Celebrities as Agents of Moral Opposition to Authoritarian/Illiberal Regimes

2 February 2023

The Interdisciplinary Research Forum and the Global Diversities and Inequalities Research Centre at London Met recently hosted the seminar “Celebrities as agents of Moral Opposition to Authoritarian and Illiberal Regimes”. The event took place at Holloway Campus and was well attended by scholars from London Met and beyond. The session was chaired by Dr Karen McNally.

The panelists discussed the roles of celebrities in politics and the relationship between illiberal and authoritarian states and high-profile individuals residing abroad.   

Professor Mark Wheeler argued that the use of fame, renown and performance in political affairs should be recognised as historical phenomenon. He looked at the lessons to be drawn from the past in the utilisation of celebrity politics, performance, and power in the US and how these dynamics operate as social media is becoming a key information resource wherein normative democratic values are being contested.  

Dr Ahmet Erdi Öztürk explained how the authoritarian turn in Turkey compelled many citizens to change life trajectories which included extreme decisions such as migration and exile. He focused on the narratives of a specific group within a new migrant wave, those whom we refer to as Turkey’s intelligentsia in exile, who decided to leave Turkey following the Gezi protests in 2013.

Gerasimos Tsourapas (University of Glasgow) focused on the reasons leading a state to take repressive action against high-profile individuals residing outside its territorial jurisdiction. He argued that despite growing global interconnectedness, the field of international studies currently lacks an adequate comparative framework for analyzing how autocracies adapt to growing cross-border mobility. He argued that the rise of global migration flows has contributed to the emergence of “transnational authoritarianism,” as autocracies aim to both maximize material gains from high-profile citizens’ “exit” and minimize political risks by controlling their “voice” abroad.

Professor Svetlana Stephenson discussed her study of the public shaming campaigns that followed celebrity emigration from Russia soon after the invasion of Ukraine. She examined how the state, a pro-state media and patriotic commentators on social media are conducting the symbolic destruction of these celebrities’ social statuses, while at the same time reconstructing the moral frames on migration and national identity.  


banner with words 'resist' written on it hold by two hands

Please contact the Research and Postgraduate Office if you have any questions about this or any of our other events.

To receive notifications of future events, please follow the Research and Postgraduate Office on Eventbrite.

Photo credit: Sides Imagery via Pexels

Watch the event

Play Video