Plakat 05

Confirmed speakers

Donatella della Porta, Scuola normale superiore, Florence

Ugo Mattei, University of Turin

Stef Jansen, University of Manchester

Hans-Jörg Trenz, University of Copenhagen

Political, economic, ecological and social crises pose persistent challenges to crisis of democracy. As citizens experience a decline of trust in traditional instruments of representative democracy, alternative forms of engagement emerge to foster civic participation in the public sphere. A wide variety of social movements, groups and actions ranging from local to global, are spread around similar concerns and, ultimately, aim at solving common problems thus forcing policy makers to be more accountable to society at large.

Examples of social engagement that have played – and still play – important roles in shaping modern societies are the Labor Movement, the Women’s Movement, the Environmental Movement and the Peace Movement. Since the turn of the millennium, they have become dispersed in different contexts, like the Global Justice Movement, the Arab Spring, the Indignados and Occupy Movements, investing significant effort to influence social developments. Simultaneously, new nationalist, neo-fascist and radicalized religious movements have appeared. These movements reveal substantial social frictions and fissures in articulating discontent in daily life and giving it political expression. They figure as important actors in the development of various (anti)democratic practices. Furthermore, practices have been changed, as social media demand a novel approach to the relation between engagement and social change. There is an urgent need to rethink these forms of engagement, action, and groups that could challenge and change the existing social order in the global world today.

This conference will be concerned with different forms of social engagement, focusing particularly on a variety of contexts, be it local, national and transnational. It aims to bring together leading academics, researchers but also practitioners to discuss the most recent developments, trends and concerns, as well as practical challenges, in engaging for social change. The overall ambition of this event is to present both empirical studies and theoretical developments that could contribute to the ongoing discussion of new forms of social engagement/“new” movements, as one of the pillars of social engagement studies.

Key issues we would like addressed during this event are:

  • What new forms of social engagement have appeared in the last two decades?
  • Which forms of resistance have taken place and how do they interweave different voices, groups and communities?
  • Who are the new protagonists arising from social movements, actions and groups?
  • What are the new narratives advocating for social change; how new forms of engagement relate to such issues as rights, inequality, space, citizenship, activism, resistance and aesthetics?
  • What forms of engagement through the arts and literature do we witness today?

The organizers will aim to accommodate submissions by assigning accepted papers to thematic sessions such as:

  • Thinking engagement for social change: pro et contra
  • Social movements and the questions of rights and equality in the neoliberal world
  • Engagement and development of new practices of democracy
  • New forms of social engagement under authoritarian regimes
  • (Re)New(ed) anti-fascist movements and resistance against them
  • Art and literature as strategies of non-violence
  • Conflicted relations within social movements: moving toward social change
  • Beyond the academy/activism divide in social movements
  • Activist theory and practice
  • Social media, digital technologies and social engagement


The conference is free and open for attendance.