in India: An Analysis of Party Manifestos of Indian Rightwing Parties
Religions 2021, 12(10), 803; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100803 - 26 Sep 2021
Viewed by 1058
Abstract
Since the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a lot has been written on Hindu nationalism. Prime Minister Modi’s ascendency has similarly resulted in a plethora of books and articles on Hindu populism. However, most of the literature does not distinguish between [...] Read more.
Since the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a lot has been written on Hindu nationalism. Prime Minister Modi’s ascendency has similarly resulted in a plethora of books and articles on Hindu populism. However, most of the literature does not distinguish between the two. Hindu nationalism and Hindu populism overlap, particularly in Modi’s India and Modi’s BJP, but they are not the same. In this article, after a discussion on Hinduism’s affinity to populism, an attempt has been made to distinguish between Hindu nationalism and Hindu populism based on an analysis of Hindutva parties’ election manifestos. Since independence, three Hindutva parties have made a name for themselves at the national level: Hindu Mahasabha, Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) and BJP. Based on their importance and success at the national level, one manifesto of Hindu Mahasabha, two manifestos of BJS and four manifestos of the BJP were analyzed based on criteria chosen after literature review. The results show that while Hindu nationalism was strong and visible in early Hindutva parties (Hindu Mahasabha and BJS), Hindu populism was weak and sporadic. Interestingly, for the BJP, there is rise and then drop in Hindu nationalism while Hindu populism has consistently increased. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Populist Performances and Religion in Global Perspective)
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Article
Religious and Pro-Violence Populism in Indonesia: The Rise and Fall of a Far-Right Islamist Civilisationist Movement
Religions 2021, 12(6), 397; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060397 - 29 May 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2094
Abstract
The first quarter of the twenty-first century has witnessed the rise of populism around the world. While it is widespread it manifests in its own unique ways in each society, nation, and region. Religious populism, once rarely discussed, has come to take a [...] Read more.
The first quarter of the twenty-first century has witnessed the rise of populism around the world. While it is widespread it manifests in its own unique ways in each society, nation, and region. Religious populism, once rarely discussed, has come to take a more prominent role in the politics of a diverse range of societies and countries, as religious discourse is increasingly used by mainstream and peripheral populist actors alike. This paper examines the rise of religious populism in Indonesia through a study of the widely talked about, but little understood, Islamic Defenders Front (FPI—Front Pembela Islam). The case study method used to examine the FPI provides a unique insight into a liminal organization which, through populist and pro-violence Islamist discourse and political lobbying, has had an outsized impact on Indonesian politics. In this paper, we identify the FPI as an Islamist civilizationist populist group and show how the group frames Indonesian domestic political events within a larger cosmic battle between faithful and righteous Muslims and the forces that stand against Islam, whether they be “unfaithful Muslims” or non-Muslims. We also show how the case of the FPI demonstrates the manner in which smaller, liminal, political actors can instrumentalise religion and leverage religious rhetoric to reshape political discourse, and in doing so, drive demand for religious populism. The paper makes two arguments: First, the FPI is an example of a civilizationist populist movement which instrumentalises religion in order to create demand for its populist solutions. Second, that as Islamic groups and organisations in Indonesia increasingly rely on religio-civilizational concepts of national identity, they become more transnational in outlook, rhetoric, and organisation and more closely aligned with religious developments in the Middle East. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Populist Performances and Religion in Global Perspective)
Article
Challenging Islamist Populism in Indonesia through Catholic Youth Activism
Religions 2021, 12(6), 395; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060395 - 28 May 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 952
Abstract
This paper reports data from a study of young Catholic activists. They were concerned about the expansion of Islamist populism in democratic Muslim-majority Indonesia. They actively built inter-faith coalitions with local liberal Muslim youth groups and with pan-national Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest [...] Read more.
This paper reports data from a study of young Catholic activists. They were concerned about the expansion of Islamist populism in democratic Muslim-majority Indonesia. They actively built inter-faith coalitions with local liberal Muslim youth groups and with pan-national Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest independent Islamic organisation in the world. Islamist populism prioritises religious identity over the national identity of citizenship. In framing their citizenship activism against the current tide of Islamist populism, the informants in our study selectively engaged aspects of Catholic theology. They articulated their religious identity as coterminous with a nationalist identity centred on multi-faith tolerance and harmony. That discourse in itself refutes a key principle of Islamist populism in Indonesia, which argues for primordial entitlement. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Populist Performances and Religion in Global Perspective)
Article
Exploring Religions in Relation to Populism: A Tour around the World
Religions 2021, 12(5), 301; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12050301 - 25 Apr 2021
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1734
Abstract
This paper explores the emerging scholarship investigating the relationship between religion(s) and populism. It systematically reviews the various aspects of the phenomenon going beyond the Western world and discusses how religion and populism interact in various contexts around the globe. It looks at [...] Read more.
This paper explores the emerging scholarship investigating the relationship between religion(s) and populism. It systematically reviews the various aspects of the phenomenon going beyond the Western world and discusses how religion and populism interact in various contexts around the globe. It looks at Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity and how in different regions and cultural contexts, they merge with populism and surface as the bases of populist appeals in the 21st century. In doing so, this paper contends that there is a scarcity of literature on this topic particularly in the non-Western and Judeo-Christian context. The paper concludes with recommendations on various gaps in the field of study of religious populism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Populist Performances and Religion in Global Perspective)
Article
A Systematic Literature Review of Populism, Religion and Emotions
Religions 2021, 12(4), 272; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12040272 - 14 Apr 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2355
Abstract
This paper examines the existing literature on the relationship between religion and populism, and is intended as a starting point for further examination of the relationships between populism, religion, and emotions. This paper systematically reviews the various aspects of the populist phenomenon. After [...] Read more.
This paper examines the existing literature on the relationship between religion and populism, and is intended as a starting point for further examination of the relationships between populism, religion, and emotions. This paper systematically reviews the various aspects of the populist phenomenon. After a discussion on different definitions of populism, this paper looks at how the literature discusses the causes of populism, mainly socio-economic factors and emotive factors. Then it discusses how religion and populism interact and can be divided in two broad categories of religious populism and identitarian populism. While, on the surface, the two share similarities, this paper reviews populist manifestations across the world to draw the distinct features between the two forms. Lastly, while pointing out the salient features of religious populism and identitarian populism, this study points out gaps in the research on the relationship between religious populism and other phenomena such as transnational populism, the psychology of populism, the role of emotions in creating support for populism, and populism in Western and non-Western contexts for future areas of research in the field. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Populist Performances and Religion in Global Perspective)
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