The Return of the Popular

Author: Paolo Gerbaudo (Kings College, London)

  • The Return of the Popular


    The Return of the Popular



What is the appropriate research agenda for media studies after the financial ­crisis of 2008 and how might it be located in the ‘Popular’? This contribution emphasises the extent to which the present is an exceptional historical phase and represents a seismic shift in terms of paradigm. Major economic consequences have led to improvrishment of large sections of populations and a sense of insecurity that has fostered resentment against political elites. The popular movements of 2011 Occupy Wall Street, out of many others for example Indignado signal a clear historical break with post-1968 protest with their refusal to accept that history has ‘ended’ and these look towards a possible new era beyond neoliberal capitalism and postmodernism. Huge increases in the volume of research conducted relating to political activism and protest are currently taking place. In theory interest has reverted to reading classical or modernist authors – Gramsci, Machiavelli – and away from postmodernist thinkers, that also reflects this new environment.

Postmodernisms’s retrenchment from the political to the personal (post-1968) is in retreat in the face of a unifying sense of the popular ­appearing in three related spheres: space and place, agency (as a manifestation of will) and culture. Popular digital culture as such becomes a key resource for ­emancipatory social movements and arena for research and reflection in our field.

Keywords: ­digital culture, the ‘Popular’, activism, political protest, postmodernism, Protest

How to Cite:

Gerbaudo, P., (2017) “The Return of the Popular”, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture 12(1), 13-14. doi:



Published on
30 Jan 2017
Peer Reviewed

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Competing Interests

The author has no competing interests to declare.

Author Information

Dr Paolo Gerbaudo is Lecturer in Digital Culture and Society in the the Department of Creative Media Culture Industries at King’s College London. Previously Associate Lecturer in Journalism and Communication, at the Media Department at Middlesex University he has worked also worked Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Paolo has also acted as a journalist covering social movements, political affairs and an environmental issues, and as a new media artist exhibiting at art festivals and shows. He is the author of Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism (2012) and The Mask and the Flag: The Rise of Citizenism in Global Protest (forthcoming 2017).