Democracy Lives in Darkness: Discussion with Professor Emily Van Duyn

January 5, 2022

How and Why People Keep Their Politics a Secret: A Discussion with Professor Emily Van Duyn Why Democracy Lives in Darkness

Wed, 9 February 2022
15:00 – 16:00 GMT
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About the Event

We are very excited to announce SPIN’s upcoming discussion with Emily Van Duyn, Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Prof. Van Duyn will discuss her newly published book, Democracy Lives in Darkness: How and Why People Keep Their Politics a Secret, which argues that political secrecy has become a necessity for mainstream partisans in the US as a result of intensifying political prejudice and segregation within and across communities.


The book draws on an array of qualitative and quantitative studies of political secrecy in contemporary democracy. Specifically, Prof. Van Duyn relies on four years of ethnographic research of a secret political organization of progressives in rural Texas and novel survey data about political secrecy in the United States. From this investigation, she considers how the shape of and participants in political secrecy have changed with the rise of digital media and with growing political hostility. She asks why mainstream partisans feel the need to hide their political beliefs from others, why they feel afraid of those from the opposite party, how they stay politically engaged in secret, and how this can transform them and their communities. In her talk, Prof. Van Duyn will challenge those who study politics and public life to look beyond public political behavior and those who study big data and machine learning to consider the unique and meaningful qualities of studying the individual in context. She will consider how secrecy can be both destructive to and critical for democracy’s survival, and how scholars and practitioners alike can use this knowledge to better their own practices.



Emily Van Duyn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research explores why people talk (or do not talk) about politics and the role of digital media in facilitating a space for community and political discourse. She tackles these questions using diverse methodologies, including surveys, experiments, interviews, and ethnography.






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