ACLA 2021: Popular Arts in a Populist Age (Virtual Seminar)

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Scott Harris
contact email:

What do the popular arts have to teach us about political populism? This seminar seeks comparative, interdisciplinary, and/or transhistorical papers that theorize the relationship between cultural production and demography in the context of national and regional populisms. It takes as its point of departure the work of Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy, among others, which argues for the political and aesthetic value of popular cultural forms. Still, this seminar asks whether we need to update our understanding of such value given: 1) fluctuating definitions of popularity and populism; 2) the apparent breakdown of democratic protocols in contemporary life; and 3) the threat of ethno-nationalisms intent on altering the racial, ethnic, and cultural make-up of the body politic. 

We seek papers that either clarify or complicate the relationship between the popular arts and populism, and, further, the discrete claims they make upon “the people.” What theories of the popular might account for the discordant voices claiming to speak for “the people”? How far is popularity an appropriate discourse through which to approach populism as a mode of political assemblage? 

Topics may include:

  • Sociology and/of literature
  • Literature and social media
  • Film, music, and television
  • Indigenous/folk arts
  • Street performance and digital art
  • Activism as/and popular art
  • Mass and minority cultures
  • Celebrity culture and fandom
  • Globalization and culture

Abstracts will be accepted via the ACLA submission portal until October 31. Please direct any questions to