• Valerio Coladonato (Sapienza University of Rome)
  • Dom Holdaway (University of Urbino Carlo Bo)
  • Elena Pilipets (University of Siegen)
  • Lidia Valera-Ordaz (University of Valencia)

In the last couple of decades, the European political landscape has been shaped by the reinvigorated centrality of populisms. New parties and platforms have challenged the legitimacy of institutions, intermediaries, and representational systems – while traditional political actors have been forced to adopt similar strategies in order to compete in this populist conjuncture. With their ideological fluidity, these political actors manage to hegemonize the understanding of diverse and complex “crises” through a pattern of recurring images and tropes that commonly emphasize ethno-nationalist and exclusionary societal views. Narrative work is essential to this process, offering cues that dictate, for example, the political leader, “unmediated” and charismatic; the people as a single body that is the custodian of sovereignty; or the enemy, a corrupt elite or a migrant “invader”.

While a great deal of scholarly attention has been devoted to news content, the role of audiovisual fiction in this mobilization remains understudied. This is particularly true for television series, one of the largest and most relevant entertainment industries in the present. Here, explicit populist imaginaries are by no means lacking. Just a handful of emblematic examples could include the politicians in the backgrounds of Years and Years (2019), Baron Noir (2016-20) and Borgen (2010-13, 2022), but also the broader sketches of populist sentiments (such as anti-elitism) in Money Heist (2017-21), and even direct transfers between TV fictional and real-world politics, as in the case of Servant of the People (2015-19).

In this issue we aim to investigate broader connections between populist “structures of feelings” and TV series within contemporary media environments. In recent decades, social and political scientists have expanded their grasp of the cultural dimensions of populisms, while TV and media scholars have analyzed how series act as ecosystems, creating affective communities, (re)articulating audiences, and facilitating political conversations in “third” spaces, especially online. Indeed, both populist discourses and popular TV fiction are inseparable from social media networks: always-connected users share and spread content across platforms, through reactions, comments, and re-appropriations that accumulate into an uninterrupted flow of engagement, erasing the boundaries between fact and fiction, source and adaptation.

In this scenario, interactions between TV series and populisms have a complex relationship with borders. The circulation of content across Europe is restricted by linguistic barriers, consumption habits, and distribution networks, which typically overlap with the nation-state – though, recently, European high-end premium fiction has gone against this tendency. Similarly, populist rhetorics revive affective and ideological ties to nationalisms, yet the populist movements across the continent have necessarily transnational frames of reference (for example, in anti-EU or anti-migrant rhetoric), as well as forms of co-operations and influences across borders.

Drawing on the premises proposed around the research project “Screening European Populisms”, we aim to foster dialogue by posing the questions that this context triggers: which role do TV series play in the construction, affirmation or defiance of populist politics and “structures of feelings”? How does the space and time enabled by complex narrative ecosystems, and their reception contexts, forge contested environments where political sentiments are made and unmade? Do the almost stereotypical divides between high/low brow and national/global TV products overlap with any specific populist-political rhetorics? And how do populist actors make use of fictional TV narratives to mobilize their own agendas?

For this special issue of Series: International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, we welcome articles exploring how fictional TV series interact with populist politics through platforms and networks – with the latter terms intended in the most fluid way, encapsulating the social, industrial, commercial dimensions of each. We encourage contributions that adopt a variety of methodological approaches and theoretical perspectives.

Possible areas of interest could include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • analyses of TV series narratives, genres, characters, settings, patterns of mise-en-scène in relation to populist “structures of feelings”
  • scholarship on populisms in political sciences and the role of narrative
  • reception studies (ethnographic and/or digital methods)
  • re-appropriations, re-mediations, uses of TV series by both political platforms and “institutional” actors
  • TV series and the circulation of “political” affect (and responses to it) on social media
  • transnational/cultural circulation/reception, competing frameworks and versions of national identities and Europeanness
  • “populist TV” and its dis/connections with other forms of political communication
  • transfers between fictional and real-world politics; TV stardom and political celebrity
  • industrial contexts, between public and private broadcasters
  • interactions between European and global organizations and the cultural specificities of content

Deadline for submissions: Full papers must be submitted by September 10, 2023, after which they will undergo the peer-review process.

In their submissions, authors must indicate that it is an article for this special issue. Inquiries about the special issue should be addressed to screeningeuropeanpopulisms@gmail.com.

Proposed articles must comply with the journal’s submission and style rules: https://series.unibo.it/about/submissions.

If you have any questions, please contact the journal at seriestv@upv.es.