Research Seminar: Media and the culture of illiberalism

An analysis of the role of the media and digital communication technologies in the rise of illiberalism.

Recent years have seen worrying political developments across both old and new democracies, ranging from the rise of populist leaders and strengthening of illiberal attitudes to dwindling support for democratic rule and growing polarization of public opinion. Many of these transformations have been linked to changes in communication environments, and specifically to the growth of social media and digital platforms. Systematic research into these issues has so far been focused largely on the U.S. and Western Europe, with very limited consideration of other parts of the world.

In this seminar presentation, I outline selected findings from the first systematic analysis of the role of the media and digital communication technologies in the rise of illiberalism, drawing on extensive empirical research in Eastern Europe – a region that serves as a key battleground in the global advance of illiberalism ( I pay particular attention to cultural aspects of mediated illiberalism, focusing on three dimensions: conditions of visibility, normative foundations of media trust, and incivility.

Sabina Mihelj is a Professor of Media and Cultural Analysis at Loughborough University, where she also serves as Director of Research for Communication and Media. Her main areas of expertise and interest include media and public culture, with a focus on nationalism and illiberalism; comparative media research; and Cold War media and culture. She is the author of Media Nations: Communicating Belonging and Exclusion in the Modern World (Palgrave, 2013), Central and Eastern European Media in Comparative Perspective: Politics, Economy, Culture (Ashgate, 2012), and From Media Systems to Media Cultures: Understanding Socialist Television (Cambridge University Press).

Sabina’s research was funded by the British Academy, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The Economic and Social Research Council, and the Leverhulme Trust. She is currently Co-I on the project The Illiberal Turn? News Consumption, Polarization and Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe (ESRC, 2019-2022, c. 800k), as well as Principal Investigator on the project Pandemic Communication in Times of Populism: Building Resilient Media and Ensuring Effective Pandemic Communication in Divided Societies (ESRC/T-AP, 2022-2024, c. 700k).

Location TBC. Please contact before 12 pm on Wednesday 9th March to request an invitation.