CARP 2023 Conference

Character Assassination, Illiberalism, and the Erosion of Civic Rights

21-23 June 2023

Location: University of Amsterdam & VU University, The Netherlands

Hosts: Faculty of Humanities and the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam; Faculty of Humanities, VU University

Co-Sponsors: CARP Research Lab and Illiberalism Studies Program (The George Washington University)

Download flyer here

Liberal democracies face multiple external challenges from autocracies across the world, as well as internal challenges from populist politicians, nativism, and the normalization of incivility in media and political discourses. Character assassination (CA) often accompanies these political and social conflicts, especially when unresolved ideological and moral issues are involved. Social conflicts become aggravated when moral issues intermix with political and economic factors. Factions then resort to persuasive attacks on character to delegitimize and disempower their opponents. This increased polarization and aggressiveness of elite rhetoric likely foster voters’ cynicism and discontent with politics as usual. The increasing gap between liberal elites and the disgruntled electorate, in turn, likely provides even more fertile ground for intra-elite conflict, and paves the way for illiberal conceptions of the democratic order.

Submit a 250-word abstract by 1 March 2023 (deadline extended). Email your abstract as an attachment to Martijn Icks ( and Sergei Samoilenko (

Keynote speakers:

Dr. Marlene Laruelle, Director of the Illiberalism Studies Program and the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES), The George Washington University:

Prof. em. Marisa Linton, author of Choosing Terror: Virtue, Friendship and Authenticity in the French Revolution (2013) and Terror: The French Revolution and its Demons (2021), Kingston University London:

Prof. Helena Rosenblatt, author of The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-first Century (2018), City University of New York:

Call for papers at the GW Illiberalism Studies website

Suggested Topics:

·    The erosion of civic rights in historical societies;

·    Character assassination as an illiberal practice;

·    Negative campaigns and their effects on behaviors and attitudes;

·    Political incivility over time and space;

·    The psychological underpinnings of persuasive attacks on character;

·    Populist rhetoric, impression management, and democratic elections;

·    Political incivility and polarization;

·    The spread of culture wars in the U.S., the E.U., and beyond;

·    Illiberal technologies and societal transformations;

·    The effects of cancel culture on civil discourse;

·    Far-right and far-left social movements;

·    Digital activism and the practices of disruption and subversion;

·    Neo-authoritarian forms of coercion and dominance in the Internet Age;

·    Mediated public scandals in liberal democracies;

·    Personalization and infotainment issues;

·    Legal aspects of libel, slander, and defamation;

·    Reputation management, image repair, and inoculation strategies.

A limited number of slots for online presentations will be made available. If you would like to opt for one of these, please include a brief motivation explaining your reasons.