Understanding how political coalitions establish and maintain dominance is a critical question for research in light of authoritarian transitions worldwide. This panel explores why and how capital cities are controlled and co-opted by governments, and the efforts of opposition groups to resist this.
How political coalitions establish and maintain dominance is a critical question for research in light of authoritarian transitions worldwide. The centrality of capital cities to political systems - housing bureaucracies, parliaments, elites and often being economic and cultural hubs - suggests that they are of particular importance to how power is consolidated and resisted at a national level. This panel will explore whether and how this is the case, comparing four capital cities in Africa and South Asia that are either ruled by well-established dominant parties, or appear to be moving in that direction. Building on a long history of research on urban violence and state-building, and more recent work on urban political settlements (Goodfellow 2018) and violent entrepreneurs (Jackman 2018), the panel will explore the modes of control and co-option deployed by coalitions in capital cities, and the forms of contentious politics and strategies used to resist this. Cases from Ethiopia, Uganda, Bangladesh and Zambia highlight diverse phenomena including changes in state security agencies, surveillance and repression, co-option through government programmes, social movements and violent entrepreneurship. The panel speaks to the conference's thematic focus on new forms of authoritarian populism, the implications of the closing down of democratic and civic space, and the new forms of activism emerging as authoritarian regimes seek to consolidate and extend their dominance.