ZOiS Conference 2021

Politics from Below: Reasserting or Transcending the Democratic Paradigm?

ZOiS Conference 2021

Politics from Below: Reasserting or Transcending the Democratic Paradigm?


What do recent regional or global trends of mass protests tell us about the state of democracy and authoritarianism and about state-society relations more generally? The ZOiS Conference 2021 explores the factors shaping recent waves of protest activism. Are there similarities in the strategies of mobilization used across regimes, spaces, countries and regions?  What is the age profile of those who make themselves heard in different political settings around the world? What is the role of different off- and online-spaces enabling or constraining mobilization? Has Covid-19 changed the politics from below? Through dialogue between different academic disciplines and area expertise, the conference will assess whether regional and global trends of mobilization from below fit into a democratization paradigm or whether it constitutes a new, local and potentially more radical form of politics that transcends the dividing line between democratic and authoritarian regimes.


27 January 2021

2 pm Opening Gwendolyn Sasse, Christian Schaich

2.15 pm – 3.45 pm Panel 1 Activism over Time

  • Michael Rasell (University of Lincoln): A Latent Influence: Older People’s Mobilisation and the Symbolic Role of their Interests in the Russian Federation
  • Christos Varvantakis (Goldsmiths, University of London): A Closer Look: Children, Families and Political Activism
  • Tom Junes (European University Institute): Whither the Student Movement in Poland?
  • Chair: Félix Krawatzek (ZOiS)
  • Discussant: Eeva Luhtakallio (University of Helsinki

4.15 pm – 5.15 pm Graduate Student Poster Session (incl. discussion with the students)

5.30 pm – 7 pm Keynote Lecture (via Livestream): Vectors of Contentious Mobilization: From Below, From Above, or Sideways?

  • Jan Kubik (Rutgers University/SSEES, University College London)
  • Chair: Gwendolyn Sasse (ZOiS)


7 pm (Virtual) Reception

28 January 2021

1 pm – 2 pm Public Panel Discussion Politics from below: A Global Perspective

  • Graeme Robertson (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
  • Dr. Karolina Wigura, University of Warsaw
  • Olga Onuch (University of Manchester)
  • Richard Youngs (Carnegie Europe)
  • Chair: Gwendolyn Sasse (ZOiS)


2.15 pm – 3.45 pm Panel Mobilisation and Regime Responses

  • Aspirations Crushed: Uyghurs in Reforming China Ildikó Bellér-Hann (University of Copenhagen)
  • Opposition and State Relations in Azerbaijan: Ideological Hegemony versus the Perpetual Underdog Sofie Bedford (Uppsala University)
  • Belarus: Mobilisation of State and Society in the Context of Crises Nadja Douglas (ZOiS)
  • Chair and Discussant: Jonas Wolff (HSFK, Frankfurt a. M.)

4.15 pm – 5.30 pm Conversations around a (Virtual) Table: Parallel Sessions

Table 1: Urban Spaces

  • Broadening the Picture: Everyday and Invisible Activism in Serbia Piotr Goldstein (ZOiS)
  • From DIY Bottom-up Activism towards a New Meaning of the ‘Political’ in Russia Oleg Pachenkov (European University at St. Petersburg)
  • Moderator: Tsypylma Darieva (ZOiS)

Table 2: Transnational Spaces

  • All Roads Lead to Brussels? An Environmental Activists’ Perspective from Ukraine Anna Ackermann (Ecoaction, Kyiv)
  • Civil Society Activism in an Age of ‘Stabilitocracy’, ‘Backsliding’ and Illiberal Politics Adam Fagan (King’s College London)
  • Empty Spaces? New Localism and the Redefinition of Social Movement Activism in Hungary Aron Buzogány (Universität für Bodenkultur, Wien / Freie Universität Berlin):
  • Moderator: Julia Langbein (ZOiS)

Table 3: Online/Digital Spaces of Activism

  • Affordances of Social Media for Organizing in Authoritarian Spaces Katy Pearce (University of Washington)
  • Wanted pavilion: Bad Jokes in Interesting Times Zoya Falkova (Visual Artist, Almaty/Kazakhstan)
  • Moderator: Regina Elsner (ZOiS)

5.30 pm – 6 pm Brief Summary of the Conversations and Closing Remarks