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

Matti Pohjonen matti.pohjonen at gmail.com
Thu Mar 15 01:42:05 PDT 2018

Please find the edited version of the call for proposal -- there were a few
mistakes/attributions that needed to be changed.  Apologies for the


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crowds has been replaced by disinformation and fake news; grassroots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 failing us.

As key events around the emergence of the Islamic State/Daesh, the Trump
presidency and the resurgence of extreme far-right movements in Europe and
the US attest, a new lexicon of online political tactics has emerged
researchers are struggling to come with a vocabulary to describe: terrorist
recruitment campaigns on social media; coordinated troll attacks aimed at
silencing critical voices; Twitter bots manipulating social media
popularity rankings; and online ecosystems of fake news influencing
elections and eroding the foundations of democracy itself. Yet despite
these visible public controversies, there is still little scholarly
agreement on how to understand the ill-effects of’ internet’ freedoms and
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, to tracking how or whether such
negative online speech can lead to violence offline. The expanding
literature suggests that such online activity can indeed contribute to
violence offline, but it remains theoretically unspecified what the
differentiated role of “online” activity is, and how this causal or
quasi-causal relationship can be determined in the first place.
Furthermore, there is little or no attention to different, and perhaps
contextual, understandings of the “right to communicate”, often referred to
as the blanket term ‘freedom of speech’, nor to what specific media
regulations there are 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 need to be acknowledged.

This workshop seeks to move beyond the relatively safe purview of Western
liberal democracies and address how global hate speech debates have also
been widely used as a proxy for all other kinds of other purposes by
different actors. Indeed, as Gagliardone at al (2015) write "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 and the Middle East and Africa where real
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 a causal analysis.

Given these difficulties in understanding the widespread rise in the hate
speech phenomena worldwide, this one-day workshop approaches these
important debates about hate speech through a comparative perspective.
Drawing on the concept of “extreme speech” (Pohjonen and Udupa 2017) –
developed to foreground such culturally-situated contexts behind online
hate speech in different parts of the world – the workshop thus focuses on
how the discourse of hate speech itself has been used and abused as a
distinct form of political communication by different state and non-state
actors globally. 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, we hope to complicate the discourse of Internet
“risk” increasingly invoked to legitimate online speech restrictions and
ask questions about how and under what circumstances do different online
actors engage in hate speech, and with what implications, thus widening the
focus beyond the West to the rapidly expanding online worlds of the Global

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.


Dr. Matti Pohjonen
Researcher | Occasional Artist | Weary-eyed futurist
matti-pohjonen.com | Twitter <https://twitter.com/objetpetitm> | Facebook
<https://www.facebook.com/mattipohjonen> | Linked-in

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