Lecture Series 1 - Understanding Populism

08 Sept to 13 Oct, 2022

What do Donald Trump, Doug Ford and Rodrigo Duterte have in common?  Despite their differences, each man has been labelled a populist. 

Populism is on the rise especially amongst Europe’s right and in the U.S. where it helped elect Mr. Trump.

The populist leader claims to represent the unified “will of the people” standing in opposition to an enemy often embodied by the current system – aiming to “drain the swamp” or “stop the gravy train”.

There is a difference between being popular and populism.   This series will explore populism in Canada and other countries; the media’s role in promoting populism as well as its links to authoritarianism.

Series Coordinators:
Cheryl Kryzaniwsky
Leslie Garnett



Zoom re-play 7:00 pm Sept 13

Populism is a slippery fish. We know it when we see it, but when we’re asked to define it, we can have difficulty pinning it down. In this lecture, Prof. Skidmore will review the history of populism, identify its defining characteristics, and discuss some of the more recent expressions of populism in world politics. This overview will serve as a foundational introduction for the rest of the lectures in the series.

Lecturer - James Skidmore

James Skidmore is Director of the Waterloo Centre for German Studies, a research institute at the University of Waterloo. His scholarship focuses on representations of contemporary German society in literature and fllm, and he also has expertise in online and open education. See https://jamesmskidmore.com for more information.




Zoom re-play 7:00 pm Sept 20

This lecture explores the relationship between online social networking sites and user-generated content sites and the resurgence of right-wing authoritarian populism.


Lecturer - Brett Caraway


Brett Caraway obtained his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin before coming to the University
of Toronto in 2012. He is an associate professor with appointments in the Institute of Communication,
Culture, Information & Technology and the Institute for Management & Innovation.








Zoom re-play 7:00 pm Sept 27

Over the last decade an increasing number of extreme populist politicians have experienced tremendous electoral success including Duterte in the Philippines, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Erdogan in Turkey and Orban in Hungary. These politicians campaigned by making promises to address social and economic injustices by disrupting the political traditions of their respective countries. As these populist strongmen have concentrated power in their own hands, these regimes have taken on a decidedly authoritarian flavour. This presentation will unpack the global phenomenon of authoritarian populism; explain the factors that have contributed to its rise and discuss the long-term viability of these regimes.

Lecturer - Dr. Mariam Mufti


Dr. Mariam Mufti is an associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo. She studies the politics of hybrid regimes, with a particular focus on Pakistan. Dr. Mufti has also co-edited Pakistan’s Political Parties: Surviving between Dictatorship and Democracy and been published in peer-reviewed journals.








Zoom re-play 7:00 pm Oct 4

The 2016 Brexit Referendum and the subsequent political paralysis it caused is best understood as a populist backlash against the established political order in Britain. Whipped-up by unscrupulous political actors, the anti-European rhetoric of the Brexiteers tapped into a deep well of genuine grievances. This talk will examine the underlying anxieties that pushed more than half of English and Welsh voters to reject 40 years of European integration, while most Scots wanted to keep the status quo, and the Northern Irish divided, dangerously, along sectarian lines.

Lecturer - Dr. Stephen Heathorn

Dr. Stephen Heathorn is Professor of British History at McMaster University.  He has published books on topics such as English nationalism, on the commemoration of the First World War, and the development of Human Rights in Britain. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2011.






Zoom re-play 7:00 pm Oct 11

The lecture contrasts ‘pathological populism’ (often associated with former President Trump) with a more historically authentic American populism arguing that both strands continue to be evident in contemporary US politics. In doing so, it examines the argument that a wholesale rejection of populism presents only limited prospects for achieving healthier democratic practice in the US.

Lecturer - Gerry  Boychuk


Gerry Boychuk teaches US and Canadian politics. His current book project focuses on populism and female suffrage in the northern plains states and prairie provinces in the early 20th century. He was recently awarded Western History Association’s Award for the best publication on US state history (2021).








Zoom re-play 7:00 pm Oct 18

Populism is often viewed as a national-level phenomenon, with a declining periphery set against a cosmopolitan, successful metropolis. This form of populism has been relatively muted in Canada. Instead, the most prominent form of Canadian populism to appear in recent years has occurred in a surprising place: its largest city. In this lecture, I analyze Rob Ford’s 2010 campaign and mayoralty in Toronto. I first describe populism as a general style that pits elites vs. the people and insiders vs. outsiders. I then discuss how Ford adapted the populist script to a multi-cultural cosmopolitan city, as well as what conditions made Toronto ripe for a leader like Ford to emerge.

Lecturer - Dr. Daniel Silver

Daniel Silver is professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. He received his PhD from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.  He is author of Scenescapes: How Qualities of Place Shape Social Life, as well as dozens of academic journal articles and research reports.