Migrating Authoritarianism

Pre-defence seminar with Birgitte Stampe Holst.

External examiner

Hayder Al-Mohammad (University of Colorado Springs)


Political Logics and not so Radical Change for Syrians Living in Refuge in Lebanon and Turkey.

In the beginning of 2011, thousands of Syrians took to the streets to demand change and dignity from the authoritarian Syrian regime. The regime responded harshly and soon a bloody conflict took hold of large parts of the country. Millions of Syrians fled the violence and sought refuge in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Turkey. There they struggle to maintain meaningful lives, while they wait to return to Syria or to find another viable path.

Between 2014 and 2015, I embarked upon 12 months of fieldwork among mainly Sunni Muslim Syrians, who now live in Lebanon and Turkey. The aim was to investigate if and how Syrian authoritarianism -understood both as a system of government and as the social ground through which the Syrian regime governs- migrates across international borders and (re-)constitutes itself as a structure of power and authority in the lives of Syrians, who now live in refuge in Lebanon or Turkey.

This thesis thus investigates how forms of authoritarianism migrate and stand reproduced among Sunni Muslim Syrians even as they live in refuge in neighbouring countries and even in these times of upheaval, where the possibility for change has not only been introduced but is also the subject of ongoing violent struggle. I introduce the concept of ‘political logics’ as an analytical lens through which to capture this complex relationship between a system of government and everyday social lives and through which to account for the sometimes contradictory processes involved in the reproduction of authoritarianism. 

I focus in the thesis on the political logics of Sunni Muslims, because this group as the majority sect is often understood to stand in an oppositional relationship to the minority Alawite regime.