Why to fight against dictatorship at high personal costs?

EDP Workshop at PRIF on political activism and its leadership in autocracies

Why do political activists (and especially their movement’s leaders) fight against dictatorship and for political change even under high risk of imprison­ment, torture or capital punish­ment? Given the reper­toire of intimi­dation and re­pression avail­able to authori­tarian incumbents, fighting against their rule can come at a high cost, en­dangering the well-being of individual activists as well as that of their closest allies. The long-term deten­tions of leading op­ponents to authori­tarian rule such as Nelson Mandela, or Aung San Suu Kyi and the recent death of the human rights activist and Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo provide striking examples.

In recent years, scholars from different dis­ciplinary angles have in­creasingly turned their attention to political activism in auto­cracies. Studying the emer­gence, and endurance of political activism and social move­ments, scholars from sociology and political science focus on political op­portunities such as regime structures, socio-economic context, and external support, as well as pre-existing social net­works, previous protest ex­perience, and existing com­munication channels to explain political activism. Anthro­po­logists and ethno­logists inves­ti­gate political activism as a socio-cultural practice that is strongly rooted in local contexts while being also mobile beyond national borders. Re­searchers in the field of political psy­chology prefer to high­light personality traits such as values, attitudes, and self-attributed personality characteristics to study individual activism.

This work­shop intends to bring these different per­spectives together in order to com­pre­hensively analyse and explain the reasons, motivation and mobili­zation mechanisms of political activism and its leader­ship in auto­cracies. The work­shop might serve as the starting point for creating an inter-dis­ci­plinary scholarly net­work on political activism in auto­cracies.

Workshop:Why to fight against dictatorship at high personal costs? Studying political activism and its leadership in autocracies

When: 17 & 18 January 2019
Where: Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF), Baseler Straße 27-31, 60329 Frankfurt
The workshop is not open to the public.

The work­shop is organized by PD Dr. Sonja Grimm (U Konstanz/U Basel) and Dr. Annika Elena Poppe (PRIF) in co­operation with the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) and financially supported by the German Re­search Net­work External Demo­cracy Promotion (EDP) funded by the Leibniz Asso­ciation.