Workshop “Theorizing Publics under Authoritarian Rule” Takes Place on June 19-21 at FU Berlin

Participants of the workshop. Photo by Daria Kravets
Participants of the workshop. Photo by Daria Kravets

The workshop organised by the Emmy-Noether group brought together leading theorists of the public sphere in Western democracies and scholars of media and communication under authoritarian rule. The aim of the event was to encourage the creation of novel theoretical thought about forms, modes, and types of “publics” in (semi-)authoritarian political life. 


The workshop started with keynotes by Slavko Splichal, of the University of Ljubljana, and Florian Toepfl, of FU Berlin. Prof. Splichal talked about the transformation of privateness and publicness in today’s world, where new media blur the boundaries between interpersonal and mass communication. Dr. Toepfl presented his theory of authoritarian publics that offers a framework for analysing publics in restrictive political environments. 


The workshop was structured as a dialogue between the public sphere theorists and the scholars of authoritarian regimes. Four discussion panels addressed the following key questions of studying publics under authoritarian rule: Can/should we adopt the concept of (the) public(s) (sphere) to study political communication in authoritarian contexts? How can we empirically analyse digital publics? How can we compare public communication and publics across different political contexts?


Leading scholars from both fields of research participated in the event, including Svetlana Bodrunova (St. Petersburg University), Lincoln Dahlberg (independent scholar, New Zealand), Susanne Fengler (TU Dortmund), Michael Meyen (LMU München), Barbara Pfetsch (FU Berlin), Carola Richter (FU Berlin), Natalia Roudakova (Södertörn University), Slavko Splichal (University of Ljubljana), Daniela Stockmann (Hertie School of Governance), Ingrid Volkmer (University of Melbourne), Katrin Voltmer (University of Leeds), Hartmut Wessler (University of Mannheim), and others.  


 The programme of the event can be downloaded as a PDF here