FRIAS Junior Researcher Conference on Authoritarianism & Democracies, Freiburg, march 17 to 19, 2021
Recent electoral processes have paved the way for authoritarian politicians to come to power in the Philippines, Brazil, Hungary, and the US. Albeit to different degrees, democratically elected officials have advanced an authoritarian turn in state-society relations, i.e. by ruling through presidential decrees as in Colombia or Brazil, or by limiting the freedom of assembly through anti-protest laws, as in Spain.
This conference aims at gaining a deeper understanding of the relationship between democracy and authoritarianism beyond the boundaries of the nation-state. It explores both the authoritarian turn in democratic settings and “democracy prevention” in states like China, thereby assessing the phenomenon from two perspectives. Given the global scope of ‘new authoritarianism’, the main idea of the conference is to foreground the complex processes of mutual interconnection and constitution engrained in the history of political struggle within and between the Global South and Global North.
Despite the visibly transnational dynamics of the problem, much research continues to conceive the tension between democracy and authoritarianism as a problem unfolding within the boundaries of the nation-state or in terms of great power competition. Now, closer attention is paid to discursive practices and the links between authoritarian practices and global economic conditions (“Authoritarian Neoliberalism”).
These discussions, essential for the conference, reposition and destabilize common assumptions about ‘authoritarian regimes’. They do so by drawing on research on and from the Global South, which is of crucial relevance for research and policy making in the Global North. The conference stimulates new analytical pathways by enabling an interdisciplinary debate on authoritarianism and democracy, while drawing on thus far disconnected perspectives of scale and entanglement.
The conference design is guided by two principles: (1) dialogue between early career and senior scholars and (2) multidisciplinary dialogue.