Ethnicities, Counter-publics, Appropriation and Social Media

A one-day symposium at Keele University.

Date: 8th June 2017

Venue: Screening Room, Media Building

In two of the big political shocks of 2016, the UK EU referendum result and Donald Trump’s election to President of the US, social media was, and continues to be, a battleground for disseminating contending versions of reality. Immigration has been a key topic of populist rhetoric and has promoted a narrative that seeks to blame and marginalise ethnic groups in both countries. This has occurred after major flash points, including the events themselves, but also as a continuing campaign of hate to gain support for right-wing politics and groups. Minority groups - Muslims in particular - have been targeted following significant terrorist attacks but these high profile campaigns also attract counter-discourse and tactics of appropriation by activist groups. Much has been written about the affordances of social media and their potential (and limitations) for activists. Yet whilst an emerging body of work has explored the relationship between ethnicity and social media, this has tended to focus on specific platforms (Jackson and Foucault-Wells 2015; Rambukanna 2015) and contexts (Magdy et al 2015). More research is thus needed into the use-patterns and meanings of online campaigns to minority groups, in a rapidly changing political environment. For instance: Where does hate-speech derive from and who is circulating it? How is it countered and appropriated by online activists? Who represents minority groups in these digital spaces, and are there tensions between different forms of representation?

This symposium is funded by a British Academy research project which aims to explore some of these questions in relation to the #StopIslam campaign which has attracted considerable support but equally resulted in a profusion of counter-narratives, defending Muslims. We are interested in this form of ‘conflicting engagement’ with media environments, which result from the ‘unequal, unstable […] qualities of interconnection across difference’ (Tsing 2005: 4). The symposium seeks, therefore, to examine the dynamics of representation and self-representation online, and we particularly welcome papers that focus on critical questions about social media such as the social and cultural dynamics of online activism.


9.00 am: Welcome coffee

9.30 am: Opening remarks

9.45 am: Speakers

  • Ed de Quincey, Eva Giraud and Elizabeth Poole, Keele University: 'Who speaks for Muslims? Political frictions and the politics of appropriation in social media'

10.30 am: Short break

10.45 am: Panel 1 – Examining Populist and Nationalist discourse on social media

  • Gerwin van Schie, Utrecht University and Iris Muis, Utrecht University, “Liberation Begins with Stating the Facts” Rationalization of Discrimination through Data in Populist Rhetoric on Twitter ‘
  • Nicolás López Coombs, University of Antwerp and Gerwin van Schie, Utrecht Data School ‘Between Epistemic Empowerment and Epistemic Violence: Ethno-racial Categorization in Dutch Governmental Open Data’
  • Munira Cheema, University of Sussex ‘Revisiting patriotism: The rise of liberal Pakistan on social media’

12.15 pm: Lunch (provided)

1.15 - 2.15: Speaker

  • Pollyanna Ruiz, University of Sussex, 'Protest, power and social media; The dynamics of masking in offline and online public spaces'.

2:15 - 3.45 pm: Panel 2 – Self-representation and counter-discourse online

  • Kaarina Nikunen, University of Tampere, ‘Migrant Tales: counter-voices in digital landscape’
  • Ally McCrow-Young, University of Copenhagen, ‘Protesting terror: Counter-narratives of the ISIS conflict’
  • Beth Johnson, University of Leeds, ‘#MoreInCommon: Empathy, Emotion and Intervention'

3.45 - 4pm: Short break

4 - 5pm: Speaker

  • Dima Saber, Birmingham City University, 'Winning the fake news battle amidst chaos: How Arab activists are taking back the narratives of their wars and revolutions'

5-5.15 pm: Concluding remarks


Dr Ed de Quincey, Dr Eva Giraud and Dr Elizabeth Poole

Computer Science and Media, Communications and Culture, Keele University

Dr de Quincey’s work is in the area of online human behaviour and using social media as a source for Big Data research. Dr Giraud writes on the relationship between politics and digital media, particularly online activism. Dr Poole is an expert on the representation of Muslims and author of ‘Representing Islam: British Muslims in the British Press’.

Dr Pollyanna Ruiz

Film and Media, Sussex University

Dr Ruiz is an expert in digital protest cultures and author of ‘Articulating Dissent in the Public Sphere’.

Dr Dima Saber

Birmingham School of Media, Birmingham City University

Dr Saber is an expert in Nationalism, political Islam, propaganda in the Arab world, and media for social change.

This symposium is funded by the British Academy and The Leverhulme Trust.

The organising committee will select papers for a special issue on Ethnicities, Counter-publics, Appropriation and Social Media in two peer-reviewed journals; one is the open access online journal for the Open Library of Humanities and another, a high-profile Media Journal, currently under negotiation.

For further information please contact us at

This is a free event but places are limited. Please register by 25th May 2017.

Eventbrite - Ethnicities, Counter-publics, Appropriation and Social Media