Conference will bring international names to discuss the various manifestations of authoritarian neoliberalism, reactionary populism

Find out more about the panels and events happening in the first 2 days of #CAPS22

Between the 16th and 21st of May, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in Berlin will host the conference „Contesting Authoritarianism: Perspectives from the South“, as part of the research conducted by the International Research Group on Authoritarianism and Counterstrategies (IRGAC).

The complete schedule can be found here and registration can be done here

During this week leading up to the event, we will publish details of each panel, event and film program. Here, you will find more information about the first two days of #CAPS22


[10am – 12 am]

Inaugural Conference : „The crisis of civilization & the authoritarian turn“
On this panel, we want to reflect on some of the coordinates that guide our debates around crisis and global authoritarianism as well as practices of resistance solidarity.
Which facets of what has been coined multiple crises appear as crucial in different contexts such as Latin America, Europe and Turkey and the WANA region? How is this crisis – or are these multiple crises – actually perceived, lived and politicized (or de-politicized)?

How do we conceptualize the current authoritarianism in relation to the past decades of neoliberal transformations? What are the driving forces of authoritarianism today – who is mobilizing, who is mobilized, and how can we grasp the political subjects that emerge in this process?

Is there any kind of identifiable authoritarian political project, or should we consider authoritarianism as merely reactionary in the strict sense?

And finally, where do we see promising antiauthoritarian struggles and possibly new common horizons for emancipation happening today?

With Alex Demirovic (Institut für Gesellschaftsanalyse, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung), Zeynep Gambetti (Independent Scholar, Political Theorist, Affiliated with Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey), Hugo Fanton (Brazilian Activist and Collaborating Professor in Political Science at the University of São Paulo, IRGAC) and Börries Nehe (Coordinator of the International Research Group on Authoritarianism & Counterstrategies, IRGAC).

[2 pm – 4 pm]

Alternative Democracies / Alternatives to Democracy
We currently live in a civilization crisis accompanied by a global authoritarianism turn. Many are led to believe that we live “a crisis of democracy” as a result of a broader capitalist crisis. But what is exactly the relation between democracy and capitalism? How do people conceive it and construct their alternative forms of organization in-and-beyond democracy in the current scenario?

This discussion will focus on how social struggles such as the EZLN-CNI, the Kurdish Movement and Chilean protests resist and propose anti-capitalist practices that defy our “democratic” vision to take us out of the current crisis and imagine new worlds.

With Azize Aslan (Kurdish Sociologist and Researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico), Inés Durán Matute (Activist and Researcher at the Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico, IRGAC), Katia Valenzuela Fuentes (Activist and Researcher at the University of Concepción and at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development – CEDEUS, Chile). Moderation: Dario Farcy (Activist in the Recovery Factories Movement, Argentina – Bloque Latinoamericano, Berlin).

Transnational Strategies of the Far-Right
The growing visibility and significance of radical-right politics both within and beyond Europe demands a radical rethinking of discriminatory and violent political ideologies that are forged in the everyday.

How do radical right groups appeal to the wider society? How do they exert a radical influence over politics? How are we to study and understand this radical transformation?

Tapping into these questions, this panel explores the transnational workings far-right groups to come up with common trends underpinning their rise and perseverance across rather diverse settings. It focuses particularly on the interlinks between such as well as how the radical right is mainstreamed in the last two decades, how their discourses now inform policies (e.g., immigration), and how the way the state operates is radically configured in relation to this growing centrality and influence (e.g., vigilante violence).

With Erol Saglam (Researcher at the Free University of Berlin and at the Istanbul Medeniyet University, Turkey, IRGAC), Lise Benoist (Researcher and Member of the Zetkin Collective, France), R.Y. (Russian Journalist and anti-fascist Activist)
Moderation: Anika Taschke (Advisor for Neo-Nazism and Structures / Ideologies of Discrimination, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Berlin).

[8 pm – 10 pm]
Everything Must Fall

(Rehad Desai, South Africa/Netherlands/Belgium 2019, 85 min.)

A group of students in Johannesburg’s Wits University protest against unaffordable fees. As the #FeesMustFall movement gradually spreads across the country, it becomes a junction for myriad issues, from class struggle to the heritage of the Apartheid, gender politics, and South Africa’s history of colonialism. Intertwining all these topics, Rehad Desai’s documentary follows the internal struggles and evolution of the student movement through different points of view.

The screening is part of the „Contesting Authoritarianism“ film program curated by Berke Göl and Nafiseh Fathollahzadeh.


[10 am – 12 am]

Labour policies and worker’s struggles in authoritarian contexts

This panel tackles the urgent issues in the world of work and how new forms of exploitation have evolved in the current neoliberal capitalist structures under the context of rising authoritarianism in many parts of the world. Workers have become disposable, disempowered and situated in different dimensions of precarity, and more so under the authoritarian turn of neoliberal capitalism. The panel seeks to understand the current conditions and possibilities to advance workers rights in the context of authoritarianism towards crafting political alternatives and counterstrategies.

With Alexander Gallas (Assistant Professor at the University of Kassel, Germany), Verna Viajar (Activist and Researcher at the University of the Philippines, IRGAC), Dario Azzellini (Activist and Researcher at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, Mexico), Julia Dück (Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Berlin)
Moderation: Mariano Féliz (Activist and Researcher at the National University of La Plata, Argentina, IRGAC)

Infringement of academic freedoms and counter-strategies

This roundtable discussion will focus on the shrinking space for academic freedoms and repressions in the field of knowledge production against the backdrop of spreading authoritarianism and neoliberalism. The discussion will bring out examples from Germany, India, Poland, Russia, and Turkey while reflecting on the parallels and connections between the Global North and the Global South contexts. In this regard, the panel will address the continuities between the effects of the neoliberal restructuring of higher education, the authoritarian infringements over academic freedoms, and the expulsion and marginalization of critical academics in different contexts.

The neoliberal restructuring and privatization of academia in the last decades eroded the notion of knowledge production for public good and the right of equal access to education while intensifying the hierarchies among the academic personnel. Furthermore, the entrenchment of authoritarian regimes and regional wars in the last decade have caused severe crackdowns on dissident academics in countries like Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan, Hungary, and Russia. The anti-gender discourses targeting women and LGBTQ+ people, and the anti-intellectualism of populist politics emerge as crucial components of the attacks of authoritarian governments on the critical academia. These developments have caused thousands of academics from authoritarian and violent regimes to flee to the so-called liberal democratic countries in recent years with the aid of transnational solidarity initiatives. However, these organized efforts and sentiments of solidarity have been complicated by the neoliberal organization of labour and knowledge production, widespread precarity, and the rigid hierarchies in academia reflecting post-colonial power relations along with the exclusionary migration regimes of the host countries. In this meeting, we aim to unpack the hard and soft measures expressive of the authoritarian and neoliberalizing trends in the forms of the market-oriented transformation of the field of knowledge production, strategies of disciplining the academic personnel and students, and the outright repression and criminalization of dissident academics. In addition, we will discuss strategies to outmaneuver and counter these trends through solidarity initiatives and collective action across borders and capable of including different constituents of academia.

With: Arshi Javid (Gender and Media Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin / Kashmir), Ta- tiana Levina (Academy in Exile Fellow and Researcher at the Kulturwissenschaft- liches Institut, Essen, Germany), Tomasz Kitlinski (Margherita-von-Brentano-Zen- trum, Freie Universität, Berlin – Academy in Exile- IIE-SRF / Poland), Achim Rohde (Researcher at Freie Universität Berlin – Academy in Exile, Germany), Ülker Sözen (Sociologist at Alice Salomon Hochschule, Berlin / Turkey, IRGAC)
room 0.07, Straße der Pariser Kommune 8a

Countering Authoritarianism Through Knowledge: Alternative Methodologies, Sources, and Approaches On and From the Middle East and North Africa

By drawing on the research of six inter-and multidisciplinary scholars, artists, and activists, this roundtable discussion and conversation highlights new sources, intersectional methodologies, and alternative ways of thinking about power relationships across various activist and intellectual milieus in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Specifically, by focusing on alternative methodologies and sources in authoritarian sociopolitical contexts, the discussion will tackle the emergence of new political subjectivities during revolutionary times, the construction of narratives around memory and remembrance of societal violence, and the emergence of new faces of political violence. The conversation will also focus on the role of everyday resistance to changes in a city’s urban and social spheres, the processes of unlearning by countering the imperial grammar of archives and rehearsing new narratives, and the rise of local knowledge between communities through informal rules and practices. The roundtable will critically reconsider the boundaries of ‚positionality, ‚ethics,‘ and ‚reliable information,‘ and in research and knowledge production from, in, and on the MENA.

With: Himmat Zoubi (Forum Transregionale Studien/EUME, IRGAC), Nafiseh Fathollahzadeh (Forum Transregionale Studien/EUME, IRGAC), Jeffrey G. Karam (Lebanese American University – Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics, Freie Universität Berlin – Forum Transregionale Studien/EUME, IRGAC), Dina El-Sharnouby (Activist and Researcher at the Free University of Berlin), Erol Saglam (Researcher at the Free University of Berlin and at the Istanbul Medeniyet University, Turkey, IRGAC)
Saker El Nour (Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics, Freie Universität Berlin, IRGAC)
Moderation: Jeffrey G. Karam and Dina El-Sharnouby

[4.30 pm – 6.30 pm]

Media Practices as Acts of Resistance within Authoritarian Terrains

Various media forms play a constitutive role in shaping the habitats that we live in. In the case of authoritarian contexts, this constitutive role of diverse media forms in shaping the contours of life worlds can open up possibilities to configure resisting practices and narratives. The round table will focus on the scope for such possibilities by using examples from Myanmar, India and Thailand. How can specific media practices disrupt the perceived consensus around authoritarian narratives and forms of rule? How do media practitioners and journalists create spaces of resistance in diverse authoritarian contexts? These are some of the questions that the round table will address by drawing from varied experiences including that of filmmakers from Myanmar as well as journalists in Thailand and leftist and left leaning grass roots film screening initiatives from India.

With: Fathima Nizaruddin (Researcher & Documentary Filmmaker, India, IRGAC), Praphakorn Lippert (Researcher at the University of Passau, Germany), Nwet Kay Khine (Researcher at the University of Passau, Germany / Myanmar, IRGAC)

Moderation: Wolfram Schaffar (Professor at the University of Passau, Germany)

Authoritarianism from a (post)colonial perspective

In the cases of Global South authoritarianism, their deep connections to the colonial experiences of each society are often clear. Even in the Global North, authoritarianism can be traced back to reactions of traditional elites against advances of movements who question the colonial foundations of contemporary social and political order. These reflections offer a starting point to rethink the meaning of Authoritarianism from the colonial roots of modernity and the liberal conception of politics. This panel will promote dialogues on ‘authoritarianism’ and the ‘South/North’ divide as key categories of world politics through the lens of colonial capitalism and gather contributions that might take the contemporary uses of authoritarianism beyond their liberal foundations.

With: Pedro Salgado (Lecturer at the Oxford Brookes University, UK / Brazil, IRGAC), Amira Abdelhamid (Activist and Researcher at the University of Sussex, UK / Egypt), Ricardo Pagliuso Regatieri (Professor at the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil)

*cover image: Everything Must Fall

Conference will bring international names to discuss the various manifestations of authoritarian neoliberalism, reactionary populism