Introducing the team

List of staff who worked on the Populism in Action Project 2019 to 2022 – biographical notes are historical


Headshot of Daniele Albertazzi

Daniele Albertazzi
Professor of Politics (University of Surrey)

The major strands of Daniele Albertazzi’s work have been about populism in Western Europe, party organisation, Italian politics, Swiss politics, and the communication strategies and mass media use of political parties. Before working at this research project (which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council – ESRC), Daniele has been principal investigator on three projects that have now been concluded. These were financed by other major UK funding bodies, such as the Leverhulme Trust, The Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRC) and the British Academy.

Daniele has published widely on European politics in international journals such as West European PoliticsParty Politics and Government & Opposition, and on Italian politics in Contemporary Italian PoliticsModern Italy and the Journal of Modern Italian Studies. He is the co-editor of various volumes, including Populism and New Patterns of Political Competition in Western Europe (with Davide Vampa), Resisting the Tide: Cultures of Opposition Under Berlusconi (2001-06) (with C. Brook, C. Ross and N. Rothenberg) and Twenty-first Century Populism-The Spectre of Western European Democracy (with D. McDonnell). Daniele is also the co-author (with Duncan McDonnell) of Populists in Power and (with Davide Vampa) of Populism in Europe — Lessons from Umberto Bossi’s Northern League.

He has convened or co-convened the Italian Politics Specialist group of the Political Studies Association between 2008 and 2018.

Headshot of Stijn van Kessel

Stijn van Kessel
Senior Lecturer in European Politics (Queen Mary, University of London)

Previously, Stijin van Kessel was Lecturer in Politics at Loughborough University and between October 2013 and September 2015 was postdoctoral fellow at the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

He also obtained visiting research fellowships at the University of Leuven and the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB), Berlin, and held teaching positions in the Netherlands at the Radboud University Nijmegen and the VU University Amsterdam (2011-2012). Stijn previously completed a BSc (2005) and MSc (2006) in Political Science at the VU University Amsterdam, and defended his doctoral dissertation at the University of Sussex in 2011.

His main research interests are populism, Euroscepticism, and the discourse, voters and electoral performance of populist parties in Europe. Key Publications include the monograph Populist Parties in Europe: Agents of Discontent (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) and articles in journals such as European Journal of Political ResearchGovernment and Opposition, Politics, Journal of European IntegrationJournal of Political Ideologies and Acta Politica. Recent research also focuses on Brexit and pro-European social movements, as part of a project funded by an ESRC Brexit Priority Grant (£298,339): ‘28+ Perspectives on Brexit’ (Principal investigator: Prof. Helen Drake).

Since January 2014, Stijn has been joint convenor of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) Standing Group on Extremism & Democracy. In addition, he is joint editor of the Routledge book series of the same name since February 2019, and joint editor of the journal Politics since September 2018.

Research Fellows

Headshot of Adrian Favero

Adrian Favero

Research Fellow (Switzerland)

Adrian Favero focuses on Switzerland and the Swiss People’s Party (SVP).

Adrian Favero received his PhD in Politics from the University of Edinburgh. His research explores themes of European integration, local urban politics, and public opinion in post-communist settings, with particular attention to general attitudes towards the European Union and to personal migration strategies.

Before joining the Populist in Action Project, Adrian conducted social media analysis as a research assistant for an ESRC-funded project at the University of Edinburgh, analyzing the influence of Russian troll accounts on Twitter and the Brexit debate. He has also been a research assistant at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland.

Adrian has published articles on the influence of local urban politics on migration incentives and EU attitudes, and co-authored an essay on troll behavior. Others research projects include comparative assessments of governance in post-communist cities and study of gender-related attitudes towards the EU.

Adrian is a recipient of the European Urban Research Association (EURA) Young Scholar Award.

Headshot of Niko Hatakka

Niko Hatakka

Research Fellow (Finland)

Niko Hatakka focuses on Finland and the Finns Party.

Niko Hatakka earned his doctorate from the University of Turku for his dissertation “Populism in the Hybrid Media System: Populist Radical Right Online Counterpublics interacting with Journalism, Party Politics, and Citizen Activism”, which was awarded the highest grade of Laudatur. His research has focused on the relationship of populism and media, populist political communication, populist parties, and populist online movements.

Before joining the Populism in Action Project, Niko worked as a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Parliamentary Studies at the University of Turku, most recently in the Academy of Finland-funded project “Mainstreaming Populism in the 21st Century”.

Niko is the author of the book Populism in the Hybrid Media System, based on his doctorate. He has published in journals such as New Media & SocietyInformation, Communication & Society; and Discourse & Society.

Headshot of Judith Sijstermans

Judith Sijstermans

Research Fellow (Belgium)

Judith Sijstermans focuses on Belgium’s Flemish region and the Vlaams Belang party.

Judith Sijstermans completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh on “Political Party Learning in the European Free Alliance: Inspiration and Information in the (Trans)Nationalist Family.” The dissertation brought together research and analysis on sub-state nationalist parties, the development of European political parties, and study of policy and organizational learning.

Judith’s argument is that the relationships between political parties and their members, fostered by the European Union, was instrumental in the policy and strategic learning of those parties.

Judith also worked on policy-oriented research projects at the University of Edinburgh on gender and local government, Brexit and devolution, and post-Brexit migration policy in Scotland. Judith has also worked at the Scottish Parliament and Stirling City Council.

Profile picture of Mattia Zulianello. He is a white man in his 30s with dark hair pulled back and a short full, dark beard. He is stood on a beach at twilight with the sea behind him and wears a claret coloured t-shirt.

Mattia Zulianello

Former Research Fellow (Italy)

Mattia was the Populism in Action Project’s Italy focused Research Fellow between 2019 and 2021 and remains affiliated with the project.

He is currently Assistant Professor in Political Science (tenure-track) at the University of Trieste, Italy. Mattia is also the Co-Convenor of the PSA Italian Politics Specialist Group and the Coordinator of the Winter and Summer Schools ‘Populism: Causes, Impact, Consequences’ at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) in Milan.

Mattia Zulianello’s work has focused on populist parties, party systems, anti-system parties, European politics, Italian politics, and mixed-method research. His monograph, entitled Anti-system parties: from parliamentary breakthrough to government was published by Routledge (Extremism and Democracy Series) in 2019. He has published in numerous international journals, and his most recent publications include: ‘The League of Matteo Salvini: Fostering and Exporting a Modern Mass Party Grounded on ‘Phygital’ Activism’ (Politics and Governance, forthcoming); ‘Populist Parties in European Parliament Elections: A New Dataset on Left, Right and Valence Populism from 1979 to 2019’ with E.G. Larsen (Electoral Studies 2021); ‘The Right-Wing Alliance in the Time of the Covid-19 Pandemic: All Change?’, with D. Albertazzi & D. Bonansinga (Contemporary Italian Politics, 2021).

Picture of Donatella Bonansinga. She is a young white woman captured in a photo booth style portrait with long dark brown hair who wears a light blue patterned blouse style shirt.

Donatella Bonansinga

Project Research Assistant

Donatella Bonansinga is assisting the project with interviews and the analysis of data with an initial focus on Italy and the League.

Donatella Bonansinga is a doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham, working at the intersection between political science, international relations and political psychology. Her PhD project, funded by the ESRC, explores how populist actors understand and narrate the meaning of contemporary (in)security to their publics. Her research interests lie, more broadly, in populism, its communicative aspects and affective underpinnings. Donatella has authored several publications on populist narratives, emotions and securitisation, as well as populist party competition, with an empirical focus on Italy and France.

Impact, Communications and Dissemination

Headshot of Josh Allen

Josh Allen

Communications Officer

Josh Allen is the Web and Social Media Manager of the Populism in Action Project, creating its innovative online dissemination of research engaging with academics, journalists, policymakers, and interested members of the public.

Josh has developed academic research communications, targeting both specialist and non-specialist audiences. He has been the Digital Engagement Officer for the Past & Present Society since 2016. He previously worked for both the University of Warwick and the University of Birmingham in marketing/communications, public engagement, and research impact.

Josh also works with a range of heritage and arts organisations in the West Midlands and beyond. As a journalist, he has written for The Observer, New Statesman, Vice, Apollo, and the London Review of Books, as well as numerous regional and specialist publications.

Josh earned his BA in History (2013) at the University of York and his MA in Modern British Studies (2017) at the University of Birmingham.

Headshot of Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas

Professor of American Studies

Scott Lucas became Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham in 2014, having joined the University faculty in 1989 and serving as a Professor of American Studies since 1997.

He has written and edited 11 books, more than 60 major academic articles, and a radio documentary, and he co-directed the 2007 film Laban!.

Scott began his career as a specialist in US and British foreign policy, but his research interests now also cover current international affairs — especially North Africa, the Middle East, and Iran — New Media and Politics, Propaganda, and Intelligence Services.

A professional journalist since 1979, Scott founded EA WorldView in 2008. He appears regularly on British, American, and international radio and television as a specialist on current affairs, politics, and history.

Scott has been an Adjunct Professor at Tehran University and a member of the Executive Board of the Center for American Studies and Research at American University Beirut, and he is currently an Adjunct Professor with the Clinton Institute at University College Dublin. He has also been Editor of the Journal of American Studies.