Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies

Echoes of Fascism in Contemporary Culture, Politics and Society



University of Sussex

“Every age has its own fascism”

- Primo Levi

About the Conference

Within the past year, we have witnessed a number of alarming social and political developments in the UK and globally. The success of the Brexit campaign in the UK, the election of Donald Trump in the USA and his recent imposition of a travel ban, have all been dependent on racially charged ideologies, and accompanied by a notable rise in racist, misogynist, and homophobic attacks in the UK and in other Western countries, as the Far Right mobilises and becomes more legitimated.

In broad terms, this conference poses questions around our ethical responsibilities (as academics, community organisations, and human beings) vis-à-vis these developments: as the neoliberal consensus frays, how do we respond to resurgent nationalism? How can, or should, we respond to the backlash against pluralism, the rise of the alt-right, and the waves of ‘populist’ movements that are sweeping across the West?

More specifically, the conference will provide an opportunity to consider the historical backdrop of contemporary conservative movements. Parallels have frequently been drawn in the media between, for example, 1930s German fascism and the contemporary political and social landscape. We thus seek to question: to what extent are we currently seeing ‘echoes’ of past fascist movements? If every age has its own fascism, as Levi has argued, can we learn from the history of fascist movements in a way that will help us to understand our contemporary situation? Finally, how can we put these lessons into practice as we mobilise against racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia?

The conference is particularly interested in: past fascist movements and their bearing on the present; the rise of the alt-right and new right-wing populism; the right-wing critique of neoliberal globalisation; the current state of, and threats to, human rights, reproductive rights, rights of freedom of movement, LGBTQ rights, and social democracies; feminist activism (past and present); and racialised public discourse. We will also consider these issues through the prism of film, visual culture, literature, memory studies, and creative practice.

Keynote Speakers

Dr Gholam Khiabany (academic and political journalist, author of Blogistan; Goldsmiths, University of London)

Dr Angela Nagle (author of Ireland Under Austerity and Kill All Normies)

Professor Arlene Stein (activist and author of Reluctant Witnesses, The Stranger Next Door, Sex and Sensibility; Rutgers University)

Dr Sarah Tobias (activist and author of Trans Studies; Rutgers University)

Conference Team

Dr Matilda Mroz (Conference Director), Professor Sally R Munt (Director of the Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies), Dr Malcolm James, Sophie Joscelyne, Rachael Owens, Marta Paluch, Corinna Schaefer, Dr Robert Topinka and Dr Victoria Walden.  

Our email is

Practical Information

All sessions will be in the Silverstone Building, University of Sussex, on the ground/first and third floors. The conference is wheelchair accessible. There is a lift to all floors.

Mixed gender toilets are available on the ground/first floor.

Refreshments and lunch will be available on the Social Space on the third floor of the Silverstone Building 

Please see for information on how to get to Sussex University 

Campus map:

If you have any questions, please ask a member of the conference team, and please do give us feedback - tell us what you liked about the conference, and what we could improve.






Registration opens & coffee available

Silverstone Building [SB] Social Space, 3rd floor


Welcome: Matilda Mroz (Conference Director) & Sally Munt (Director: Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies)

SB 121, ground/1st floor


Keynote Presentation

Chair: Robert Topinka


Angela Nagle, ‘Gaming the human system - from dating to demographics’

SB 121


Coffee Break

Social Space


Parallel Sessions


Fascisms in Culture

Chair: Sophie Joscelyne


Hannah Lammin, ‘Becoming-Rhinoceros: Affective Politics, Heterogeneity and the Digital Sphere’

Benjamin Bland, ‘Music for Europe: Ethnic Eurocentrism and the Presence of Neo-Fascists Ideas in Underground Music Subcultures’

Savannah Sevenzo, ‘If knowing is imperative: understanding testimony in Holocaust poetry'


Global Fascisms

Chair: Malcolm James


Jason Lee, ‘Neo-Nazism, transnationalism and environmentalism – postcolonial and postmodern paradoxes’

Corinna Schaefer, ‘“Spoiling the Prisoners by Good Food and Idleness”: German Settler Discourse in Colonial Namibia During the Genocide’

Georgios Karakasis, ‘The impact of the internationalization of the war crisis in Syria on the nationalist movement's attitude vis a vis Assad’s regime’



SB 317, third floor

SB 121


Short break for panel change





Western Fascisms: Neoliberalism, Populism and the Alt-Right

Chair: Corinna Schaefer


Malcolm James, ‘Authoritarian Populism / Popular Authoritarianism’

Robert Topinka, ‘Back to a Past that Was Futuristic: The Alt-Right and the Uncanny Form of Racism’

Aristotelis Nikolaidis, ‘Neoliberal Crisis, Media Culture and Contemporary Fascism: Insights from a Greek Case Study’


SB 121



Social Space


Keynote Presentation

Chair: Sally Munt


Gholam Khiabany, ‘Nativism, Racism, and Class’



Short break for panel change



Parallel Sessions


Screening Fascism

Chair: Victoria Walden


Anne Graefer, ‘No Place Like Home: Banal Nationalism and Femininity in German Reality Television’

Wendy Timmons, ‘Only a Little Uncanny: On the Legitimation of Fascism through Weimar Aesthetics in Arnold Franck’s Films’

Milena Popova, ‘Inhuman and Inescapable: The Normalisation of Electronic Mass Surveillance in Popular Culture’


Resistance, Protest and Gender

Chair: Rachael Owens


Sophie Joscelyne, ‘Inverted Totalitarianism and Protest Movements in 1960s American Society’

Kath Browne, Catherine Nash and Andrew Gorman-Murray, ‘Resisting Sexual and Gender Rights: New Strategies, Different Challenges’

Charlotte Mears, ‘Women and the Far Right’


SB 317

SB 121



Coffee break

Social Space


Keynote Presentation

Chair: Victoria Walden


Arlene Stein and Sarah Tobias, ‘The Holocaust Without Jews, US Without Muslims, and the Men in the White House’



Short break for panel change




Chair: Malcolm James


Kate O’Riordan, Rachel O’Connell, Samuel Solomon, ‘Between Freedom to Speak and Freedom of Speech: negotiating research and teaching in contradictory times’

SB 121


Closing discussion

Chair: Matilda Mroz

SB 121


Conference close



Wine reception

Social Space



Lucky Star Restaurant, 101 Trafalgar St, Brighton BN1 4ER


(in chronological order of presentation)


Keynote Presentations

Dr Angela Nagle, ‘Gaming the human system - from dating to demographics’

The ideas contained in Neill Strauss’s The Game spawned a genre in online pick-up forums for men. Though the book itself is mild and inoffensive to return to now, many of the online forums that adapted the genre took on a darker character. This paper will trace a broad frame that gained influence in early pick up artist online spaces and developed to influence a much broader far-right online culture. This was an approach that mixed Social Darwinism and “hacking” – the latter originating in computer culture but taking on a broader application as any method of understanding systems in order to manipulate them for one’s own needs. The frame gained influence in “the manosphere” as a way of decoding female sexual and psychological preferences and motivations (using concepts such as hypergamy) in order to “game” them and led into applying the same modes of thought to macro societal and civilizational questions, eventually infusing the declension narratives of racial impurity and non-traditional gender roles. Both the anti-feminist online spaces and the race politics spaces of the alt-right share metaphors such as “taking the Red Pill” but this talk also looks at the cross pollination of this gaming metaphor, as applied to sexuality, race, IQ, demographics, as an amoral system and a contemporary analogue to the earlier eugenics movement, in which humans and human societies are rendered as nothing more than systems to be gamed.


Dr Angela Nagle is an essayist and lecturer based in Dublin, Ireland. She is the author of Kill All Normies: from 4chan and tumblr to Trump and the alt-right. Her work on online political subcultures and movements comes from her PhD, a study of online anti-feminist movements, which later influenced her essays in The Baffler, Current Affairs, Jacobin and Dublin Review of Books. Nagle is also the co-editor of Ireland Under Austerity and she has articles in production on the alt-right with Feminist Media Studies and boundary 2.


Dr Gholam Khiabany, ‘Nativism, Racism, and Class’ 

If popular uprisings, social movements and growing resistance to dictatorships and decades of neoliberal globalization marked the start of the current decade, then the electoral breakthrough of far-right parties across Europe, Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump in 2016 have dominated the headlines in the last 12 months. The comparison between the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Depression of 1929-1939 has now been extended to include a contrast between contemporary forms of authoritarian politics and emerging fascist movements in the 1920s and 1930s. In this process the future of welfare state and immigration have become two key areas of policy debate in western democracies and their combination has produced a toxic atmosphere. As many have argued the production of states of emergency is essential in managing and regulating immigration. Since 9/11 the issue of immigration has been tied to national security to justify racial profiling and discrimination. From 2008 we have witnessed the emergence of a renewed state of emergency not through the threat of terror (although that is still present) but through the threat of scarcity. It is in this period in particular that the future of welfare state is linked explicitly to the issue of immigration.  This paper argues that equating minorities with economic and political insecurity is not without precedent and indeed it is important to remember the ways in which anti-Semitism presented itself as a (bogus) anti-capitalism by the explicit reference to ‘Jewish money’. Examining some of the examples in which the economic crisis are blamed on migrations and ‘greedy’ ethnic communities, the paper suggests that the official narratives of austerity attempts to a) divide the majority that are devastated by the crisis; b) displacing the markers of ‘insecurity’ from the 99% as a whole on to ‘foreigners’.


Gholam Khiabany is reader in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has just completed co-editing two books: “After Charlie Hebdo? Terror, Racism, Free Speech” (Zed Press) and “Liberalism in Neo-Liberal Times: Dimensions, Contradictions, Limits” (Goldsmiths/MIT Press). He is a member of council of management of the Institute of Race Relations and an editor of the Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication.


Professor Arlene Stein and Dr Sarah Tobias, ‘The Holocaust Without Jews, US Without Muslims, and the Men in the White House’

This year, shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump issued a statement marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day decrying the “horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.” The statement read: “We know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest. As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.” Trump then emphasized his own role. “In the name of the perished,” he proclaimed. “I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”

Trump’s statement failed to mention either anti-Semitism or its Jewish victims. “It was six million Jews who perished,” Jonathan Greenblatt, of the Anti-Defamation League, responded, “not just ‘innocent people.’” (Some noted that in 2016, then President Barack Obama gave a special address at the Israeli embassy in Washington DC, and said that “anti-Semitism is on the rise, we cannot deny it. “When we see Jews leaving Europe…and attacks on Jewish centers from Mumbai to Kansas; when we see swastikas appear on college campuses, we must not stay silent.”) Later that day, Trump issued an executive order temporarily suspending the US refugee program and placing a temporary travel ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, barring Muslims and anyone from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan from entering the US. At airports around the world, it set into motion a sense of panic and uncertainty.

For many of us, the confluence of the two events—the tepid statement on the Holocaust and the immigration ban—seemed less like a coincidence than an evil trick. The parallels were not lost on some American Jews, who drew connections between the nativism that kept out Jews during WWII and the nativism of the Trump administration. One Jewish group used the hashtag “we’ve seen this before.” Another tweeted stories of the Jewish refugees on the SS St Louis, a ship carrying over 900 people that was denied permission to land in the US in 1939. Among the most shared was a photo of a young boy with the tweet: “My name is Joachim Hirsch. The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered in Auschwitz.”

As this and other statements suggested, the anti-Semitism of the prewar years is echoed in today’s Islamophobia. If Jews have become well integrated into American culture today, Muslims have emerged as the new Jews. And yet anti-Semitism persists, too. Trump’s nativism deploys overt Islamophobia and coded forms of anti-Semitism that include Holocaust denial. Once we understand this, we can connect the dots that link the Muslim ban and the Holocaust statement, and the resurgence of far right anti-Semitism and Islamophobic incidents since Trump’s election.


Arlene Stein is Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University, where she directs the Institute for Research on Women. She grew up in New York City in a Jewish refugee household, and worked as a community organizer before pursuing graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She has taught at the University of Essex and the University of Oregon, and has published books about American political culture, sexual politics, and collective memory. Her ethnographic study of a Christian conservative campaign against gay and lesbian rights, The Stranger Next Door (Beacon Press, 2001) won several awards. Reluctant Witnesses (Oxford, 2014) traces the rise of Holocaust consciousness in the United States. Most recently, she published a guidebook for publicly engaged scholars called Going Public (University of Chicago Press, 2017; J. Daniels co-author). Since January 2017, she has been active in a number of resistance organizations in the New York City area.


Sarah Tobias is Associate Director of the Institute for Research on Women (IRW) at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where she is also affiliate faculty in the Women's and Gender Studies Department. Her work bridges academia and public policy. A feminist theorist and LGBT activist, she is co-editor of Trans Studies: The Challenge to Hetero/Homo Normativities (Rutgers University Press, 2016), co-author of Policy Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Families (University of Michigan Press, 2007), and additionally has written and edited numerous academic and policy-related reports and articles. Prior to joining IRW in January 2010, she spent over 8 years working in the nonprofit sector and also taught at Rutgers-Newark, the City University of New York (Baruch College and Queens College), and Columbia University. She has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University and an undergraduate degree from Cambridge University.

Panels and Parallel Sessions

Fascisms in Culture

Dr Hannah Lammin, ‘Becoming-Rhinoceros: Affective Politics, Heterogeneity and the Digital Sphere’

Georges Bataille’s writings of the 1930s, produced under the shadow of rising fascism, explored affect and heterogeneity as wellsprings of political force. His ideas can be seen as a precursor to the post-1968 generation of French theorists who aimed to liberate political thought and practice from its traditional dialectical frameworks. A canonical example of this tendency is Deleuze and Guattari’s Capitalism and Schizophrenia project, which Foucault hailed as an ethical introduction to the ‘art of living counter to all forms of fascism’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 2004: xv). After the collapse of the dialectical meta-narrative of the Cold War in the 1990s a shift can be identified in Western political engagement, from traditional party-political support to more dispersed affective affiliations. Norris (2002) characterizes this as a ‘democratic phoenix’ rising from the ashes of disillusionment. The digital media sphere, which both facilitates horizontal political organization and allows subjects to inhabit more fluid identities, might be seen as aiding a Deleuze and Guattarian resistance to fascism by actualizing decentred networks and machinic assemblages. Yet the contemporary revival in populist politics, which has harnessed the viral potential of the digital, demonstrates that the phoenix is not necessarily democratic in its inclination.

This paper returns to Bataille’s essay ‘The Psychological Structure of Fascism’ (1933) to understand how the ‘becoming-other’ that Deleuze and Guattari proposed as a mode of resisting fascism leads to a populist ‘becoming-rhinoceros’ in Ionesco’s (1959) satirical sense. Although the current populisms do not exactly repeat the fascism of the 1930s, the paper utilizes Bataille’s analysis of the complex interaction of homogeneous and heterogeneous spheres to explain how contemporary digital media allow for the exploitation affect by suturing mythic notions of sovereignty to that of ‘democracy’, thus producing a heterogeneous ethical imperative that exceeds reason.


Hannah Lammin recently completed her PhD, which re-examines the discourse of ‘community’ in the work of Georges Bataille and Jean-Luc Nancy through the lens of François Laruelle’s nonstandard philosophy. This research question grew from an interest in social experience that emerged out of her prior engagement in creative practices of environmentalist and anti-capitalist political resistance as a denizen of the London Squat scene. As well as publishing in academic journals, she is an occasional contributor to underground publications Datacide: Magazine for Noise and Politics and Rupture. Hannah Lectures in Media and Critical Theory at the University of Greenwich and University of the Arts London – Camberwell.

Benjamin Bland, ‘Music for Europe: Ethnic Eurocentrism and the Presence of Neo-Fascists Ideas in Underground Music Subcultures 

Taken at the level of electoral performance and popular support, the history of organised fascism in post-war Europe has largely been one of failure. For neo-fascists, however, the post-war period has not been about power, but instead about keeping alive (and reworking) fascist ideology. Despite this the historiography of post-war fascism has tended to emphasise the role of fringe organisations and individuals, and not the flow of extreme right ideas. This paper aims to highlight the manner in which fascist ideas can be communicated through cultural (specifically musical) movements. It shall compare and contrast two case studies (both of which originate in the UK but are ultimately transnational): the explicitly neo-Nazi punk scene that coalesced around Skrewdriver in the 1980s, and the metapolitical neo-folk scene led by groups such as Death in June and Sol Invictus. These scenes are not just echoes of inter-war fascism, although they often devote much of their energy to referencing elements of Third Reich history, in particular. I argue that they have also actively promoted neo-fascist ideas, primarily through an ethnicity-driven Eurocentrism that also interacts with elements of the anti-semitic conspiracy theories that have largely remained fundamental to post-war fascist ideology. Building on the limited scholarly exploration of these subcultures to have already taken place (e.g. Pollard 2016; Shekhovtsov 2009), this paper will place these examples more explicitly in the context of the gradual resurgence in support for the extreme right in recent years. By comparing and contrasting the two scenes I look to offer both some judgements on the ability of counter-cultural movements to spread extreme right ideas, and some reflections on the importance of cultural activity in keeping the flame of fascism alive in post-war Europe.


Benjamin Bland is an AHRC-funded PhD student in the Department of History at Royal Holloway, University of London, supervised by Professor Dan Stone. His thesis explores British fascism since 1967 as a subcultural phenomenon, whilst also examining its interactions with, and reflections in, underground culture. He has wider research interests in the history of cultural and political extremism in post-war Europe. In 2016-17 he has acted as Visiting Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Roehampton, teaching the history of Germany from unification to the fall of the Third Reich.

Savannah Sevenzo, ‘If knowing is imperative: understanding testimony in Holocaust poetry'

This paper will respond to the question 'What can we learn from Holocaust poetry?' through examining the relationship between testimony, poetry and knowledge in Holocaust poetry. I will first make a case for an actual intentionalist definition of testimony that in practice reflects the way in which we treat and interpret the testimony of Holocaust survivors, and use this to build upon suggestions of Anthony Rowland and Sue Vice to argue that Holocaust poetry can constitute testimony.  I will provide case analyses of poems by Primo Levi, Anna Swir, Dan Pagis, and Miklos Radnoti in conjunction with my objections to Susan Gubar’s argument in The Long and Short of Holocaust verse  in order to justify three further conclusions: 1) The existence and importance of non propositional understanding communicated in testimonial representations of the Holocaust; 2) the capacity of poetry in particular to deliver this understanding and; 3) the necessity of such understanding as a component of knowledge about the Holocaust. My case will argue that we should treat testimonial poetry with recognition of the sort of knowledge it can give us. The paper will conclude with a consideration of its implications for epistemological questions about what it means to ‘know’ about the Holocaust, and the applicability or otherwise of conclusions reached about Holocaust poetry to other cases.


Savannah Sevenzo graduated from her BA in philosophy and English at Sussex in 2016 and currently works as a sabbatical officer at Sussex students' union. She has been coordinating a decolonising education campaign for the past year and co facilitating alternative education workshops where students explore philosophical and sociological theories through their own lived experience. Since graduating she has published poetry which explores themes of identity and coloniality. Her dissertation modules language truth and literature and experimental writing both set her on a journey of looking to understand power history and trauma through creative work.


Global Fascisms


Professor Jason Lee, ‘Neo-Nazism, transnationalism and environmentalism – postcolonial and postmodern paradoxes’


This paper seeks to address the differences and similarities in transnational neo-Nazism, as constructed by the media. Through new media, countries in Asia and Latin America have latched onto versions of neo-Nazism. Traditionally, fascism has been against internationalism, defending the rights of the ‘homeland’. In this paper, the trajectory towards the sharing of elements of this ideology across national boundaries is mapped out. There are fundamental paradoxes in the way some communities, who were deliberately targeted by the Nazis, have now become neo-Nazis. Elements of this are linked, in countries like Mongolia, to resisting colonialism, and to local environmentalism, a complex area. Nazism, in part, in some versions of its ideology, stressed an environmental agenda, and this is linked to localism. Part of the battle with globalisation is also of relevance in this paper, which overall seeks to explicate certain paradoxes of this transnational neo-Nazism.


Professor Jason Lee is the author of 20 books, with work translated into 16 languages. He is currently completing the book, ‘Nazism, neo-Nazism and the Media’ (Amsterdam University Press).  His latest book is ‘The Future of Desire’ (Palgrave, 2017). Professor Lee is Head of the Leicester Media School at De Montfort University.


Corinna Schaefer, ‘Spoiling the Prisoners by Good Food and Idleness': German Settler Discourse in Colonial Namibia During the Genocide’


The Herero and Nama War (1904-1908) against the Germans in colonial Namibia resulted in a genocide with concentration camps set up all over the colony. The surviving Herero and Nama were forced to build up the colony as labourers and were often worked to death. Debates in German historiography ask about responsibilities for the genocide and if it can be understood as a precursor of the Nazi crimes. Regarding the genocide in colonial Namibia, responsibilities on the level of government and military have been thoroughly researched, but the public discourse at the time so far has not been taken into account sufficiently.

In my paper I examine the media of the German settlers who lived in colonial Namibia at the time, in places that were teeming with labourers from the concentration camps. With critical discourse analysis of settler newspapers I am asking what position the settlers occupied regarding the genocide and how they discussed the concentration camps. What were their demands for colonial policy, and what values did they base these on? By drawing onto genocide studies that deal with the question how the Nazi atrocities were legitimised, I hope to contribute to an understanding of legitimisation strategies in colonial Namibia.

I will argue that the German settlers discursively constructed themselves as victims of the colonised. They called for a ruthless defence of their community that was based on a strong nationalism and notions of racial supremacy. Protecting and boosting their economy was a vital part of this. If the genocide was consistent with the settlers’ values, we need to ask ourselves what kind of values play a role today for strategies of legitimisation.



Corinna Schäfer is a doctoral researcher in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex where she also completed her Masters. Her interdisciplinary research project on the German colonial settler press, its discourse, networks and infrastructure in the German colonies in Africa (1884-1914) is funded by the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts in South-East England (CHASE) and Funds for Women Graduates (FfWG). Corinna has taught a course on the British Empire and its legacies and has functioned as an associate editor of the postgraduate journal Brief Encounters. In Berlin she worked as a student research assistant at the Alice Salomon Archive.  


Georgios Karakasis, ‘The impact of the internationalization of the war crisis in Syria on the nationalist movement's attitude vis a vis Assad’s regime’


The goal of this paper is to try to identify the reasons why the war in Syria has attracted the attention of a grand variety of European and Russian (neo) fascist movements and political parties. Below we mention some specific manifestations that might facilitate our understanding the motives behind all these movements and parties in their favouring the Assad regime:

The former BNP (British National Party) leader, Nick Griffin, in 2013 was invited to a conference in Damascus organized by the Syrian Justice Ministry.

During an interview with the Greek newswpaper “Δημοκρατία” in 2013, a member of the neostrasserist movement “Mαύρος Κρίνος (Black Lily)” said that there is a platoon of its members fighting in Syria in favour of Assad.

In Italy, the neo-fascist party “Casa Pound” has openly declared its support for the regime of Assad and is one of the main partners of the platform “European Solidarity Front of Syria”; the latter has also realized several manifestations to back up the Syria government; in 2013 its Italian delegation went to Syria where they met, among others, with the Syrian prime minister and the deputy foreign minister.

Finally the Russian philosopher and political thinker Alexander Dugin in his article “Why we fight in Syria” praised the military participation of Russia in the war in Syria calling Russia “the shield of the European continent”.

It seems that the “alliance” of all those nationalist movements mirrors the rejection of the values of the modern democratic western society, a rejection whose battleground, nevertheless, is not to be found in a European country, but in Syria. In the case of a possible win of the Assad regime their presence and thought in their countries, as well as in the international affairs sphere, could be somehow legitimized jeopardizing, thus, not only the modern western society's pillars but its liberal thought and philosophy as well.


Georgios Karakasis was born in Athens, Greece, in 1988. He graduated from the University of Athens with a degree in Political Science and Public Administration. Due to his interest in Philosophy he went to the Basque Country and got his Research Master in Cognitive Science and Humanities from the Institute for Logic Cognition Language and Information of the University of the Basque Country (EHU/UPV). Having successfully obtained the Master he then started his PhD in Philosophy - the last year of which he is currently coursing- in the Faculty of Philosophy in the University of the Basque Country aiming to analyze the event of Πόλεμος (War) through both an ontological and ontical point of view grounding his research on the thought of Heraclitus, Sophocles and Martin Heidegger. His main research interests involve the Philosophy of Nationalism, the rising of Neo-fascist movements, the ontological consequences of the use of technology in modern warfare, and the philosophy of Martin Heidegger.  He speaks Greek, English, Spanish, French and Basque. He is currently living in the Autonomous Community of Navarre, Spain.


Western Fascisms: Neoliberalism, Populism and the Alt-Right

Dr Malcolm James, ‘Authoritarian populism | Popular authoritarianism’

In Brexit and the election of Donald Trump we have seen the rise of Authoritarian Populism in Britain and the US. Trump, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson are of course not alone. Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and the Flemish national party, Vlaams Belang in Belgium also appeal to individuals’ dissatisfaction with neoliberalism using national, racial and authoritarian language.

While authoritarian popularism may not be new, the term was coined by Stuart Hall for Thatcherism in the UK, the current formulation does have particular features which we need to analyse.

Brexit and Trump come at a time when neoliberalism has started to turn in on itself. Its liberalisms cannot withstand its inequalities, its façade of democracy cannot withstand its disenfranchisement. In this crisis, popular appeals to racialised violence and security have made substantial headway, often across assumed political, ethnic, and class divides.

While moments such as Brexit provide a lens through which the social forces of a particular conjuncture can be understood, there is also a risk that the phenomena becomes reified and detached from history and social context, even sometimes providing a scapegoat that avoids a wider analysis of the problem at hand. Certainly, the politics of Farage and Johnson did not come out of thin air. Rather, they are the product of history; of a configuration of forces and contradictions.

My argument in this paper is that to understand these expressions of authoritarian populism, we must analyse how they are rooted in popular culture – that is, of everyday culture, commercial culture and mass culture. At the end of the paper, I will address this through a discussion of the popular authoritarianism of London’s Olympic Development. 


Malcolm James is a Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex, UK. His research interests are in postcolonial and critical race approaches to youth, urban culture, migration, music and sound. He is author of Urban Multiculture: Youth, Politics and Cultural Transformation published by Palgrave.


Dr Robert Topinka, ‘“Back to a Past that Was Futuristic”: The Alt-Right and the Uncanny Form of Racism’


The apparent newness of the alt-right is in fact a symptom of its oldness: It is a reactionary ideology that seeks the restoration of a lost tradition to a fallen present, and like all reactionary ideologies it inherits its form from the present it rejects. As media theorists working somewhere between Jameson and Kittler have suggested, form secretes ideology and determines situations. This explains the uncanny familiarity of the alt-right, in which exotic fascist extremism appears in the familiar forms of the meme and the message board. The alt-right’s innovation is to attach white identity politics to a critique of modernity that turns postcolonialism on its head. Where the latter attacks racism for compromising the democratic promise, the former attacks democracy for compromising the white race’s promise, which is to accelerate capitalism to the lost Hobbesian future of the CEO-King, a vision implied in Peter Thiel’s epigraphic quotation.

This paper examines the alt-right’s ideological secretions by reading Stephen Bannon’s recent speech at the Vatican through the neo-fascistic political theory of the influential blogger Mencius Moldbug, focusing on how an accelerationist nostalgia for the future pervades alt-right thinking. The alt-right has resurrected early-nineteenth-century degenerationist race thinking, sutured it to a fascistic techno-futurism, and deployed this monstrous racist hybrid in the form of left and postcolonial critiques of modernity. Where the former target the racist underpinnings of the modern democratic project, the alt-right targets that project itself, charging democracy with the dissolution of Western civilisation. Routing this Burkean thesis through a reactionary critique of neoliberalism coupled with an accelerationist vision of capitalism, the alt-right resurrects the living ghost of race and dresses it in the very language of political correctness it claims to reject. This uncanny racism propels the alt-right’s version of the familiar fascist paradox: nostalgia for the future.


Robert Topinka is Lecturer in Media & Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex. His areas of expertise are in space and place, the city, transnationalism, postcolonialism, and race. Within these areas he examine the ways in which media and technology affect everyday life and urban governance. His work on white nationalism and Reddit is forthcoming in New Media & Society. His work has appeared PoliticsCitizenship StudiesFoucault Studies, Visual CommunicationWestern Journal of Communication, and elsewhere.  


Dr Aristotelis Nikolaidis, ‘Neoliberal Crisis, Media Culture and Contemporary Fascism: Insights from a Greek Case Study’


The Greek crisis has been seen by Gounari as a neoliberal experiment resulting in physical, social and financial destruction, and including the manifestation of fascist tendencies. This paper introduces the critical conjuncture between media, crisis, and democracy in the Greek case, which is as exemplary not only in terms of the electoral rise of the Nazi party Golden Dawn, but chiefly in terms of the diffusion of the rhetoric of the extreme right across the political spectrum and the public communication process, and argues for the merits of interdisciplinary and multiperspectival analysis on the basis of contemporary political theory such as Agamben’s work on the state of exception. The paper considers the categorization of the political formations of the far right under neologisms such as Alt-Right and labels such as ‘populism’, more often than not together with left-wing parties as the ‘two ends’ of the political spectrum, to be methodologically flawed and politically dangerous; and it is similarly critical of economistic readings of the emergence of the far right as a direct effect of the crisis. The paper is concerned with the ways in which the far right’s anti-immigrant and anti-communist stance has affected the political agenda through the tolerance and/or endorsement it has enjoyed by the ruling political consensus. In this respect, the paper examines the degree to which mainstream media representations of the far right have allowed its political platform to become a legitimate subject of discussion with regard to the crisis, as well as the extent to which such a platform has in return set the terms of reference with regard to the reporting of the respective issues, and immigration in particular.


Aristotelis Nikolaidis holds a PhD in Media and Communications (Goldsmiths College, University of London), and his work has been published in Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, Feminist Media Studies, and Parliamentary Affairs. He is currently an Associate Lecturer at Brunel University and the University of Bedfordshire, and has taught at Goldsmiths College, De Montfort University, and the Athens University of Economic and Business.


Screening Fascism


Dr Anne Graefer, ‘No place like home: Banal nationalism and femininity in German reality television’ 


Michael Billig (1995) and Victoria Cann (2013) suggest that in order to fully understand ‘everyday nationhood’, or ‘nationalism from below’, we must consider the role that popular culture plays in the process. Through the example of German reality television I will demonstrate that reality TV operates as a powerful tool in what Billig terms the ‘flagging of nationhood’. German television has developed in the current recession a particular proclivity for ‘emigration shows’. In this paper I explore the most prominent emigration show, Goodbye Deutschland – Die Auswanderer (Goodbye Germany – The Emigrants). Through a figurative analysis I investigate how Goodbye Germany produces its female protagonists as failed national subjects worthy of social derision and contempt. By highlighting how the programme equates the departure from Germany with a departure from coherent feminine respectability, I show how we can understand this programme as a cultural expression of ‘commercial nationalism’ (Volcic & Andrejevic 2011) that produces Germany as a ‘safe haven’ within an economically unstable Europe. Overall, this paper argues that reality TV acts as a pervasive force in the reproduction of the national(ist) imaginary, challenging critiques that ‘television is seen as prime evidence for the loss of national distinctiveness’ (Bonner 2003, 171).


Dr Anne Graefer is Lecturer in Media Theory at Birmingham City University. Her research on the affective and sticky dimensions of media is published in Celebrity Studies, Journal of Popular Culture, The European Journal of Popular Culture and Ephemera. Her co-authored book ‘Provocative Screens: Offended audiences in Britain and Germany’ is forthcoming with Palgrave Pivot.


Wendy Timmons, ‘Only a Little Uncanny: On the Legitimation of Fascism through Weimar Aesthetics in Arnold Franck’s Films’


My paper addresses the question of how we might learn from the history of fascist movements by attempting to define legitimation via an example from German cinema. Understanding legitimation facilitates identification of early stages of fascism or fascist thought, which offers the possibility of resisting against the rise of fascism. To build this definition of legitimacy, I draw inspiration from Hannah Arendt’s definition of totalitarian propaganda and apply a similar approach as Alan O’Leary in his conception of The Battle of Algiers as the first banlieue film with roots in Italian fascism. Although it is common to compare contemporary American politics with Nazi Germany, my paper does so cautiously, keeping in mind the Historikerstreit in 1980s Germany, in which historians debated the gravity of Germany’s fascist past and the Holocaust in comparison with other fascist movements and their respective genocides. I avoid drawing direct parallels, siding with those historians that identify Nazism and the Holocaust as unique events, for two reasons: to follow the example those historians set, examining fascist movements on a case-by-case basis, and to make visible the deliberate use of Weimar cinema aesthetics in Nazi propaganda films. In particular, I discuss Arnold Fanck’s Die Weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü (1929) and Die Tochter des Samurai (1937), both well-received films in Germany that also represent the continuity of Weimar themes in Nazi cinema, such as mountainous settings, didactic narratives, and Germanocentrism. I chose Fanck, as opposed to more popularly researched filmmakers like Fritz Lang, because Fanck’s expertise as a documentarian (which he applied to all stages of his film career) and complicated relationship with the National Socialists provide a clearer view of filmmaking in both the Weimar and Nazi eras, between which continuity exists as an intentional attempt to make Nazi propaganda films a legitimate part of German cinema.


Wendy Timmons is currently seeking her Master’s degree in Germanic Studies at University of Maryland. In addition to her studies, Wendy works as a Graduate Assistant for the Film program and as a Teaching Assistant for the German program at University of Maryland. In 2015, she graduated summa cum laude from Montclair State University with a Bachelor’s degree in German Studies and a minor in Studio Fine Arts. Her research interests include Weimar and Nazi cinema and gender studies. She intends to obtain her Doctorate in German Studies upon completion of the Master’s degree, the thesis for which will likely be an expansion of the paper she presents today.


Milena Popova, Inhuman and inescapable: the normalisation of electronic mass surveillance in popular culture’

In this paper I examine representations of electronic mass surveillance in recent popular culture to argue that they act to normalise surveillance and cast ordinary people as unable to resist it.

Mass surveillance is a key tool of fascist and other totalitarian regimes, and technological advances over the last three decades have made it more efficient and more effective, while a political climate of fear of terrorism has given it legitimacy even in ostensibly liberal democracies. Representations of electronic mass surveillance in popular culture may therefore reveal issues, anxieties and omissions in our collective cultural and political engagement with surveillance and its effects.

I investigate three recent works of popular culture: the film "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014), and TV series "The Good Wife" (2009 - 2016) and "Person of Interest" (2011 - 2016) and their engagement with issues of electronic mass surveillance. I find several key trends. Even where the negative impact of mass surveillance is admitted, responsibility for it is transferred away from human agents or institutions which can be held to account and onto entities beyond ordinary people's control (Hydra in the case of "Captain America", and artificial intelligences in "Person of Interest"). Where a human element to surveillance is admitted, the ways of evading or stopping it shown are still beyond the capabilities of the average member of the audience, as is the case in "The Good Wife" where surveillance ceases only because the subject of surveillance is married to a state governor. Moreover, the various impacts of surveillance on day-to-day lives are frequently glossed over, and particularly differential impacts on marginalised groups are rarely if ever explicitly represented. Combined, these trends cast resistance to mass surveillance as impossible or futile, thereby making it an inescapable and normal feature of daily life.


Milena Popova is a PhD researcher at the Digital Cultures Research Centre, UWE Bristol. Their research focuses on fanfiction as a form cultural activism on issues of sexual consent. In addition, Milena is a digital rights activist with a particular interest in censorship and surveillance, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Open Rights Group. Pronouns: they/them.


Resistance, Protest and Gender


Sophie Joscelyne, ‘Inverted Totalitarianism and Protest Movements in 1960s American Society’


Numerous contemporary commentators have identified the ‘totalitarian’ tendencies of the presidency of Donald Trump (see, for example, Christopher Lebron’s article in the Boston Review laying out his case that Trump’s actions display the ‘traits of an emergent totalitarian regime’). This signifies a revived interest in this concept also reflected in the sudden popularity of classic texts on totalitarianism, including Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism and George Orwell’s 1984. While the term ‘totalitarian’ has been traditionally used to apply to America’s enemies, first during World War II, and later to frame the Manichean division of the Cold War, this paper looks back to the inversion of the concept of totalitarianism in the 1960s when it was used by groups and individuals associated with the New Left to apply to, and thus to criticise, American society. The paper will focus on the work of Norman Mailer and Eldridge Cleaver, particularly their engagement with the inherent racism of American society and U.S. policy in Vietnam, and the underlying connection between these issues, which informed their discovery of a domestic strain of totalitarianism. Such analysis is important due to the need to engage critically with the re-use of such historically loaded terms as totalitarianism and fascism, a consideration which has been notably absent among both those who have used these terms, and those scholars who have observed this usage. The paper will consider the intentions of activist intellectuals who invoked totalitarianism in order to make their criticisms of American society, and the implications of using a term which carries both the image of a specific historical threat yet it also ambiguous and amorphous in its meaning. I will question whether ‘anti-totalitarianism’ is effective as a mobilising and unifying strategy through which to mount political protest.


I am a first year AHRC (CHASE) funded doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Sussex. I studied for my BA and MA degrees at the University of Nottingham. My interests lie in U.S. intellectual history in the 20th and 21st centuries. My PhD thesis, “The Totalitarian Disease: The American Intellectual Left, Body Politics, and the Image of America in the World from the Cold War to the War on Terror”, supervised by Prof. Robert Cook and Dr Katharina Rietzler, will present a new history of the concept of totalitarianism in the work of left-wing intellectuals from 1930-2009. This research builds on interest developed during my undergraduate and masters dissertations in the role of totalitarianism in shaping the response of the intellectual left to American wars. Other interests include the Beat Generation, particularly Allen Ginsberg, whose work I have considered in the historical and political context of the 1950s, as a response to and reflection of the atomic culture of that era.


Professor Kath Browne, Catherine Nash and Andrew Gorman-Murray, ‘Resisting Sexual and Gender Rights: New Strategies, Different Challenges’


There can be little doubt that globally there is an ascendancy of the far right, and that this will have social implications. These implications include the emboldening of those who oppose lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) equalities. Those who are excited about Britain’s exit from the EU and the election of Donald Trump in the USA. Exploring threats to LGBT rights, this paper will develop our conceptualisation of heteroactivism, which can be used to understand oppositions to LGBT equalities. Heteroactivisms and ideologies have sought to reiterate and reinforce the primacy of heteronormativity (i.e. binary genders within male/female, man/woman divides which form the basis of normative heterosexual relationships) as the best for society, as well as individuals. Conversely, LGBT rights are understood as detrimental to society, cultures, as well as religious practices. Heteroactivist arguments have shifted significantly over the last two decades and away from claims that homosexuals are immoral, deviant, and paedophiles, towards claims that they are ‘not homophobic’ (and/or biphobic or transphobic, although these are rarely mentioned). Heteroactivist groups and organisations strengthened by the ascendancy of the far right, are keen to reclaim ground lost in the past 2 decades. This paper will use covert participant observation undertaken at a conference that sought to challenge the ‘new normal’ of gender and sexual inclusions. It will argue that we need to understand the contemporary arguments made by heteroactivist groups and to that end will outline some of these. It will conclude by purporting new ways of engagement that augments the current tactics of opposition politics, including through engagement with those that might be understood as ‘enemies’.


Kath Browne is a professor in human geography with a specific interest in sexualities and gender.  Her work with Catherine Nash (Canada) and Andrew Gorman-Murray (Australia) explores resistances to Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans equalities, particularly in countries where it is believed that the battles are ‘won’. Kath has published widely across geography, sexualities and gender studies.  Her most recent book, edited with Gavin Brown, is the Routledge Companion to Geographies of Sex and Sexualities.


Charlotte Mears, ‘Women and the Far Right’


This paper would aim to chart the reasoning behind the high number of women that are involved in far right extremist parties. These parties often seek to violate and silence women within society, through their focus on traditionalised gender roles, removing them from key roles in society and curtailing ambition. In recent years there has been a growing involvement of women in high profile roles, Marine Le Pen for example but also in grass roots movement such as Karen Marsden who violently attacked an Asian man on an EDL march. The paper will chart the historiography of women’s involvement with the far right as a starting point, looking at those close Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, charting how these roles have developed and changed. The paper will chiefly be concentrated on the United Kingdom but the conclusions drawn can parallel onto wider society and other countries political make up.

The paper’s importance is particularly prevalent with the rise of the right; it is important to discover why particular groups of people are aligning themselves with ideologies that are widely condemned.  Of special interest is that these are marginalised groups who these parties seek to attack, who are now joining with their would be oppressors. The violence and rhetoric displayed by many of the women activists also seeks to break gender norms, is this phenomenon solely linked to those in the right or are women increasingly willing to join the front line.


Charlotte Mears is a Doctoral Researcher at Kingston University London. She has recently had a chapter published about the Far Right and Pornography and is working towards a Doctoral thesis focussing on Women Guards in Auschwitz. Her interests lie in the far right both historically and socially and the role of women within these environments.


Between Freedom to Speak and Freedom of Speech


Dr Kate O’Riordan, Dr Rachel O’Connell, and Dr Samuel Solomon, ‘Between Freedom to Speak and Freedom of Speech: negotiating research and teaching in contradictory times


Recent events such as the Education Secretary’s statement that UK Universities should defend freedom of speech, together with the introduction of the Prevent policy, create impossible contradictions for UK academics and students in higher education. UK and European education politics has tended towards a freedom to speak, minimizing intimidation, harassment. In the USA, “freedom of speech” is more central to the conditions of education and politics, and in this context privileges the most powerful voices. The language of freedom of speech is shifting into UK education politics as evidenced by Johnson’s statement. At the same time academics and students are being asked to report extremism. Universities are seeing an intensification of scrutiny, hostility and conditions which divide students and staff, accompanied by a highly volatile social media landscape that enacts and publicises debates. What are the strategies and conversations that we as academics need to develop at this time?

We draw on recent experiences to address questions of vulnerability, controversies about the syllabus and new strategies of support and mobilization.


  • Vulnerability figures prominently in a contradictory ways: the language of vulnerability is coopted by the state in order to impose racist agendas (cf. Prevent), the institution figures itself as vulnerable. Students and teachers are institutionally pitted against each other on the basis of competing vulnerabilities.
  • Recent legal changes raise issues about teaching materials. The University of Sussex statues assure staff that they have freedom within the law to carry out teaching and research. However, the law is interpretative and recent legal developments may have a chilling effect, leading to anxiety and potential censorship regarding the teaching of some hitherto canonical post-colonial texts and writers.


  • These tensions are unfolding in a media context in which fast moving, highly visible campaigns can be mobilized, and new forms of activism appear. We draw on recent campaigns against academics and others in relation to feminism, gender and sexuality to draw out these issues further.


The panel aims to provide a platform for discussion and attempts to open up a space for capacity building and sharing experiences across these issues.


Dr Kate O'Riordan is Reader in Digital Media in Media, Film and Music at the University of Sussex, and an affiliate of the Sussex Humanities Lab. Her work is a cultural studies of emerging technology with emphasis on public engagement with science and technology, and gender and sexuality. She is the author of Unreal Objects (Pluto, 2017), The Genome Incorporated (Ashgate, 2010), Hunan Cloning and the Media (Routledge, 2007) and the editor of Queer Online (Peter Laing, 2007)


Rachel O’Connell is a Lecturer at the University of Sussex, where she convenes the MA in Sexual Dissidence, a ground-breaking MA programme in queer studies that celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016. She also co-directs, with Dr Sam Solomon, the Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence, a research hub for queer studies at the University of Sussex that brings together scholars, artists, and activists the share current queer research, arts, and praxis. She has published research on late nineteenth century British literature in relation to middlebrow culture, prose genres, ethics, sexuality, and disability in journals such as ELH, Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens, and (forthcoming) Women: A Cultural Review; and the edited collection Sex and Disability (ed. Robert McRuer and Anna Mollow). Her current interdisciplinary research on the TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race focuses on questions of fandom, mediation, intimacy, and contemporary celebrity and engages genre-crossing creative-critical writing practices while generating unconventional, public-facing research outputs.


Samuel Solomon is the author of Special Subcommittee (Commune Editions, forthcoming 2017) and co-translator of The Acrobat: Selected Poems of Celia Dropkin (Tebot Bach, 2014). He teaches in the School of English at the University of Sussex, where he is Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence. 


Conference Organisers


Malcolm James (see bio above)


Sophie Joscelyne (see bio above)


Matilda Mroz (Conference Director) is Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Sussex. She held a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge (2008-2011), where her research focused on Polish cinema, and where she also completed her PhD in film theory (2004-2007). She is the author of Temporality and Film Analysis (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), which explores duration in the films of Tarkovsky, Kieslowski and Antonioni, co-author of Remembering Katyn (Polity, 2012), on the Soviet massacre of Poles in 1940, and co-editor of The Cinematic Bodies of Eastern Europe and Russia: Between Pain and Pleasure (EUP, 2016). Her current research explores contemporary engagements with Polish-Jewish relations and the Holocaust in Polish film and visual culture. 


Sally Munt is Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies and Director of the Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies. She has worked on white identity for many years in the fields of queer studies and the sociology of emotion. She also wrote, with Sharon Smith and Andrew Kam Tuck Yip, Cosmopolitan Dharma: Race, Sexuality, and Gender in British Buddhism, The Numen Series Studies in the History of Religions. Brill Publishing: Leiden, (The Netherlands) & Boston, Massachusetts (USA). 2016. As well as being an academic, Sally is also a cognitive psychotherapist and director of the Sanctuary Project, a free trauma service for asylum seekers and refugees in Brighton and Hove.


Rachael Owens is a qualified Social Worker specialising in work with vulnerable adolescents, with a first degree in English Literature and an MA in the Teaching and Practice of Creative Writing.  She is currently undertaking a Collaborative Doctorate with the University of Sussex and the Family Nurse Partnership – an NHS based intervention for teenage parents. Her research takes a psycho-social, ethnographic approach to exploring multi-dimensional nature of relationships within organisational systems.  Rachael is interested in creative, inter-disciplinary research and practice methodologies which combine her interest in the arts, politics, and social change.  She has been published in the Journal of Social Work Practice and is the winner of the Clare Winnicott Student Essay Prize.  


Marta Paluch worked for many years in community-based adult education in London.  She has also worked in English language teaching roles in Turkey, Yemen and Ethiopia.  Since retiring in 2011, she has been collaborating with a municipal adult literacy programme in Guatemala, contributing to training and development work with adult literacy facilitators (ALFs).  She is currently completing a PhD in Education at Sussex University based on research with the ALFs. 


Corinna Schaefer (see bio above)


Robert Topinka (see bio above)


Victoria Grace Walden is a teaching fellow at Sussex. Her PhD thesis ‘Beyond the Unrepresentable: Haptic Encounters with Holocaust Memory in Contemporary Cinema’ explores the affective potential of contemporary intermedial cinematic projects that represent or refer to the Holocaust. She has published several articles about Holocaust animation with Frames Cinema Journal, Short Film Studies and Animation Studies. She has also written articles about the transcultural affect of the Polish film Kornblumenblau and media vocational pedagogy for Holocaust Studies and the Journal of Media Practice. She is the author of Studying Hammer Horror.