International Workshop Global Perspectives on Extreme Speech Online

International Workshop

Global Perspectives on Extreme Speech Online

10-11 December 2018

Venue: The House of Artists, Munich, Germany

Organized by :

Sahana Udupa, University of Munich (LMU), Germany

Peter Hervik, Aalborg University, Denmark

Iginio Gagliardone, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Online cultures of political aggression and hateful speech have come to the center of public debate and concern, as right-wing nationalist and populist waves have swept political cultures with a new lexicon of exclusionary moral discourse aimed against minoritized groups. In North America and Europe, the rise of the “far-right” and “neonationalist” movements in the last two decades have triggered and relied on online belligerence of racialized joking, intimidation and “fact-filled” untruths (Banks & Gingrich, 2006; Hervik 2016).

In countries like Myanmar, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya and South Africa, major social media services such as Facebook and Whatsapp have not only offered an easy platform to revive vitriol against religious minorities and ethnic “others”, but they have also led to a “subterranean” flow of rumor and fear mongering, injecting a new velocity to mob lynching and targeted physical violence (Gagliardone et al. 2017; Lee, 2019; Udupa, 2018).

Digital expressions have pushed back liberal modulations of “civility”, drawing strength from locally approved cultural idioms, globally shared formats of humor and historically sanctioned structures of animosity (Udupa & Pohjonen, 2019). While huge numbers of dispersed, unorganized “ordinary” online users are participating in online extreme speech practices, regimes have also engaged organized production of disinformation by making use of the very infrastructure of globalization around flexible, precarious and outsourced labour (Ong and Cabanes, 2018).

We capture these digitally mediated  moral outrage and vitriol for overt and implicit political goals as online “extreme speech”. By defining online vitriol of political exclusion as “extreme speech”, we depart from the regulatory-normative debates of “hate speech”. We instead draw attention to media practices and how and why online actors engage in forms of speech that are disapproved in other contexts of interaction.

In this international workshop, we extend our effort to place the vitriolic face of the Internet in a critical global conversation backed with ethnographic sensibility – studies that are attuned to the understanding of lived practices and narratives of online actors, historically shaped political structures, and online affordances in situated contexts. We consider online actors to include i. dispersed yet ideologically active individual producers of exclusionary extreme speech, ii. semi-organized groups of volunteers and organized groups for right wing movements and ethnic/racial hatred, iii. minoritized groups targeted by extreme speech (refugees, immigrants, “liberals”, humanists, religious/ethnic groups), iv. politically “agnostic” paid trolls, v. business minded digital influencers, as well as vi. civil society groups, individuals and community associations engaged in creative resistance to online extreme speech.

Recognizing the global spread of online extreme speech, we invite submissions that can take the debate beyond the Euro-American concerns around “fake news” and “echo chambers”. We invite submissions that are especially attentive to local idioms, media practices and tensions that have made online extreme speech a daily reality of everyday politics, with profound implications for how belonging is imagined, enacted and brutally enforced in different parts of the world.

Attendance to this closed workshop is fully funded. Organizers will cover the costs of travel and accommodation. Submissions will contribute to a planned co-edited volume, and should therefore not be under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Please send your extended abstracts (1200 words) to  before 1 November 2018. Selected participants will be notified by 10 November 2018. Abstracts should contain a clear outline of the argument, theoretical framework, methodology, ethnographic material (findings if applicable), and a brief note on how your research links to the overall theme of the workshop. Please also include 3-5 keywords that describe your work, and a short bio (max 100 words, stating affiliation). Full papers (6000 words) of selected submissions are due on 3 December 2018.

Topics include

I Field based media practice research and ethnographic explorations of

1.     Common online users and political aggression

2.     Organized production of trolls and vitriol

3.     Digital rumor, virality and mob violence

4.     Internet memes, jokes and exclusion

5.     Victims of online extreme speech

6..  Resistance to online extreme speech

II New mixed methods using ethnography and data analysis of extreme speech

III Field based explorations of regulating online extreme speech with fine grained analysis of the tussles among Internet service providers, social networking sites, state regulators, civil society groups and individual activists.

The workshop is hosted by Project ONLINERPOL ( funded by the European Research Council (Grant Agreement Number 714285) at the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU), Germany.


ForDigitalDignity Project ONLINERPOL
Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Oettingenstrasse 67
Munich 80538

E-mail :