Our research

While most Scandinavian countries have had strong populist radical right movements, Sweden was long considered an exception to this trend. This changed when the populist radical right Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna, SD) entered the Swedish parliament for the first time in 2010. As a formerly radical niche party, the Sweden Democrats have since established themselves as one of the biggest parties in the Swedish political landscape. In 2018, Sweden has even seen the emergence of a second, arguably more radical, populist right party: the Alternative for Sweden (AfS). Over the course of the last decade, populist radical right discourses have become broadly disseminated and socially acceptable in a country that traditionally prides itself on its progressive and liberal society (as well as its international successes in popular music). 

In this project, we look at how popular music as a popular cultural phenomenon has played – and continues to play – a role in the normalization of radical right populist and particularly nationalist discourses in contemporary Swedish society. Both the Sweden Democrats and the smaller Alternative for Sweden draw heavily on popular music and a general pop cultural aesthetic in their attempts to mainstream their populist nativism and, in turn, radicalize the popular mainstream in nationalist terms. By tying in with and appropriating popular aesthetics and employing popular cultural forms like transmedia storytelling, participatory culture and celebrity culture, by drawing on popular tastes and by performatively redefining such culture as ‘essentially Swedish’, the populist radical right effectively ‘popifies’ radical nationalism and thereby aims to constitute it as ‘normal’. 

In order to understand the mechanisms of this ‘popification of nationalism’ by the populist radical right in Sweden, this project draws on ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation at relevant music events (offline and online), musicological group analysis, interviews, archive research, and (online) media discourse analyses.    


Ass.-Prof. Dr. Melanie Schiller is assistant professor of media studies and popular music at the dept. for Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands), and the author of Soundtracking Germany – Popular Music and National Identity (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018 and 2020). Schiller is on the executive board and national representative of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) Benelux branch, and was a member of the academic advisory committee of the German Society for Popular Music Studies (GfPM). Her research interests include popular music, popular culture and politics, German popular music, national identity and nationalism, and transmedia storytelling, amongst others. Contact via email
ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3708-0895

Our publications

Dunkel, Mario, and Melanie Schiller. 2022. Special Issue of Popular Music on ‘Popular Music and Populism’. Popular Music 41 (3). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dunkel, Mario, and Melanie Schiller. 2022. ‘The People versus the Power Bloc? Popular Music and Populism.’. In: Popular Music 41 (3): 281–292.

Dunkel, Mario, Melanie Schiller, and Anna Schwenck. 2021. ‘Researching Popular Music and the Rise of Populism in Europe’. In: IASPM XX Proceedings, edited by Kimi Käki, 31–34. International Institute for Popular Culture Publication Series. Turku: n/a.

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.

Schiller, Melanie. 2020a. ‘Heino, Rammstein and the Double-Ironic Melancholia of Germanness’. In: European Journal for Cultural Studies 23 (2): 261–80. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367549418810100.

Schiller, Melanie. 2021. ‘The Impossibility of “German” Music’. Norient.Com. https://norient.com/melanie-schiller/impossibility-german-music?user=11144.

Schiller, Melanie. Forthcoming (2022). ‘Pop, Politik und Populismus als Massenkultur’. In: Druckwellen: Denken und Fühlen, edited by Christoph Jacke and Beate Flath. Bielefeld: Transcript.

Schiller, Melanie. Forthcoming (2022). ‘Music and the Nation’. In Bloomsbury Handbook on Music and Place, edited by Geoff Stahl and Mark Percival. London: Bloomsbury.

Schiller, Melanie. Forthcoming (2022). ‘Populism, subcultural style and authenticity: Popular music, rock rebellion and the radical right in Sweden’. In: The People vs. The Power Bloc’ (?) – Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf Pop und Populismen, edited by Charis Goer and Mario Anastasiadis. Bielefeld: Transcript.

Schiller, Melanie, and Christoph Jacke. Forthcoming (2022). ‘German Popular Music and Its Discontents’. In: The Oxford Handbook of Global Popular Music, edited by Simone Krüger Bridge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schiller, Melanie, and Jeroen de Kloet. 2021. ‘German Longings: A Dialogue on the Promises and Dangers of National Stereotypes’. In Made in Germany, edited by Oliver Seibt, Martin Ringsmut, and David-Emil Wickström, 90–98. Studies in Popular Music. London: Routledge.

Schiller, Melanie. Forthcoming (2022). ‘Populism and Music’. In The Populism Interviews, edited by Luca Manucci. London: Routledge. (forthcoming)

Wilhelms, Kerstin, Immanuel Nover, Eva Stubenrauch, Anna Seidel, Melanie Schiller, et al. 2022. Rammsteins Deutschland: Pop – Politik – Provokation. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler.