“Keeping Receipts: Lessons on Civic Engagement of Autocratic States from Kazakh Advocacy for Xinjiang” by Colleen Wood
September 8, 2021 @ 9:00 am – 10:00 am JST
Author: Colleen Wood (Columbia).
Abstract: How do civil society actors in authoritarian states use the internet to mobilize and advocate for rights claims? The internet has changed the patterns of political communication for civil society actors, but the range of tactics in autocracies remains undertheorized. In this paper, I analyze the activities of Atajurt Eriktileri, a group that petitions the Kazakhstani government on behalf of co-ethnics detained in Xinjiang, China. Empirically, I complement 5 semi-structured interviews with interpretive analysis of an original dataset of 3272 petition videos posted to Atajurt’s YouTube channel. I identify four visual-discursive patterns and three scripts that characterize the petitions, which speak to Atajurt’s strategy of atomized collective action. This helps avoid repression that comes with more traditional forms of mass mobilization. The hypervisibility of Atajurt’s social media presence challenges the dominant literature on civil society and resistance in authoritarian regimes, which emphasizes hidden forms of contention.