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Whistleblower as Activist and Exile: the case of Edward Snowden

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Iain Munro



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Whistleblowing is an important form of radical political activism, influencing social reform by fundamentally changing the way we see our world. This article contributes to understandings of whistleblower- activism in cases of wrongdoing on the part of state institutions. Extant theorizations of organizational whistleblowing fall short in explaining such instances. In contrast, this article develops four key dynamics of state whistleblower-activism: disclosures radically outside both organization and state, extreme dependence on supporters, democratic activism through alternative loyalties, and parrhesia revealing a crisis in Western democracy. These insights are elaborated through in-depth exploration of the exemplar case of U.S. national security whistleblower Edward Snowden. We argue that the emergent concept of ‘exilic whistleblowing’, inspired by Hannah Arendt’s work on exile, offers novel insights. Contributions extend understandings of whistleblowing theory and practice highlighting critical aspects of exilic whistleblowing as activist resistance: how it can be used strategically as part of activist critique aimed at changing the status quo, and how the exiled whistleblower acts as a vanguard helping to bring about a new political consciousness concerning the state of modern democracy and its capacity to uphold constitutional and international human rights.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Munro I, Kenny K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Organization

Year: 2023

Pages: Epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 30/08/2023

Acceptance date: 27/07/2023

Date deposited: 17/08/2023

ISSN (print): 1350-5084

ISSN (electronic): 1461-7323

Publisher: Sage Publications


DOI: 10.1177/13505084231194824

ePrints DOI: 10.57711/f1r0-3y21


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