Nation State, The Rise of Popul(ar)ism, and Curricula of Global Citizenship

Dalene Swanson, Emma Guion Akdağ, Mostafa Gamal

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The ascendancy of nationalist popul(ar)ism as evidenced by Brexit, the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump and the rise of far right charismatic leaders across Europe have heralded a profound alteration in the ways in which the relationship between the “ people” and the “nation” can be understood. Accordingly, the “people” is deployed in populist discourses as a “rhetorical strategy of social reference” to a “pure”, virtuous and marginalized part of the “patriotic body politic”(Bhabha, 1994, p.145) struggling “ to be represented in [this] unruly ‘time’”(Bhabha, 1994, p. 147). This notion of the people harbours with it a conception of the “elites” who are “corrupt or… morally inferior” (Muller, 2014, p.485). Concomitantly, this discourse mobilises a conception of the nation as failing, harkening back to a romantic and nostalgic past. Accordingly, the nation is framed as an entity besieged by refugees, asylum seekers and “illegal immigrants”. This has led to a number of exclusionary policies, pronouncements and proposals aimed at protecting and ‘taking back control’ of the nation (Fassin, 2011; Bhatia, 2015; Vaughan-Williams, 2008).

In its anti-pluralist stance and its call to reassert the primacy of the national country in its citizens, popul(ar)ism shifts the register of citizenship by calling for its disentanglement from relationalities occasioned by “geographical wondering” (Drabinski, 2011). Similarly, the attempt to displace “the irredeemably plural …space” of the nation, and to redefine the social imaginary: nation, culture and community, (Bhabha,1994, p. 153) as “homogeneous” entities is perhaps best illustrated with reference to education policy which promotes a heightened sense of nationalism by emphasising an attachment to a common set of traditions, histories and values. How discourses on (inter)nationalization and global citizenship, as now dominant discourses within educational institutions and the social domain, respond to this new confused common sense (Swanson, 2015) is critical for socially-just educational futures. This symposium draws together and frames interrelated discussions around these themes, while engaging in productive interplay on the interrelationships between populism and popularism, in embracing the neologism of popu(lar)ism. It offers some insights into the role of global citizenship discourses and education in
influencing the social and political (im)possibilities in times of trans-national nationalist popul(ar)ism.

The three papers in this symposium are mainly conceptual in nature, drawing on political philosophy and post/decolonial thought. They speak to a range of concerns: global citizenship, ethics, nationalism and (inter)nationalization and global social justice. By attending to Scottish education policies, the papers adopt critical discourse analysis (Ball, 1993; Fairclough, 1995) as method to exemplify particular arguments and explore the following concerns:

1.   Scotland’s nationalist popularism as a contradictory and ideologically hybrid project as witnessed in global citizenship’ discourses touted through Curriculum for Excellence and Scotland’s international development strategy.
2.   How the Scottish English Higher curriculum articulates a “cultural construction of nationness as a form of social and textual affiliation” (Bhabha, 2004) which aligns with Scottish nationalism.
3.   The extent to which the dominant discourses in policy documents concerning (inter)nationalization in HE in Scotland identify with populist ideologies and reveal power/knowledge interstices.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018
EventAmerican Educational Research Association: The dreams, possibilities, and necessity of Public Education - New York City, New York, United States
Duration: 13 Apr 201817 Apr 2018


ConferenceAmerican Educational Research Association
Abbreviated titleAERA 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew York
Internet address


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