Lecturer in Politics
Department of Politics and International Relations
University of Aberdeen
My research falls at the juncture of contemporary political ideologies and political communication. I interpret the meanings which political parties publicly communicate in electoral-authoritarian regime, often in defence or critique of electoral-authoritarian regimes, and almost invariably as part of contestations of what democracy is and should be. I analyse the systems of meaning which they articulate through the lens of ideology.
Some of those ideologies are, erroneously, designated as populist. I argue that many supposed authoritarian populists present themselves as elite leaders of people. The ideas of hierarchy and leader superiority which they articulate at odds with the populist notion of 'the elite' as the enemy. They offer authoritarian visions of state, but not ones based on populist ideas of representation, but their self-presentation as guardian-rulers. I call them elitist plebeians.
Others are the ideologies of democratic movements in authoritarian states. Their ideas have often been dismissed as just 'democratic' or simply not worthy of analysis as political thought. I analyse the public messages articulated by Chadema in Tanzania and the CCC in Zimbabwe. I argue that they articulate original, homegrown ideologies which creatively blend ideas from republican, liberation and human rights political thought.
I also focus on the extraordinary importance of mass rallies in political communication. The rally is often relegated to the past, but I argue that in much of the world, it plays a crucial role in face-to-face and mediated political communication alike. In fact, I argue that in Tanzania, much of Africa and many places like it around the world, election campaigns are what I call rally-intensive. In my book project, I analyse what meanings are made at and mediated through rallies by parties, speakers, audiences and media alike.
Finally I focus on political parties. I study how parties organise. In particular, I focus on opposition party-building. I also study how the capitalisation of rallies drive ever-higher election campaign expenditure.