Society and Identity
On a global scale, a wave of de-democratisation and a rise of authoritarian regimes is taking place. This authoritarian turn is occurring in Asia as well. It is characterised by an erosion of basic liberal-democratic standards such as rule-of-law, human rights, and by an erosion of state authorities such as the monopoly on the (legitimate) use of violence and the capacity to provide basic security. On the ground, new authoritarianism is supported as well as resisted by local interest groups that form along political, ethnic, religious or other lines, and which are a strong feature in many Asian societies. While generally local rather than national in presence and activities, these groups frequently are part of the power constellations that sustain the authoritarian turn, yet quite often with specific local interests and issues delineating their participation. As such, they adhere to broader (inter)national discourses of anti-liberalism and the need for increased security, but further these general issues using an own agenda. For us, the rise, presence and activities of such groups poses a lens to study their role in society in relation to the rise of authoritarianism on the scale of the nation. We seek to interpret the results of their actions in the light of societal changes and hence to better understand the effects their presence has.
As such, we are interested in the relation between the discourses they use and the actions they carry out: in relations to (national) figures of power and the constellations this creates, and in the manifestations of their presence in the flesh as well as in digital form through media and on the internet. In particular, we seek to understand the usage of digital media as means of organization, presentation and connection of the activities and networks of these groups. Both in terms of local presence and activities, in affiliations to larger, national networks, and as expressions of ideology. Our aim is to come to an understanding of the connections that develop and the activities in which they result. What do they tell us about the rise of authoritarianism, and of how local groups capitalize on this?