Our research in Austria addresses the mainstream appeal of populist politics in Austria with important factors being the popularity of folk-like Schlager music, Austria’s strong urban-rural distinction, and the country’s predominantly tabloid media landscape as important factors. We have been using methods like ethnographic work (at events by political actors, concerts, funfairs and more) and group analyses of songs identified as highly relevant to situations and places where popular music and populism meet; in group discussions, participants will talk about their receptions of these songs.
So far, we could observe that popular music plays an important role in mainstreaming populism in Austria. We have identified a selection of songs that are highly relevant to this configuration, although many of them lack the clear and unambiguous messages matching them to established concepts of political or politicized music. Both in regard of lyrical and musical content, ambiguity is an attribute common to most of songs identified in our ethnographic fieldwork and later addressed in our MGAs. Our research shows how these songs strengthen the message of political actors such as the FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) in accordance the specific socio-material and socio-musical “assemblages” found in our field.
In such constellations, these musics allows for a high degree of specificity; while it is far from being aggressive or propagandizing and has a general appeal beyond the political realm, it does at the same time afford populist interpretations. Our work has further addressed how bodily engagement through music is instrumental in co-establishing and strengthening political messages and fostering group consciousness among participants.
Prof. Dr. André Doehring, musicologist and sociologist, is professor for jazz and popular music research at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz (Austria) and head of the Institute for Jazz Research. His research and publications focus on socio-historical, cultural, political and media aspects of jazz and popular music as well as musical analysis. He co-edits the publication series Jazzforschung / Jazz Research and Beiträge zur Jazzforschung / Studies in Jazz Research. Contact via email
Dr. Kai Ginkel is post-doc researcher at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (Austria) for the project “Popular Music and the Rise of Populism in Europe”. He studied sociology, psychology, and political science and wrote his dissertation on a praxeological approach to sound at KU Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (Transcript 2017). Main research areas include qualitative methodologies, popular music, sound, and theories of practice. Contact via email
Doehring, André, and Kai Ginkel. 2022. ‘Musik Macht Körper: Zum Volkstümlichen Schlager als Ermöglicher populistischer Körperpolitiken’. to be submitted.
Ginkel, Kai, Anna Schwenck, Melanie Schiller, André Doehring, and Mario Dunkel. 2021. ‘Populäre Musik als nationalistische Ressource? Vergleichende Schlaglichter auf AfD, FPÖ und die Schwedendemokraten (SD)’. In: „Pop the Nation!“. Das Nationale als Ressource und Argument in Kulturen populärer Unterhaltung und Vergnügung, edited by Manuel Trummer and Marketa Spiritova, 6:n/a. Kulturen Populärer Unterhaltung Und Vergnügung. Münster: Waxmann.
Lau, Johannes (2021): Die Playlist der Populisten (Forschung Spezial). In: Der Standard, 7./8.12.2021. Online: https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000131724414/die-playlist-der-populisten