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Populism in Indian and US Foreign Policy: The Politics of Representing ‘the People’

The project analyses the relationship between populism and foreign policy. Across the globe, politicians, parties and movements have emerged that claim to represent ‘the people’ and pit them against corrupt and out-of-touch elites. Though this apparent global rise of populism has drawn increasing scholarly, policy, and media attention lately, its international dimensions remain largely unexplored in the populism and International Relations (IR) literature. The prominent role of foreign policy issues in Trump’s election campaign, however, indicates that

populism is not limited to domestic politics and can potentially have far-reaching implications for international cooperation, institutions and agreements. Undertaking a comparative study on the role of populism in different contexts, the project examines how foreign policy and international relations can be used for populist mobilisation as well as how populism impacts on foreign policy and the international order.  


  • demonstrate how foreign policy and international relations can be used for populist mobilisation;
  • identify the implications of populism for foreign policy-making;
  • discern the extent to which populists cooperate internationally and seek to shape the contemporary global order;
  • show how the phenomenon of populism can be integrated into IR theory and how IR scholarship can inform our understanding of populism.


  • Discourse Analysis
  • Interviews

Summary of Findings


  • Foreign policy can play a very significant role for populist mobilisation, offering populists a site for creating a popular identity and staging themselves as ‘true’ representative of ‘the people’
  • Populism can shape the style of foreign policy-making and result in a personalisation, simplification and emotionalisation of foreign policy as well as attempts to appeal to the people directly in the realm of foreign policy through social media and other means
  • Populism does not necessarily influence the content of foreign policy. As there are very different types of populism and populism can be combined with a range of other ideological discourses, it is impossible to discern a ‘populist foreign policy’
  • Populists do not necessarily view each other as natural partners or allies, even if they are ideologically aligned such as right-wing populists. Though there is growing international interactions among right-wing populists, this ‘international populism’ has been spatially limited and issue-specific   


  • Wojczewski, Thorsten. 2019. Populism, Hindu Nationalism and Foreign Policy in India: The Politics of Representing ‘the People’. In: International Studies Review [online first]



  • Wojczewski, Thorsten. 2019. ‘Enemies of the People’: Populism and the Politics of (In)security. In: European Journal of International Security [online first] http://doi:10.1017/eis.2019.23
Project status: Ongoing


Funding Body: Leverhulme Trust

Amount: £80310.00

Period: October 2018 - September 2021