Populism as a Transgressive Style

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As a consequence of its performative turn, the critical literature on populism has dedicated increasing attention to its sociocultural and stylistic features. Among the most prominent concepts underpinning this approach is the notion that populism relies on the “flaunting of the low” or the use of “bad manners.” This article engages in an extensive discussion of the way this concept is used in the literature and showcases its main limitations. In replacement, I then suggest the alternative concept of transgression, understood as the violation of a norm, which has the substantial advantages of being more flexible and versatile as well as less reliant on a normative binary. I then develop an associated typology of transgressive performances depending on which type of norms is being disrupted: transgressions of interactional norms, transgressions of rhetoric norms, and transgressions of theatrical norms. Following this, I showcase how this typology contributes to the IR literature by emphasizing the importance of agency and embodied performances in global politics. This article concludes on the potential of considering transgression beyond populism.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberksac006
Pages (from-to)1-12
JournalGlobal Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) (2022). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association.


  • Populism
  • Transgression
  • Style
  • Transgressive


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