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Globalised Authoritarianism, Transnational Repression and International Security

Conflict
Globalisation
International Relations
Security
Realism
State Power
Fiona Adamson
School of Oriental and African Studies
Fiona Adamson
School of Oriental and African Studies

Abstract

A growing literature on globalized authoritarianism and transnational repression has identified the extent to which authoritarian states act transnationally to target individuals abroad (see eg Cooley and Heathershaw 2017, 187-2019; Lewis 2015; Moss 2016). Recent cases of targeted surveillance, policing and assassination of individuals – including the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi, the poisoning of several Russian emigrants in the United Kingdom, and the targeting of opposition groups abroad by Iranian and Turkish agents, to name just a few examples – suggest the significance of this phenomenon and the extent to which it poses both a security threat and a policy dilemma for the states of residence of potential targets of transnational repression. The transnational targeting of exiles and opposition actors is not a new practice (Garvey 1980; Shain 1991), but has nevertheless been understudied and undertheorized in the literature in international security. Practices of transnational policing, surveillance and targeting of individuals in exile and the diaspora call into question the international/domestic divide in security studies and are not neatly captured by mainstream realist or liberal approaches to global security. At the same time, such practices do not fit easily with securitisation and critical approaches that have focused primarily on security as a discursive construct. Nor do they fit well with existing human security approaches that have focused largely on development and rights. The paper will address targeted assassinations, policing and surveillance as pressing policy issues that requires addressing, but that also constitute sites of necessary theorizing for security studies. The paper will build on work in diaspora studies and draw on extensive historical and contemporary examples of “transnational repression” in its discussion of how globalized authoritarian practices impact international security.