Politics from Below: Reasserting or Transcending the Democratic Paradigm?

ZOiS Conference 2021

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.

To download the detailed programme leaflet, please click here.


27 January 2021

2 pm (CET) Opening
Gwendolyn Sasse, Christian Schaich

2.15 pm – 3.45 pm (CET) Panel 1

Activism over Time

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

Discussant: Eeva Luhtakallio (University of Helsinki)

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

5.30 pm – 7 pm (CET) 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)

You can access the stream under the following link:

7 pm (CET) (Virtual) Reception


28 January 2021

1 pm – 2 pm (CET) Public Panel Discussion

Politics from below: A Global Perspective

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

You can access the stream under the following link:

2.15 pm – 3.45 pm (CET) Panel

Mobilisation and Regime Responses

Aspirations Crushed: Uyghurs in Reform-Era 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)

Discussant: Jonas Wolff (HSFK, Frankfurt a. M.)

Chair: Tatiana Golova (ZOiS)

4.15 pm – 5.30 pm (CET) 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 (CET) Brief Summary of the Conversations and Closing Remarks