Beyond the Arab Spring: Cultural Activism and the Rise of Digital Authoritarianism in a Post-Truth Age

Talk by Professor Anthony Downey, Birmingham City University.

Downtown Beirut, 22 October, 2019 © Nat Muller, 2019.

The degree to which artists and cultural institutions used social and digital media to promote political change following the Arab Spring raises significant questions about cultural activism, transnational cultural production, and the rise of digital authoritarianism. Taking into consideration recent revelations concerning the role of social media in surveillance technologies, political repression, and the proliferation of targeted disinformation, alongside the anxieties being expressed about the opaque power of algorithms, this talk will explore critical frameworks for understanding the relationship between cultural activism and the global emergence of digital authoritarianism.

The lecture is organized by the project Mediatized Diaspora: Contentious Politics Among Arab Media Users in Europe.


Anthony Downey is Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa at Birmingham City University. He is currently involved in several research projects that explore, respectively, the politics of cultural production in the Middle East and Global South, digital media, education, and transnational cultural practices.

Recent and upcoming publications include:

  • Unbearable States: Cultural Practices, Political Activism, and Human Rights in a Post-digital Age (forthcoming, 2021)
  • Research/Practice (Sternberg Press, 2019)
  • Critique in Practice: Renzo Martens' Episode III: Enjoy Poverty (Sternberg Press, 2019)
  • Don’t Shrink Me to the Size of a Bullet: The Works of Hiwa K (Buchhandlung Walther König, 2017)
  • Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East (Sternberg Press, 2016).

Read more.

Anthony Downey sits on the editorial boards of Third Text and Digital War, and is the editor-in-chief of Ibraaz.