Dr. Maria Esperanza Casullo

January 9, 2017
Q&A with Maria Esperanza Casullo

As the 2016–17 Zuzana Simoniova Cmelikova Visiting Scholar in Leadership and Ethics, Dr. Maria Esperanza Casullo is taking a break from her role as associate professor at the Universidad Nacional de Río Negro in Argentina and spending time conducting research and teaching at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.

Casullo’s scholarship explores democratic theory and populism. While at the Jepson School, she’s writing articles and book chapters and editing her manuscript. This spring, Casullo is teaching a leadership studies special topics course: Leaders or Demagogues? The Construction of Populist Leaders in South America, the U.S. and Europe in the New Century. The course, which will be linked with Dr. Ernesto Semán’s special topics course, will examine the main conceptual definitions of political populism, discuss the ways in which populist leaders construct their politic power, and analyze historical differences between left wing and right wing populisms.

Below, Casullo discusses her research, teaching, and perception of Richmond.

What research questions are you exploring while you’re here?

I’ve been working for the last, roughly, ten years on the Latin American population because we had this wave of populist governments coming to power. But now I’m moving in another direction that really interests me—the question would be: Why in Latin America and other parts of the world, you get many more cases of left wing populism, while in the U.S. and Europe nowadays you get a wave of right-wing populism?

What inspired your interest in these topics?

The political landscape, I guess. It’s very interesting for those who study populism because populism was supposed to be, sort of, dead. Everybody was very confident that populism is a thing that only new democracies have, or weak democracies or struggling democracies have...Populism is not something that happens in fledgling democracies, that it’s something that’s present as a possibility in every democracy.

What do you hope students get out of your course?

I want them to understand is that populism is something that belongs to democratic governance. That it’s not something you cannot just wish away…that there is a certain logic to populist style of leadership.

I’m hoping that we can use a sort of toolbox, which is the toolbox for the construction of populist leadership.

What has been your favorite thing about Richmond so far?

The art museum is really great. The food is really great. There’s great playgrounds, so my kids like that. It’s a good-size city…it’s small enough that the daily routine is easy… but it’s big enough that you have enough things going on that you don’t get bored.