Dr Daphne Halikiopoulou: the rise of the far right and political populism
In 2012, the Golden Dawn, an ultranationalist, far-right political party in Greece, experienced an electoral breakthrough, winning 7% of the vote.
It was a staggering moment for Dr Daphne Halikiopoulou to witness: a country that had been subjected to Nazi occupation during the Second World War, and where certain constituencies witnessed mass atrocities, had voted neo-Nazi MPs into the Hellenic Parliament.
“Within the context of a Europe that has learned, that has progressed in the European Union for so long - I was lost for words. I was there sitting in front of my television when suddenly the Golden Dawn leader comes on and performs a Nazi salute.”
As stunned as she was by the result, it also piqued her interest from an academic perspective. Why had this this happened? And, more importantly, is there anything that can be done to address the underlying conditions that give rise to far-right political parties such as the Golden Dawn?
Daphne is the Department of Politics and International Relations' Impact Lead, and her research focuses on the rise of the far right and political populism.
She has always been interested in what makes people do extreme things. During her master's degree, she researched various extreme and radical manifestations of nationalism. She wanted to know why people feel such a strong attachment to their nation and how it can lead them to take extreme action. It's a fascinating area because there are so many dimensions to it, such as war, ethnic conflict and fascism.
It has become extremely topical in recent times, and not just in Greece but across Europe and the rest of the world. As a result, Daphne's work has featured prominently in the media.
Increasing awareness through in-depth research
There are two broad strands to Daphne's research on the far right. One focuses particularly on the Golden Dawn in Greece, while the other addresses the far-right across Europe, looking at far-right parties and the economic aspects of their support.
Daphne has been disseminating the results of her Golden Dawn research in Greece in order to increase awareness that the party is in fact a neo-Nazi organisation. This has also included suggesting potential policies that could be adopted to limit support for such groups and encourage more inclusive forms of political participation.
“I've organised a lot of events about this and been in the media a lot – about 70 interviews in the past couple of years – talking about Greece, especially during the time of the referendum. I've also been involved with NGOs and different organisations in Greece that deal with the Golden Dawn.”
With regard to the other strand, which looks at welfare state institutions and far-right party support, the goal is also to increase awareness across Europe. Daphne wants to determine the common denominator for far-right party support, and encourage more constructive forms of political participation.
“Our interests are aligned very much with trade unions, because we've been looking at austerity policies. We've published a working paper with the European Trade Union Institute to disseminate the findings of our research. The plan is to lobby at the European level and the governmental level about welfare state policies.”
How this feeds into undergraduate teaching
The third-year "Nationalism" module was designed by Daphne, and is strongly informed by her research and experience.
“I'm the Vice-President of the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN). It's an organisation that carries out various activities related to the study of nationalism; events, conferences, talks. And the students can become involved with this if they want, they can meet these people if they want, this is a more practical way of studying nationalism.”
This module has seminars that are an hour and a half long – longer than usual. This enables you to go to into much greater detail. Through her academic background, Daphne has studied and forged strong working relationships with other leading academics in the field. This has enabled her to develop an exceptional knowledge of the theories and approaches, and how to effectively teach them.
The second-year module "Comparative Government and Politics" introduces students to the various methodologies in comparative politics and helps them to explain and understand important contemporary phenomena such as the far right and ethnic conflict.