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Fluid Ontologies of Contestation

Project title: Social media, anti‐government protest and transnational decolonization movements in Burkina Faso
Project partners: Institut des Sciences des Sociétés & Université Joseph Ki‐Zerbo, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Junior Research Group “Politics of the Unknown. Conspiracism and Conflict”, University of Bayreuth
Funding agency: Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 Africa Multiple
Funding period: 2023-2025
Project description:
This research project studies how contemporary political contestation is co‐constituted by online and offline processes of mobilization. It focuses on two key cases in Burkina Faso: the 2014 revolutionary uprisings against then‐President Blaise Compaoré and the ongoing calls for decolonization, notably from France, in the context of the Sahel crisis. The interdisciplinary project combines social science and computer science methodologies to study the role of social media networks in collective movements that challenge established power relations on the national and transnational level.

The project’s relevance lies in exploring contemporary fluid topographies of contestation across virtual and physical spaces. As various analysts have shown, contemporary social and political movements intertwine online and offline mobilization techniques to the point where each is co‐constituted by the other (Castells 2015; Sebeelo 2021). The boundaries of social and political movements are thus no longer geographical and its participants and antagonists are spread across the globe. Analyzing them thus demands a radically relational perspective that links different medialities, sites, political struggles, inequalities and frustrations, and ideologies in the making. Methodologically, it requires social science and data science to work together with the aim of analyzing the linkages between micro and macro levels, as well as the social and technological dimensions, of the same phenomenon.

The project contributes to the Africa Multiple Cluster by harnessing relationality, interdisciplinarity, and cross‐continental partnerships as cornerstones of our theoretical, methodological, and structural research agendas. Developed in close collaboration between the ACC Ouagadougou and the Cluster in Bayreuth, our goal is to theorize contestation from within the specific context of Burkina Faso while at the same time highlighting the fluid and porous boundaries of that context. Finally, we seek to explore the potential of the Cluster’s concept of "fluid ontologies" beyond the realm of IT.

Webmaster: Juniorprofessor Mirco Schönfeld

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