[Air-L] Call for Papers: Hate speech as political communication; global uses and abuses

Matti Pohjonen matti.pohjonen at gmail.com
Sat Mar 10 04:18:39 PST 2018

International workshop/conference

Title: Hate speech as political communication; global uses and abuses*

Convenors: Dina Matar, Centre for Global Media and Communication & Matti
Pohjonen, researcher/research associate CGMC*

Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS*
Date: 31 May 2018*
Time 10:00 to 17:00*

Call for papers:

The public, and intellectual, mood about new media's promise to bring about
positive change globally has recently turned eerily grim: the wisdom of
crowds has been replaced by disinformation and fake news; grassroots
activism by populism identified by its use of racist, xenophobic and
misogynist hate speech and images in public and media spaces. Indeed, it
seems that one of the most urgent debates in our contemporary social and
political lives has become the way communication is now failing us. While
there is increasing concern over terrorist recruitment campaigns on social
media, coordinated troll attacks aimed at silencing critical voices.
Twitter bots manipulating social media popularity rankings; online
ecosystems of fake news influencing elections and eroding the foundations
of democracy itself and offline strategies and actions, there is no
scholarly agreement, let alone a common vocabulary, on how to understand
the ill-effects of “internet freedoms” or how to relate them to the
much-contested concept of freedom of speech.

Much of the academic writing on hate speech remains concerned with
cause-and-effect, and, in particular, with tracking how or whether negative
online speech can lead to violence in digital spaces, neglecting other
spaces where this phenomenon is also prominent. The expanding literature
suggests that online activity can indeed contribute to violence offline in
some cases, but it remains theoretically unspecified what the
differentiated role of “online” activity is, and how this causal or
quasi-causal relationship can be determined. Furthermore, there is little
or no attention to different, and perhaps contextual, understandings of the
“right to communicate” (often referred to as ‘freedom of speech’) or to
what specific media regulations are in place in diverse political/cultural
contexts. Finally, while much scholarly attention has been accorded to the
rise of online hate speech in the Western world particularly in the context
of migration and Islamophobia, little attention has been paid to similar
phenomena in Asia, Africa and the Middle East where different
socio-historical contexts and histories of media practices and political
uses of hate speech need to be acknowledged.

This conference/workshop seeks to move beyond the relatively safe purview
of Western liberal democracies and address how hate/extreme speech has also
been widely used and misused as a proxy for all other kinds of other
political purposes by different actors. Indeed, as Gagliardone at al (2015)
write that "accusations of fomenting hate speech may be traded among
political opponents or used by those in power to curb dissent and criticism
(2015: 10)." The freedom of speech organisation, Article 19 (2015: 16),
similarly cautions against "too readily identifying expressions as "hate
speech" ... as its use can also have negative consequences ... and can be
abused to justify inappropriate restrictions on the right to freedom of
expression, in particular in cases of marginalised or vulnerable
communities." These concerns become more urgent to address in Asia, Africa,
the Middle East and South America where contexts of protracted conflict and
displacement, control measures by political elites and would-be political
actors, as well as the absence of a consensual approach to understanding
what ‘the right to communicate’ means, complicate analysis further.

Given these difficulties and the widespread rise in the hate speech
phenomena worldwide, this one-day conference/workshop approaches these
important debates about hate speech/extreme speech through a comparative
perspective. Rather than asking what the “effects” of "hate speech" are, it
will instead look at how hate speech online as well as in other spaces has
been used as a /distinct form of political communication practice /that
emerges in diverse//cultures of communication in different parts of the
world. Foregrounding cultures of communication in the analysis allows us to
focus on the symbiotic relationship between language, culture and politics
as well as on diverse practices and particular histories of speech
cultures.By using comparative approaches that address when and what form
does hate speech take, and by which actors, we hope to complicate the
discourse of media “risk” increasingly invoked to legitimate speech
restrictions and ask questions about how and under which circumstances do
different actors engage in online and offline vitriol and their
implications, thus widening the lens beyond the West and turns the focus on
the rapidly expanding media worlds of the global South.

We are interested in arguments/articles around mediated hate speech in
non-Western contexts, including countries in Asia, Africa, Middle East,
South America and their diasporas. Topics include but are not limited to:

- Hate speech in the context of social, political and ethnic conflict

- Hate speech and freedom of expression

- Media regulation, law and hate speech

 - Gendering hate speech

- Hate speech as a form of media practice

- Vernacular language and hate speech

- Hate speech as a form of political violence and/or resistance

- The uses and abuses of hate speech as instruments of power and control

- Genealogies of online hate cultures

- Hate speech and theories of political communication

Please send your abstracts (300 words) to Dina Matar at dm27 at soas.ac.uk by 31st
of March, 2018.

Notifications about acceptance will be sent by 14th of April.

Abstracts should contain an outline of the argument and how it fits the
theme of the workshop.  Please include a brief biography and affiliation
together with the abstracts.

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