Far Away, So Close: Transnational Activism, Digital Surveillance and Authoritarian Control in Iran

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Marcus Michaelsen


Transnational information flows and advocacy networks are among the challenges of a globalizing world to which contemporary authoritarian rulers need to adapt. Drawing on research into the repressive strategies of the Iranian state against exiled human rights activists and journalists, I show how digital surveillance allows the regime to monitor political activity outside the country and to prepare counter-measures projecting power beyond borders. With the help of digital media, state authorities can expand the scope and scale of potential threats against outside activists and their ties into the country. The repressive practices of the Iranian state are not only a response to the transnationalisation of political activism but also result of a global securitization of online space. The Iranian case thus demonstrates how contemporary authoritarian power is built and sustained in processes no longer bound to a specific state or territory.

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Author Biography

Marcus Michaelsen, University of Amsterdam

Marcus Michaelsen is a postdoctoral researcher in the department of Political Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. His research interests include media and political change, digital media activism, and the politics of internet governance, with a particular focus on Iran and the Middle East. He obtained a PhD in Media and Communication Studies from the University of Erfurt (Germany) with a dissertation on the Internet’s role for political change in Iran. Michaelsen is the editor of Election Fallout (2011), a collection of articles by Iranian journalists on the 2009 election protests, repression and life in exile.


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