EMILY L BLOUT
Researching and writing about politics and power
in global media
Practicing communications strategist
and foreign policy expert
RESEARCH AND SCHOLARSHIP
My scholarly interests relate to the way media reflects, undermines, reinforces, and changes power in modern societies. My conceptualization of power is a constitutive one, as it looks at the underlying relations of force that structure and shape identities, interests and meanings in a co-constitutive way, and accepts the relevance and impact that technology has on social relations and vise versa. This interest is perhaps best reflected in my upcoming book on the history and politics of media in Iran. Entitled Media and Power in Modern Iran, the book is an exploration of media in the construction and legitimation of hegemonic power (1942-2018).
MEDIA AND POWER IN MODERN IRAN
MASS COMMUNICATION, IDEOLOGY, AND THE STATE
IB Tauris, Bloomsbury
From former President Mohammad Khatami to current President Hassan Rouhani, successive leaders have struggled to navigate the fraught political-cultural space of media in the Islamic Republic of Iran— skirting the lines between embracing the Western communications technologies and ethos, and rejecting them; and between condemning social networking sites as foreign treachery, and promoting themselves on Facebook. How does a regime that derived its hegemony from the ability to mass-communicate its ideology, protect its ideological dominance in an environment characterized by “disruptive power” and “mass self-communication” ? What is the role of media in the construction of political power in Iran?
This book addresses these questions by examining the media institutions, policies, and media texts of two political regimes over the course of more than five decades. Beginning in the late twentieth century in the flagging days of the monarchy, the book takes us through the revolution of 1979 and the “imposed war” (jang-e tahmili) with Iraq, to the present, where we see a regime struggling to manage the divergent impulses of the nativist, populist, revolutionary movement that brought it to power and the challenges of maintaining that power today.
This a partly a historical study. Drawing from over 300 primary sources in Farsi and English, including never before used documents from archives in Britain, Iran, and the United States, the book chronicles state media institutions and strategies across political regimes and media paradigms—from Iran’s first encounter with mass communication in the 1940s, to the dawn of digital media in the 1990s, to internet and mobile telephony today.
At the same time, the book trains a keen eye on contemporary politics. With foundations in sociology and political science, Media and Power in Modern Iran offers insight into the political communication strategy of the contemporary ruling establishment—a political regime born out of what has become known as the “first televised revolution."
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IMMERSIVE TERRORISM: CHARLOTTESVILLE AND THE NEW FACE OF VIOLENT WHITE SUPREMACY
Hot off the Press
In August 2017, 600 white supremacists from 34 states descended upon a small city in central Virginia to terrorize its residents. The “Unite the Right” rally was the public unveiling of a new generation of violent white supremacism—an armed, media-savvy, digitally-empowered political movement that has rapidly become America’s top domestic terrorism threat,
I recently teamed up with Patrick Burkart of Texas A&M on new study that takes you inside the planning, promotion, and execution of the rally as a model of “immersive terrorism.” Click here to read the study, which was published in the Journal Conflict and Terrorism Studies.
GOVERNMENTALITY OF INFORMATION INTERMEDIARIES
A second avenue of interest relates to the securitization and governmentality of information intermediaries and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This interest draws from a number of roundtables and brown bag lunches I have participated in as a Fellow at the Internet Governance Lab at American University.
In the last years especially, information intermediaries have been taking actions once ascribed to government such as surveilling, censoring, and exacting punishment for violations of its laws. Not only do these platforms assume responsibility for matters of governance, they increasingly make attribution claims. Future research will look at the problem of attribution as it relates to information integrity on social media (i.e. “fake news”). Specifically, my research will investigate how and why a social media platform like Facebook and an information aggregate like YouTube decides to make an attribution claim concerning the false or misleading representation of a user, a group, or news event. Such an investigation would offer insight on the governmentally of information intermediaries in the absence of government regulation and oversight. A related phenomenon that merits attention is the trend in “de-platforming” by information intermediaries in response to the white nationalist movement in the United States.
DIGITAL SURVEILLANCE AND INTERNET SOVEREIGNTY
A third area of interest relates to the global trend in “data sovereignty.” In the wake of the Snowden revelations, there has been a marked global shift towards the territorialization of online space. Nations such as Iran, Russia, and China have passed laws requiring network intermediaries to store user data and content within their sovereign borders and forcing ISPs to conduct surveillance and censorship on behalf of the state. I am interested in how nations use imaginaries of security to legitimate the control and regulation of the information intermediaries. Future research may include a comparative multinational study of the issue of data territorialization and “internet nationalism” from a technical, economic, and cultural lens.
To discuss the projects I have worked on, contact me today.