Amy Thomson


Iranian politics essay wins postgraduate prize

Massey University’s Amy Thomson is proof that there is more to politics than just John Key, David Shearer or Winston Peters.

Ms Thomson has won the New Zealand Political Studies Association postgraduate prize for best paper in a field other than domestic politics for her essay The ‘Dynamics of Contention’ in the Islamic Republic of Iran: The Origins and Failure of the 2009 Post-Election Protests.

With a Bachelor of Arts in Politics (Honours) and a Bachelor of Science in Zoology, Ms Thomson, who is a teaching co-ordinator in the School of People, Environment and Planning, is undertaking her Master of Arts in politics, which she is hoping to have finished this month.

Her award-winning conference paper was an adaption from her honours project, “It looks at why protests suddenly sprang up out of the blue in Iran, when they’re close to being a revolution but then end up failing," she says. “I found there was an undercurrent of resentment in society due to the actions of the political elite in Iran prior to the 2009 presidential election. Then to the public it appeared as though the elections were rigged and it was the last straw. People began to express their anger by pouring onto the street protesting.

“But then the paramilitary in Iran, who were loyal to the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], were called in to threaten the protesters causing pain and in some cases loss of life. The cost of protesting was too high for the people to continue.”
As well as winning a $500 prize, Ms Thomson also received glowing feedback from the judges, who said the essay “a well-done piece of research that showed an excellent understanding of current political trends in Iran".

She says the motivation to enter the competition came from the encouragement of her supervisor and lecturer, Dr Nigel Parsons. “Nigel has been a rock for me, an encouraging presence pushing me to be the best I can be and to take advantage of the study environment while I am in it. He has been encouraging me to get my research published and the competition provided me with a benchmark to see if my work was eligible for the public domain, it meant I could get critical feedback from the community and aim to improve from there.”

Dr Parsons, a senior lecturer in politics, has taught her Amy through from her 100-level politics papers. “What I like about Amy’s dissertation is that it is a top draw, text book example of the way we typically approach the teaching of politics here at Massey University," he says. "We try to teach students concepts that they can fit to data, rather like a spanner fits a bolt, and, with Amy, she’s done just that. Amy’s conceptual framework is ‘dynamics of contention’ and her data is Iran’s 2009 post election processes. Her example is a tight fit and meant she came up with a perceptive political analysis that is now taking her places. The acknowledgment she is receiving is validation on a national level.”

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