“POPULIST MASCULINITIES” Power and sexuality in the Italian populist imaginary
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Several academic analyses have been focusing on the historical and social factors determining Berlusconi’s first political victory in 1994 and the further successes of his political career in the last 15 years. However, academic analyses have given little attention to how populism works, how it functions as a “political tecnique” (Laclau 2005). What are the mechanisms, the techniques, the political devices that made Berlusconi and his right wing coalition a populist phenomenon? Replying to this question is relevant for the understanding how Italian populism is related with discourses on power, sexuality and the role of women in Italian society. Therefore, this thesis will investigate through historical sources and empirical data how Italian right wing populist leaders perform specific gender representations of masculinity to create 'the voice of the people' and a right wing populist imaginary in Italy. Italian populism will be analyzed taking in consideration representations of virility, sexist political discourses and the pornification of the female body in Italian media.The time frame of the research takes in account the period from the beginning of the nineties (Berlusconi’s entry into politics) to the present. The project is meant to answer the following research question: Do virility, sexism and pornification of female body constitute relevant features of Italian right wing populist discourses? Have women been interpellated by the right wing populist leaders to become the “weapons” of neo-liberal and neo-conservative discourses?