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Marketing Authoritarian Practices at Home and Abroad

Institutions
International relations
VIR14
Maria Josua
German Institute of Global And Area Studies
Alexander Dukalskis
University College Dublin

Tuesday 09:00 - 12:00 (19/04/2022)

Wednesday 09:00 - 12:20 (20/04/2022)

Thursday 09:00 - 12:20 (21/04/2022)

Friday 09:00 - 10:20 (22/04/2022)


Authoritarian regimes thrive around the world. As they have resisted democratization (Maerz et al., 2020), they have become more assertive and started to craft their image as a countermodel to liberal states and to advance authoritarian-friendly international norms. Existing literature on autocracies has focused on institutional features, domestic legitimation strategies, and repressive policies. While authoritarian governments do employ more coercion than democracies, they are not indifferent towards how they are perceived by various audiences. Autocrats are concerned about their image, both domestically and abroad. This workshop seeks to disentangle the different ways in which autocracies construe and protect their images and how they communicate to influence public opinion on the global and local levels. This topic cuts across comparative politics, international relations, and political communication research and illuminates the puzzle of authoritarian resilience. Understanding the methods and effects of authoritarian image crafting has relevance for understanding the global authoritarian advance and where it might be heading. Domestically, state actors use a multitude of means, such as media, movies, TV shows, and other kinds of rhetorical and propaganda instruments to convey a certain image of the state. These instruments of “positive” framing are buttressed by repressive means such as censorship and gag orders of online and offline media. Strict legislation, judicial enforcement, and state media serve as the legal and institutional basis for tightly controlling narratives and framing public opinion. Such communication efforts are especially important during phases of societal unrest and political contestation, as when framing attempts are used to justify repressive actions in an effort to avoid backlash effects (Josua 2021). Internationally, autocracies engage in various initiatives to bolster their image abroad, like investing in foreign-facing media and public diplomacy programs. They use PR firms and set up institutions to invest in liberal democracies, creating reciprocal dependencies and mutual interests that are instrumental in contributing to authoritarian resilience. Next to using positive tactics of persuasion, autocratic incumbents also seek to control the narratives about them on a transnational level by using repression vis-à-vis journalists reporting on the country and dissidents living abroad (Dukalskis 2021). These tactics help protect the narrative from criticism so that the state can propagate its own messages. This workshop will help overcome limitations in our current understanding of the interplay between domestic and international image. First, the literature on ideas, narratives, and framing in domestic and international propaganda in domestic authoritarianism and international authoritarianism is often only weakly linked (notable exceptions include Holbig 2011; Hoffmann 2015; del Sordi and Dalmasso 2018). The workshop aims to pierce the barrier between comparative politics and international relations perspectives on authoritarian image management. Second, much existing literature is case- or region-specific. This workshop will drive toward cross-national and cross-regional comparisons by getting papers to engage with one another. Third, a persistent difficulty is measuring “success” of these efforts. The workshop will drive papers toward systematically adducing evidence to understand the success/failure of authoritarian image efforts.

The proposed workshop aims to advance theoretical, conceptual, and empirical knowledge on the domestic and international role of image, narrative, and framing in autocracies. The workshop welcomes any theoretically informed and empirically rigorous papers that address the marketing of authoritarian practices. This research agenda will be most successfully advanced by research about tangible policies, international strategies, or concrete events rather than authoritarian legitimation in general, a topic already in a more advanced state of progress (Gerschewski 2018). We invite papers that cover either the domestic, regional, or international levels of this issue, especially those with an explicit comparative approach. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are welcome, such as discourse or framing analysis, as well as statistical big data and linguistic analyses. Sources may include speeches by officials, but also images, movies, other propaganda material, news reports, or the like. In addition to the globally important autocracies of China and Russia, this workshop welcomes contributions focusing on less-studied cases in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Central and East Asia, Latin America, as well as newly autocratizing countries in Europe. • Concept formation and theorizing. How can concepts such as marketing, narratives, and propaganda be integrated in the study of autocracies? Are there specificities of autocracies that single them out in political communication? • Domestic narratives: Which techniques do authoritarian states use to influence their image in constructive terms? Under what conditions are they more or less likely to be effective? • International outreach of autocracies. How do autocracies deploy soft power? Which narratives do they craft surrounding military interventions, economic engagement, human rights policies, and principles of international order? Under what conditions are these efforts more or less likely to be effective? • Inside-out and outside-in perspectives. What are the overlaps between marketing international and domestic policies? This may include transnational populist or authoritarian movements, states using external sources to legitimate rule domestically, targeting domestic critics or issues abroad or related issues. When do states use these strategies and under what conditions are they effective? • Receptivity of democracies vis-à-vis authoritarian marketing. Which marketing strategies are more successful than others? Which states are most effective in crafting a positive image of their actions? • Cross-national comparisons. How can narratives of autocracies be compared across cases? Do different institutional configurations, such as regime subtypes, result in different narratives? Are there empirical commonalities across these regimes that have causal effects? • What is the role of private transnational actors like PR firms or tech companies in any of the above areas? Do they act on behalf of or in collusion with autocracies to further their goals?

Title Details
When environmental and authoritarian discourses collide: marketing green nationalism in China View Paper Details
Saving Face after Defacing: Responses to Public Cyber Intrusions in the Arab World View Paper Details
Authoritarian Recoil: How Dictatorships Tame the Spread of Liberal Ideas View Paper Details
Reconsidering Autocracy Promotion: The Development of Autocratic Assemblages and Recipient Agency View Paper Details
Communicating Authoritarian Practices – Justifications of Repression in the Maghreb, 2000-2010 View Paper Details
Inflaming Transatlantic Tensions? China’s Public Diplomacy Efforts to Influence EU-US Relations View Paper Details
Birds of a feather flock together: The Chinese Communist Party meets African political parties View Paper Details
Narrative and Affective Origins of Economic Misperceptions under Authoritarianism: Evidence from Turkey View Paper Details
A New Hope? Marketing Local Governace Reforms as Legitimation Strategies in Morocco and Tunisia View Paper Details
Commercial Courts: Contorting the idea of rule of law? View Paper Details
Russian Foreign Policy and the International Law in the 1990s versus 2000s: Using, Misusing, or Creating a New Norm? View Paper Details