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Welcome to the 2019 New Zealand Political Studies Association Annual Conference

"Security, Community, Humanity"

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Friday, November 29 • 9:00am - 10:30am
Nationalism, Populism, and Autocratic Politics

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Olli Hellmann, Kai Oppermann
Visuals in the Strategic Narratives of Autocratic Regimes: A Comparative Analysis of China and North Korea

The “visual turn” in IR has drawn attention to the power of images and non-verbal communication. However, the growing literature has so far paid very little attention to the question of how political actors use visuals for strategic purposes. To address this gap, our paper explores the role of visual images in the public diplomacy of autocratic regimes. Building on priming theory, we argue that autocratic regimes produce and disseminate photographs of their leaders as a means to develop strategic public diplomacy narratives. Through a mixed-method research design that combines quantitative content analysis with semiotic tools, we show that China and North Korea visualize their respective leaders—Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un—as the main characters in broader legitimacy narratives aimed at foreign publics. Specifically, we are able to demonstrate that, through the strategic application of photographic techniques, the two leaders come to play very different roles. Given the Chinese regime’s desire to present itself at eye level with other major powers, Xi is portrayed as a powerful and able statesman. In contrast, because the North Korean regime wants to be perceived as a “parent” looking after their “children”, Kim Jong-un is visualized as a warm and compassionate leader.

Dennis Quilala
Stronger Populist Leader: Winning the 2019 Midterm Elections

How do you win an election in the Philippines? The literature tells us that in the Philippines, a two-pronged approach would be necessary to win the elections. The first is ensuring that a candidate has access to an electoral machinery and second is for the candidate to be exposed through mass media. The electoral machinery ensures that people on the ground get mobilized for a candidate during election day. This machinery is also important in rural areas who still see a more personal approach to campaigning. Mass media exposure enables candidates to reach millions of voters inside their homes. This is also more important in urban areas where voters do not have much time to attend campaign sorties.
Most of the senatorial candidates who won in the 2019 Philippine midterm elections have used this two-pronged approach. They also have one more thing in common: the incumbent president’s endorsement. This presentation will be focusing on the results of the midterm elections and its implications to Philippine politics and also for Southeast Asia.

Jessica Valisa
Exclusivist narratives and cyberspace: towards a post-national nationalism?

This study explores the complex relation between technology and politics, focusing on the relation between the evolution of internet technology and the spread of extreme nationalist and exclusivist narratives. Personal and community identities have not been erased in cyberspace but have found in it new modalities of expression. I employ Benedict Anderson’s theory on the role of newspapers in fostering a common identity, an ‘imagined community’, and apply it to cyberspace.
On the one hand, the internet allows hybrid and plural identities that contribute to the construction of multiple and ‘personalized’ imagined communities, which are not necessarily state bound. On the other hand, the ‘algorithmic architecture’ of the contemporary corporate-based internet incentivises the propagation of emotional and sensational narratives over informed discussion. This factor amplifies the feeling of uncertainty and collective displacement created within the global neoliberal economic framework and works as an aggregating tool for people in search of identity. The imbrication between internet technology and need for belonging results in a sort of ‘post-national’ nationalism constructed on trans-national lines. I argue that this framework may be profitably employed to illuminate the rise of exclusivist and nationalist movements world-wide.

Dan Zirker
The ‘Rasputins’ of the Exclusionary Populists: Hijacking ‘Thin Ideologies’?

Populism tends to create court politics, with access to the prince tantamount to power.  Although ‘exclusionary’ (right-wing) populism (Gidron and Bonikowski, 2013), increasingly present in declining democratic settings, remains primarily a campaign tactic, burdened typically with a ‘thin ideology’ (Stanley, 2008) at best, and buttressed by constant rallies and testimonials, successful candidates are left with little formative direction to their leadership other than brute authoritarianism. In the contemporary setting, several major exclusionary populist leaders initially embraced ‘Rasputins’, some of whom exercised influence in several countries simultaneously.  This study compares and contrasts several such influential ‘philosopher/advisors’ to determine if there are ideological connections between their views and the emerging pattern of global authoritarianism, punctuated as it has been by terrorist responses.  The US, India, Turkey, Russia and Brazil provide an interesting assortment of examples of would-be (and crossover) ‘Rasputins’, a term that is commonly used in the national presses to describe them.


Graeme P Auton

University of Redlands

avatar for Olli Hellmann

Olli Hellmann

University of Waikato
avatar for Dennis Quilala

Dennis Quilala

University of Canterbury

Jessica Valisa

PhD Candidate, University of Otago

Dan Zirker

University of Waikato

Kai Oppermann

Chemnitz University of Technology

Friday November 29, 2019 9:00am - 10:30am NZDT
Eng Core 119, Meeting Rm 3 Engineering Core