An anxious preoccupation with rising “populism” on an effectively global scale commands that critical scholarship reflect on the status of populism as an analytical category. The vexed ambivalence around the relation between democracy and “the people” presents a fundamental starting point for any attempt to apprehend populism as the site of an intellectual and political problem. The constitutive fashioning of the People as the legitimating source of modern, bourgeois-democratic state sovereignty intrinsically involves a process of bordering, whereby state power is consistently posited as the territorially delimited and bounded manifestation of a particular People, a “nation” to which it is presumed to correspond as if by some natural, natal (birthright) filiation. Populism is thus always implicated in a project of reinstating or reinforcing the frontiers of the Nation by rebordering the People. Consequently, the human freedom of movement and the autonomy of migration, operating always on a transnational, global scale, provide vital and necessary critical resources for problematizing the state spaces of nationhood from which populism is inextricable.
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1 April 2018
Nicholas De Genova; Rebordering “the People”: Notes on Theorizing Populism. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 April 2018; 117 (2): 357–374. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-4374878
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