When Defiance Turns into Violence: Status, Roles, and Killing thy Enemy

  • Sebastian Harnisch (Author)


How, when, and why do governments use lethal violence against dissenting citizens residing outside of their jurisdiction? Beyond state-led forms of forceful repression of citizens, an increasing number of autocratic governments have targeted and killed a growing number of individuals outside their territories, using highly symbolic means, such as nerve agent poisonings, public hangings, and airplane high-jackings. Despite a growing interest in targeted killings in general and (trans-)national repression in particular, the field of International Relations still lacks a theoretical explanation for these state ordered politically directed murders beyond borders. Bringing together recent advances in state and role theory as well as studies of norm transformation on targeted killing, I propose a comparative approach that interprets state-ordered public killings as acts of defiance to restore dominant status roles of autocratic governments vis-à-vis critical citizens and a liberal international society. I illustrate my argument through two cases, Russia and North Korea, identifying two variants of defiant political murder, preemptive (Russian) and emancipatory (North Korea).


How to Cite
Harnisch, S. (2024). When Defiance Turns into Violence: Status, Roles, and Killing thy Enemy. The Journal of Transcultural Studies, 14(1-2), 139–178. https://doi.org/10.17885/heiup.jts.2023.1-2.24991