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INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research

Autocratization Dynamics: Innovations in Research-Embedded Learning

Alternative title: Autokratiserings dynamikker: Innovasjon i forskningsbasert undervisning

Awarded: NOK 10.0 mill.

Challenges to democracy and erosion of liberal norms and institutions are increasing, also in established democracies. Through developing new research and research-embedded learning, the Autocratization Dynamics project explores these trends, seeking to understand: dynamics pushing towards illiberal and autocratic forms of rule; what makes democratic institutions and societies vulnerable - and resilient - to autocratization pressures; and conditions enabling democratic resistance. Throughout the project, a core pillar is the annual PhD course Effects of Lawfare: Courts and law as battlegrounds for social change and the integrated international conference Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation (Bergen Exchanges), focusing on Democracy, Legalized Autocratization & Resistance. In each edition of the course and conference, we shed light on intersections between autocratization and other societal challenges such as climate change, indigenous rights, child protection, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In 2023 special emphasis was on academic freedom, as a common, and disturbing feature of autocratization processes. We organize the annual Autocratization Dynamics project workshop adjacent to the PhD course and Exchanges, allowing scholars from all participating institutions to engage intensively around research and teaching throughout a 10-day period, and to build a broader, global and interdisciplinary Autocratization Dynamics Network with excellent scholars in the field. To support research and learning initiatives by students and young scholars is a central aim of the project. In 2022, the South-South Network was created by students and young scholars from our Bergen Exchanges PhD course, led by students from partner institutions. The initiative aims to give broader reach to voices of young socio-legal scholars from Latin America, Africa, and Asia and enable them to be protagonists in debates involving them. With support from the project, the network in 2023 continued to develop their collaborative book project and organized a panel at the Law & Society (LSA) conference in Puerto Rico to present chapters in progress. At LSA we also convened a panel on Autocratization Dynamics with senior project partners. Both panels were very well attended and generated engaged, high-level discussions – and interest in the project. The South-South Network secured funds from Fritt Ord to bring network members to the Bergen Exchange 2023, where they organized a very well attended panel. In 2023, the Autocratization Dynamics project also supported the exchange of PhD students for a student-led, interdisciplinary conference on constitutional law at our partner University of Texas, Austin, and will also do so for the March 2024 edition of the conference. Development of student-led and research embedded teaching is a core aim of the Autocratization Dynamics project. The PhD course Effects of Lawfare is being continuously improved through recommendations from the participating students and lecturers, including through plenary discussions on the course at the Bergen Exchanges. Involvement of last year’s alumni in preliminary meetings with new PhD students further enables the students to significantly influence the course in content as well as form. The Bergen Exchanges is at the core of the PhD course, and students are invited to participate on stage in roundtables on topics close to their own research, where they engage on equal terms with senior experts in the field. In 2023, students were also invited to present their research in posters displayed at the venue. Next year, we will print the students’ posters and contacts as part of the conference program to increase visibility of the student’s research and further enable engagement and network-building. The Autocratization Dynamics project has also enabled development of student involved and -led teaching at BA and MA level. It has been central to the re-design of the English language MA program at the UiB Department of Government (Governance and Politics of Global Challenges) where scholar from partner institutions engage in several ways, including through developing student exchange and -internship opportunities. Scholars from the global Autocratization Dynamics Network have also been invited to give (digital/physical) lectures and seminars throughout the year. In the spring of 2024, PhD students from partner institutions will contribute to the development and teaching of an MA course on Gendered Autocratization, with an adjacent PhD conference. An interdisciplinary BA/MA UiB course on Constitution and Politics was re-designed in 2023 to make student led digital "book salons" with scholars from the Autocratization Dynamics Network central to the course. Joint research projects being developed around several topics: resistance against autocratization; gendered autocratization; and indigenous rights in climate transformation.

"Autocratization Dynamics" aims to further strengthen UiB-CMI LawTransform as a global hub for research at the intersection of law and politics, and as a leading centre for innovations in horizontal research-embedded education, by forging long-term partnerships with leading research and educational institutions in the field. With partner institutions drawn from among the strongest education and research institutions in Brazil, Canada, India, Norway South Africa and the United States, we aim to create new research on the effects of autocratization dynamics across the globe. The proposed collaboration will secure the advancement of research and education of the highest quality in Norway by developing new interdisciplinary research projects deepening our efforts to understand the role of law in authoritarian dynamics – both in the global south and in the north – and how this plays out in key policy areas. Through innovative research-embedded course developments and student-driven teaching modules Autocratization Dynamics will confront the challenging global environment of competing information streams and where factual information increasingly is politicized and the value of science and academic freedom undermined. To better understand the challenges posed by autocratization and how legal tools may be used to legitimize undemocratic politics, a key aim of all universities in our consortium is to educate students to become active and critical producers of knowledge. To do so, we aim to create a partnership between researchers and students where the students are in the driver's seat in the development of courses and research projects. LawTransform has significant experience facilitating horizontal exchange on research ideas between senior and junior scholars; building international, interdisciplinary partnerships on research projects, and cross-faculty and cross-institutional teaching, both face-to face and digital. The project will build on and further develop this.

Funding scheme:

INTPART-International Partnerships for Excellent Education and Research

Thematic Areas and Topics

No thematic area or topic related to the project