Contesting Authoritarianism: Perspectives from the South
The conference “Contesting Authoritarianism: Perspectives from the South“ will take place from May 16–21 at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung in Berlin. It is aimed at scholars, activists, students, journalists, and all those interested in the various manifestations of authoritarian neoliberalism, reactionary populism, and strategies of resistance. In various formats—panel discussions, workshops, film screenings, performances, etc.—activists from Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia will shed light on different aspects of authoritarian ideologies, movements, and governments, and discuss emancipatory alternatives.
The conference takes as its starting-point the debates and results of research conducted within the framework of the International Research Group on Authoritarianism and Counterstrategies (IRGAC). The awkward concept of authoritarianism, which is also increasingly present in liberal discourses, will be discussed from the standpoint of critiques of capitalism, and from interdisciplinary and transregional perspectives. In this way, the question of capitalism’s current authoritarian turn, which is often negotiated exclusively within a national or European framework, will be pursued from an internationalist perspective. The subtitle of the conference refers not only to the so-called “Global South”, but also to a political and epistemic positioning in a (post-)colonial world. Accordingly, questions concerning the political, economic, and ideological reordering of the world and the global contexts and entanglements of authoritarian-populist developments and actors will be a special focus.
Central thematic areas of the conference will be: feminism and antifeminism, the increasing precariousness of working and living conditions, knowledge and knowledge production in authoritarian contexts, the crisis of democracy, art, culture and opportunities for anti-authoritarian counterstrategies, and socio-ecological crisis and transformation.
The conference will take place exclusively in-person, but parts of it will be filmed and made available later. The working language is English, and interpreters are as yet not planned due to the formats and the multiplicity of languages.
To attend the conference please register here.
It is not just since the outbreak of the pandemic that the world has found itself in a multifaceted crisis—a civilizational crisis, as some observers write. The ecological crisis coincides with overlapping national, regional, and international political crises, a global crisis of representation and, by extension, of the legitimacy of (neo-)liberal democracies, massive economic dislocations, and a long train of closely related migration, health, social, and other crises. The effects of these crises—and this, too, is something we already knew before COVID-19—are globally very uneven, while at the same time they contribute to deepening global inequality. But by representing a rupture and failure of hegemonic ideological forms of representation, crises also enable us to understand the social world in new ways. In this respect, crises can also open up new possibilities for action and new spaces for utopias and political emancipation.
According to Antonio Gramsci’s well-known formulation, the crisis “consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.” Authoritarian and populist governments and movements can be seen as such symptoms of crisis. For all their diversity, what they have in common is that they respond to global problems and do so within an increasingly interconnected field of global communication with exclusionary responses and ideologies of inequality that invoke the national, ethnic, or religious collective; and that they systematically suppress critical voices while promoting discourses that are discussed under such headings as post truth and alternative facts while, paradoxically, making claims to universality (e.g., by purporting to represent the “true voice of the people,” “common sense,” or “tradition”). Thus, authoritarian discourse and practice actively prevent a “global”, interconnected view of the state of the world.
This means that we are facing a worldwide phenomenon (“global authoritarianism”), which on closer inspection, however, does not in fact show up as global, but as exceedingly heterogeneous and fragmented Critical knowledge production and left politics, which take an international and internationalist perspective, are therefore confronted with a variety of political as well as theoretical and conceptual problems. Thus, the central question arises whether and how these often very different authoritarianisms can be productively conceived of together, if at all:
Where are the convergences, connections, and parallels between the often processes of authoritarian transformation worldwide? What characterizes authoritarian neoliberal regimes beyond the fact that they fall short of the cherished standards of liberal democracies in terms of the exercise of civil rights? Can the concept of authoritarianism provide us with anything more than a formal description of what, in the worst case, is seen merely as a “deviation” from the ideal liberal model of the state?
In particular, it seems crucial to us that beyond a mere debate over regime types, we focus on the ideological, economic, and socio-political aspects of authoritarian developments and reflect on them together. Do authoritarianisms share an identifiable (ideological or ontological) core? Does the current phase differ appreciably from other, preceding phases of authoritarian capitalist rule, such as we can periodically observe in Europe, Latin America, WANA, Southeast Asia, and numerous other regions? And if so, in what way, i.e., what facets and dimensions actually give this authoritarian phase its specificity? Are they, for example, ideological, political, technical or economic issues?
And if they can be seen as symptoms of a sick world, do they really stem from the same sickness—i.e., the same crises? How do they relate to each other, i.e. the economic crisis to the crisis of masculinity, for example, or the latter to the ecological crisis? And what processes—not only economic or political but also technological, ideological, or emotional—are identifiable in these often vague forms of authoritarianism?
Last but not least, we also wish to ask what it actually means to think “globally” and “from the South” in the context just outlined—i. e., how can we critically reflect on global relations (of inequality) while positioning ourselves, in political and epistemic terms, beyond identitarian attributions? How can we produce critical knowledge while taking into account the relations in which this production necessarily takes place? And above all: how can we overcome these relations and oppose them with emancipatory politics and concrete utopias? This last question also points directly to the problem of internationalist resistance to authoritarianism: beyond the better arguments, what is needed—discursively, figuratively, aesthetically, emotionally—for an internationalist, anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist practice with the capacity to mobilize?
We can only confront the globality and multidimensionality of the current authoritarian transformation of neoliberalism through collective, transdisciplinary, and internationalist ways of thinking and acting. “Contesting Authoritarianism: Perspectives from the South” is intended as a space for that and a contribution to it.
Time & Location
May 16, 2022 – May 21, 2022
Straße der Pariser Kommune 8A