Skip to content
      MESF Workshop

Digital Activism in Authoritarian Contexts

May 30-31 & June 1, 2023

Technologies mediate power. When they are used by activists, they contribute to networking activists on a larger scale, self-representation, and empowerment. In the meantime, the intertwined political and business interests and social prejudice shape technologies and render them into surveillance tools silencing unappealing voices to the ear of authoritarian regimes, putting activists’ life at risk, and further imposing threats on deliberative democracy. Strategies and alternative technologies are thus used by political activists to navigate sorts of constraints imposed by technologies and authorities. This paradoxical impact of technologies has been felt across authoritarian regimes, with the widespread adoption and popularity of digital technologies among both people and governments over the past two decades. In this project, ‘technologies’ are non-specifically defined as we wanted to bring together studies focusing broadly on a variety of digital or non-digital technologies, their different roles in shaping digital activism across authoritarian contexts, and their impact on democracy. Through this, we contest a technology-centered perspective while acknowledging a non-universal, historical use of technologies and activist practices.

We are organizing this workshop as part of our research project ‘Emerging digital technologies and the future of democracy in the Muslim world’, funded by Gerda Henkel Foundation. While our project focuses on Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, through this workshop we wanted to bring together a group of scholars who are working on other contexts too. We received a very encouraging response to our call for papers and have selected 13 papers examining technologies, digital activism and digital authoritarianism in various contexts, such as China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria. A key purpose of this workshop is to produce an edited book on technologies and digital activism in authoritarian contexts.

We thank the Gerda Henkel Foundation and Deakin University for supporting this project. We are hoping that the papers in this workshop will promote a better understanding of authoritarian contexts around the world.

For all the details, including the full program, paper abstracts and bios, you can access the workshop booklet here.


Day 1 (30 May) in-person (12:00 AM- 14:30 PM (AEST): Registration 

Venue: Building BC, Deakin University Corporate Centre, Burwood

Day 1 (30 May) via Zoom  Registration 

Day 2 (31 May) via Zoom Registration 

Day 3 (1 June) via Zoom Registration