Call for Papers: Understanding and challenging authoritarianism

The Transnational Institute (TNI) is issuing an open call for essays and contributions on authoritarianism. These may be written or artistic essays. Selected authors/artists will be invited to join an ongoing scholar-activist working group on authoritarianism.

Our goal is to produce a series of popular primers, articles, multimedia and artistic collaborations that can equip social movements with the analysis and ideas to confront authoritarianism and advance just solidarity-based alternatives.

What has happened? What can be done to advance an alternative course? How do we advance our call for urgently-needed radical transformation while the space for democratic and extra-parliamentary progress appears to be closing?

We welcome a wide range of perspectives and analysis on the broad theme, TNI does appreciate contributions that relate to areas we most closely work on such as corporate power, trade and investment policies, land rights and resource grabbing, public services, security and civil liberties, social movements and counter-power (see


Our longer-term goal is to set up a working group on this issue, bringing together critical intellectuals, artists and activists. In the first instance, we hope to produce a publication based on the best papers, and to popularise those through articles, infographics, videos and art.

Participants in this project will be partly chosen through this open call. The decision on which proposals are featured will be decided by an Editorial Panel made up of the Director, a TNI fellow and TNI’s Futures Lab Coordinator. The selection process will follow three stages:

  1. In the first stage, participants will be asked to provide abstracts, a short bio and some links to previous work. It will help your application if your previous work is not just limited to academic texts but includes some more accessible journalistic or creative pieces. Abstracts can be based on existing papers, photo essays or other creative proposals, or be provisional ideas of what you hope to explore. If you would like to apply for a mini-grant – available to low-income participants – please indicate this at this stage.
  2. Those whose abstracts are chosen will be asked to submit an essay. Up to eight essays, including one or two artistic collaborations will be selected for the report by the Editorial Panel.
  3. The selected pieces will go through a final round of revisions based on feedback from the Editorial Panel, and subject to final copyedit.
  4. Contributions that do not make the final report – but are nevertheless considered good by the Editorial Panel – will be published on the website alongside the main report. Remuneration unfortunately won’t be available for essays that don’t appear in the main report.

To encourage submissions from activists on low-incomes and people from the Global South , we have a small number of grants of up to 500 euros for selected essays from individuals that fit this category. Artistic proposals will be financed, resources-permitting, on a case-by-case basis. Please indicate with evidence in your submissions whether you would like to apply for this grant. The money will only be distributed if your contribution is chosen for the main report.

Written style

TNI is a research and advocacy organisation but not an academic institution, and seeks to provide accessible analysis that can be read and used by a broad range of activists. We are looking therefore for analysis that is not over-theoretical and written in a style that is accessible.

We encourage the use of:

  • stories
  • concrete examples
  • metaphors
  • journalistic techniques

We discourage the overuse of academic jargon literature analysis and academic debates that mean little to the public. In our experience the more accessible the material, the more widely it is used and shared.

For an idea of the kind of essays we are interested in, please read the essays featured in State of Power 2017:

Instructions for submission

Abstracts must be emailed to by 14 April 2017. Final essays will be due on 14 July 2017.

  • Abstracts/essays must address the issue of authoritarianism from a critical progressive perspective, seeking to provide useful knowledge and analysis for movements engaged in the struggle for social and environmental justice
  • Abstracts/essays can be based on reworked versions of existing or previously published essays/papers but must be made accessible to a non-academic audience
  • TNI particularly welcomes submissions by women, young scholars/artists and people based in the Global South.
  • Abstracts and essays can be written in English or Spanish.
  • Abstracts must be a maximum of 1000 words. They do not need to be of continuous prose but must capture the main arguments of the essay and can be expanded outlines. Bios should be 200 words.
  • Final Essay length: 5000 words. Shorter essays are acceptable, but not longer than 5000 words.
  • Style: TNI has five basic criteria for its research and publications that will also be used to assess the abstracts and essays:

o    Credible: Well researched and evidence-based

o    Accessible: Readable by a broad non-specialist audience (in other words please avoid too much academic jargon) and try to use stories, examples

o    Additional: Adds depth, new insights or detail to existing knowledge/research

o    Radical: Tackles the structural roots of critical issues

o    Propositional: Does not just critique, but also puts forward just alternatives where relevant

  • Please include a summary at the top of the paper (maximum 500 words) and add a short bio (200 words)
  • Do not include references in brackets within the text eg (Abramson, 2011) in the academic style. As we first publish online and then as a printable PDF, please:

o    where relevant link to the reference where it is available as a web resource

o    AND provide an endnote with the full reference, preferably in Chicago style. You may also provide a bibliography at end of essay instead.

  • Please do not overdo it on the endnotes (no more than 40 for each essay)– use it mainly for referring to facts/evidence that may be surprising, questioned or challenged.
  • Please send as .doc file or .docx file or Open/Libre Office equivalent for written texts, pdf for artistic submissions
  • The decision of the Editorial Panel is final. If your abstract or essay is chosen for the book, please be ready to respond to peer reviews and copy editing comments based on the timeline below.


  • 14 April: Provision of Abstracts
  • 20 April: Selection of abstracts by TNI editorial panel
  • 14 July: Submission of first full draft
  • mid-July to end August: Revision of paper/contribution
  • September: Publication
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