What’s wrong with Jeremy Corbyn? Political Celebrity, Fandom and the Public Sphere

This reseach seminar examines the textual, technological and social premises and consequences of Jeremey Corbyn as a fan text.

The electoral success of anti-establishment political movements from Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president to the rise of populist movements across Europe has been closely intertwined with the personalisation of politics and political.

In contrast to political celebrity figures on the Right such as, alongside Trump, Farage, Berlusconi, or Johnson which often operate in the intersection of political and popular communication, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has garnered an enthusiastic fan base and supporters’ movement in the form of Momentum.

This presentation examines the textual, technological and social premises and consequences of Jeremy Corbyn as a fan text. It does so through a multi-method study of the textuality through which his public persona is constructed as well as of the readings and reception of this persona by Corbyn supporters and detractors.

In particular, Sandvoss explores Labour’s ambiguous positions regarding the UK’s departure from the European Union and, drawing on emergent literature on political fandom, argues that Corbyn’s political success is largely conventional and in line with the wider rise of dominant, populist campaigning strategies.

Corbyn’s celebrity is constituted through constructions of authenticity, while his fan following is maintained through an emphasis on the self and a rejection of the perceived Other that is a common feature of (far) right, populist ideologies.

Cornel Sandvoss is Professor and Head of Department of Media, Journalism and Film at the University of Huddersfield. He has published widely on fans and fan cultures across the spectrum of popular culture including sport, music and politics. He is founding co-director (with Matt Hills) of the Centre of Participatory Culture.