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Alina Utrata

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Selected Publications


I am a PhD Candidate in Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge and a 2020 Gates-Cambridge Scholar. My doctoral research examines corporations beyond the traditional political/economic divide, theorizing how and when technology corporations may enact a kind of political power both over individual citizens and against the state.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I received my BA from Stanford University in History with a minor in Human Rights. I received my MA in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice from Queen’s University Belfast as a 2017 Marshall Scholar. My master’s research looked at how new technologies were impacting policing and the nature of state control in Northern Ireland. 

In my free time, I host and produce the podcast and newsletter The Anti-Dystopians, the politics podcast about tech. 

Current Research 

My doctoral thesis “Silicon Valley and the State: Towards a Political Theory of Technology Corporations” explores how corporate and state power have interacted in areas which have historically been considered state functions. Taking an expansive view of corporations in global history, I examine how companies have come to control technological regimes—from cloud computing to digital payment systems—and what type of power this confers. I argue that exploring how states and corporations negotiate control of digital infrastructure can illuminate the proper place of territoriality in constituting state sovereignty as well as the “jurisdictional evasiveness” at the core of corporations’ power. 

In addition to my doctoral research, I have published in the American Political Science Review comparing Silicon Valley’s outer space colonization projects with the histories of colonizing corporations such as the British or Dutch East India Companies. I explore how outer space colonization and the idea of “engineering territory” has inspired wider Silicon Valley political exit projects such as cyberspace, sea-steading and network states which, rather than creating spaces of anarchical freedom, are attempting to recreate the territorial state in new spaces. 

Future Research 

 While there is a burgeoning scholarly literature on the unique role and power of contemporary technology corporations, this is not the first time that the ability of states to control corporations tasked with critical infrastructure has been called into question. Indeed, decolonial debates around economic sovereignty or the nationalization of critical infrastructure—such as the Suez Canal Company or the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company—have clear parallels to the discussions of digital sovereignty today. My future research intends to bring historical discussions about economic sovereignty and nationalization crises to bear on contemporary concerns in order to ask whether the technology of the internet or cloud really represents something new in the historic power struggle between corporations and states.


At Cambridge University, I have been a supervisor for papers POL 1: The Modern State and Its Alternatives and HP3: Theory and Practice in History and Politics, Technology Section. Additionally, I co-supervised the undergraduate politics dissertation “Period Tracking Apps: Corporate Digital Surveillance and Reproductive Justice.” At Stanford University, I was a part-time assistant for courses HUMRTS 101: Gateway to Human Rights, HUMRTS 103: Transitional Justice, Human Rights, and International Criminal Tribunals and HUMRTS 114: Human Rights Practice and Challenges in Southeast Asia.

In addition to general courses relating to Technology and Politics, Political Theory, International Relations and Human Rights, I am prepared to organize and teach my own courses such as:

  1. Corporations in Political Theory and Historical Perspective: From the British East India Company to Workplace Democracy

  2. How (Not) To Start a New Country: The Politics of Political Exit

  3. What’s Wrong With Outer Space Colonialism?: Inventing the Empty Frontier

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