Skip to main content



Call for papers: The Blue Pencil of Censorship

Appels à candidature

Call for papers

The Blue Pencil of Censorship: Controlling, Bypassing and Diffusing information
in Non-Democratic Regimes in the 20th Century

International Interdisciplinary Conference
Paris, France
October 2, 2020

Eugène Lyons, an American journalist accredited in Moscow in the late 1920s, recalled the regular censorship he encountered as a foreign correspondent there. His testimony not only reveals the direct constraints from the censors, but also the specific practices of reading the Soviet press under state control and the necessity for foreign journalists to master language and behaviour codes in order to exercise their job. In addition to that, it presents the multiple social interactions between rival journalists and censors, and the profile and daily practices of those in charge of censorship (Lyons 1938).
Lyons’ description departs significantly from the wide-spread image of a censor armed with a blue pencil and accomplishing a repressive state power act in a sort of social vacuum. Rather, it invites us to re-examine the censorship of information in non-democratic countries in the 20th century in a broader framework of social history with its focus on actors, their practices and circulations. This gives us a window to explore censorship from “a spectrum of actions that ranges from explicit prohibitions at one end and internalized, unconscious adherence to social norms at the other” (Sherry 2015). By analysing the subject of censorship we can question the very notion of a non-democratic regime that is traditionally defined by contrast to that of a democracy thus entailing a binary opposition. Recent studies have challenged this allegedly evident distinction by introducing such notions as “illiberal democracy” or “la démocrature” . These terms were coined in the late 20th century to define the hybrid regimes that can be characterized by some traits inherent to liberal democracies, but at the same time the authoritarian power typical of them conditions their classification as non-democratic.
[Read more]

Be careful, the deadline is July, 10 2020

Organizing committee:
Yuqing Qiu, Anna Shapovalova, Anna Sidorevich

Scientific board:
Olga Bronnikova (Université Grenoble Alpes), Sabine Dullin (CHSP, Sciences Po), Marc Lazar (CHSP, Sciences Po), Isabelle Thireau (EHESS, CNRS)

Practical information:
Languages of the conference: French and English
Place of the conference: Sciences Po, Paris.
Given the current health crisis, the conference might be partially held via video-conference.