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Title: Social media, protests and the dynamics of civil society in Bulgaria
Author: Konstantinova, Nely Dimitrova
ISNI:       0000 0004 8508 7685
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2019
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This study focuses on the emerging practices of social mobilisation via social media in Bulgaria. Most studies on this topics have so far ignored the countries of the post-socialist block, which, similarly to elsewhere around the globe, saw a wave of protests between 2011-2014, spurred by disillusionment with the reality of the “Transition”. Social movement studies in general have hardly been applied to the dissident movements or their legacy in Eastern Europe, but instead activism in the region has been mainly studied from a “civil society” perspective, which has suffered from a too narrow definition and problematic normative theoretical assumptions that often “de-politicise” its aims. This thesis addresses some of these gaps and conceptual problems in order to try to broaden our understanding of the role social media (can) play for contentious politics, and by extension democracy, in new democracies like Bulgaria. I take the view that in considering social media and its relations with contentious politics we are interested in social change (Fenton 2016). However, assuming that the latter is necessarily envisioned in radical democratic or progressive terms ignores cases where that is not the case, as well as the anti-democratic tendencies that can arise from the political use of social media. Drawing on radical democratic theory (Mouffe 1992 2009) and the notion of “uncivil society” Kopecky and Mudde (2003), my conceptualisation of civil society thus envisages theoretically, and assess empirically, a wider range and forms of civic association and mobilisation. By focusing on the social media practices in context of groups of civic actors from different ideological backgrounds, organisational structures and with different political agendas, I conceptualise social media as a contested public “space” where different manifestations of the (often polarised) Bulgarian civil society appear in a hegemonic struggle - one that is at the same time between actual citizen groups, and between idea(s) or discourse(s) about the meaning of “democratic citizenship”. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with activists and content and discourse analysis of social media communication pertaining to different protest mobilisations, I explore the complexities, the contested legitimacy and unclear political representation relating to different civil society actors and the role played by social media in their struggle for trust, visibility, recognition, and legitimacy. I also consider the wider democratic implications by interrogating sweeping claims about the democratic potential of social media and their affinity to participatory grassroots and/or populist politics.
Supervisor: Firmstone, Julie ; Moss, Giles Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available