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Public lecture: Fear, loss and the potential for progressive nostalgia: challenging right-wing populism

Keynote with simultaneous translation / Conférence avec traduction simultanée
5:30 PM, Mercredi 31 Août 2022 (1 heure 30 minutes)

In this lecture, I would like to talk about deindustrialised communities, heritage and memory in the context of right-wing populism. Drawing on studies of memory and heritage, I argue that right-wing populists have cornered the market on talking about the past of deindustrialised communities. They have successfully misrepresented this rich and complex history to fuel rage, resentment, fear and reactionary nostalgia. Indeed, ‘the past’, and in particular the industrial and working-class past, has been a feature of recent right-wing populist rhetoric around the world. Recent work in heritage studies has identified ‘the past’, particularly as feelings of ‘nostalgia’, as being particularly useful in mobilising affect and emotion.

I would like to draw on this work to challenge the rather journalistic assumption that working-class communities decimated by deindustrialisation are now the natural allies of right-wing populists. There are rich veins of heritage and memory to mine in these communities that can enliven progressive repertoires of emotion. Rather than just despair and rage, there is also an emotional vocabulary of progressive nostalgia that can be mobilised to move people to act in concert for positive ends. By building on emotional commitments to histories of strong communities, collective action, and trade union activism, ‘the past’ can be drawn on to give life to a progressive nostalgia.

Australian National University
Professor and Head of the Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies

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