CALL FOR PAPERS

INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP: Reframing the Nation: Media Publics and Strategic Narratives

DATE: 18-19 May 2009

VENUE: The Open University, Hawley Crescent, Camden Town, London.

Keynote speakers:

Sir Lawrence Freedman (King’s College, London)

Nick Cull (Annenberg School, University of Southern California)

Laura Roselle (Elon University)

Philip Seib (Annenberg School, University of Southern California)

Nation states have always used the media to project strategic national narratives on the world stage. But recent shifts in geopolitical and diplomatic imperatives, especially the ‘war on terror’, and the changing digital media ecology, have generated new kinds of public diplomacy initiatives. For example, the BBC World Service, funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has recently cut radio services in Eastern Europe to make way for BBC Arabic and Persian TV channels, with accompanying tri-platform online services (text, audio and video). These initiatives place high value on interactive debate, citizen journalism, and user generated content. But does such interactivity really contribute to the BBC’s declared aim of fostering a ‘global conversation’, i.e. democratic debate in the Muslim world in particular? And is a coherent strategic narrative about British interests abroad projected by these channels?

Several English-language transnational television channels recently launched, including Al Jazeera English, Press TV (Iran), CCTV9 (China), France 24, and Russia Today. They pose further questions about strategic narratives and public diplomacy in the new media ecology. Diasporic groups, increasingly connected via digital media, are being recognised as exploitable for diplomacy purposes. States can mobilise citizens both at home and abroad in diplomatic media initiatives via internet chat rooms and news discussion sites. How are we to research and evaluate changing configurations of media ‘audiences’ or ‘publics’, and the uses of digital diasporas by states for diplomacy purposes? And what about the ways in which diaspora actors use digital media to challenge strategic national narratives?

The media are essentially storytelling machines. When political narratives represent future-oriented identity claims, they typically invoke the past in order to articulate distinctive national positions on events, issues, policy domains, or a country’s place in world political narratives. As social lives and political events become more open to being digitally recorded, narrated, stored and transported in unpredictable ways, the potential for citizens to disrupt such strategic narratives and public diplomacy efforts also grows. Can citizen journalism and digital storytelling constitute an effective form of resistance to strategic national narratives?

At a moment when emerging state powers such as China, India, and the EU pose a challenge to US pre-eminence globally, there is a need for comparative studies of how citizens as well as state, political, and military actors are using media to reframe and/or contest national narratives.

This exploratory workshop addresses these dynamics through discussion of studies of how the ‘strategic narratives’ of nation-states and also of transnational actors, like the EU, are projected and interpreted domestically and internationally. It brings together scholars from Sociology, Media Studies, Political Communications and International Relations to address these key questions:

* How can we identify, analyse and assess the impact of strategic narratives?

* How are configurations of audiences and publics changing as a result of migration and media technologies, and how do such changes affect the meanings and practices of (mediated) citizenship?

* How do strategic narratives translate (or not) across linguistic or cultural boundaries within and/or between nations?

* How do state actors work with the media, the military, NGOs, corporations, and other institutions to project strategic narratives?

* How do political leaders assimilate international events into established national narratives and/or change the narratives?

* How do media users respond to attempts to shift strategic national narratives?

* What difference do strategic narratives make to international alliances, military interventions, and the domestic legitimacy of leaders?

* What forms of knowledge and understandings of history are drawn upon in mobilising and/or challenging strategic narratives?

* What methodological tools (from the Arts and Humanities and the Social Sciences) can help us research and interpret the political, social and cultural significance of strategic national narratives?

Please send an abstract (150 words max) by 20th April to Karen Ho: k.d.ho@open.ac.uk.

For further information contact either Marie Gillespie (m.gillespie@open.ac.uk) or Ben O’Loughlin (Ben.OLoughlin@rhul.ac.uk) or call Ben on 01784 443153.

The exploratory workshop is funded by the Open University’s ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) and the New Political Communication Unit and the Centre for European Politics at Royal Holloway College. It is also supported by the Centre for Global Political Economy at the University of Sussex.

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