11/04/2020 Staff

Fear and Loathing in Our Discourse: Dangerous Speech and What to Do About It

Common Hour - Fear and Loathing in Our Discourse: Dangerous Speech and What to Do About It

Cathy Buerger
Director of Research, Dangerous Speech Project (DSP)

No one is born hating or fearing other people. That has to be taught – and those harmful lessons seem to be similar, though they’re given in highly disparate cultures, languages, and places. Leaders around the world use particular kinds of rhetoric to turn groups of people violently against one another. The vocabulary varies, but the same themes recur: members of other groups are depicted as threats so serious that violence against them comes to seem acceptable or even necessary. In this talk, drawing from both historical and contemporary examples, Dr. Cathy Buerger will outline the framework for identifying Dangerous Speech - any form of expression that can increase the risk that its audience will condone or commit violence against members of another group. Then, drawing on data from her recent digital ethnography of an online collective counterspeech group, she will discuss various ways to respond to hateful and dangerous speech that may help diminish its harmful effects.

Buerger is the Director of Research at the Dangerous Speech Project (DSP), a Washington, DC-based NGO that works to better understand the relationship between speech and intergroup violence. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Connecticut where her research examined how Ghanaian civil society activists work together to support positive norms and uphold human rights. Her current research at the DSP focuses on civil society responses to dangerous and hateful speech online.  She is a Research Affiliate of UConn’s Economic and Social Rights Research Group, Managing Editor of the Journal of Human Rights, and an Editor for the Teaching Human Rights Database.

This event was proposed by Eve Bratman and is sponsored by the Miller Humanities Fund and Department of Earth & Environment.

To accommodate changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Common Hour in the Fall semester of 2020 will shift to becoming a virtual event broadcast live via Zoom and YouTube on Wednesdays from 1:30-2:30 p.m.

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