Dissertation Abstracts

Mediated framing contests in post-9/11 U.S.-Pakistan public diplomacy crises

Author: Sami Siddiq, ssiddiq@go.wustl.edu
Department: School of Social Sciences
University: University of Auckland, New Zealand
Supervisor: Catherine Lane West-Newman
Year of completion: 2019
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Frame Analysis , Public Diplomacy , Impression Management , Crisis Communication
Areas of Research: Political Sociology , Social Psychology , Communication, Knowledge and Culture


Public diplomacy is a principal means through which reputation-conscious international actors strive to project favorable self-images and counteract image problems in international politics. In times of highly publicized diplomatic controversies (or ‘public diplomacy crises’), public diplomacy via news media can become a strategy of crisis management. I argue in this study that the resort to such ‘mediated public diplomacy’ is a strategic choice state actors make to maximize the reputational stakes or ‘face’ concerns to pressure (or resist) one another by constraining the bargaining preferences of each disputant in a crisis. In so doing, I draw on insights from sociologically-oriented studies on Goffmanian impression management in international relations, as well as the theoretical literature on mediated public diplomacy in communication studies, and relevant negotiation and conflict resolution research on framing. The study ultimately shows that political actors manage their collective national ‘face’ while symbolically communicating through frames in the news media during public diplomacy crises. In the course of such mediated framing contests, opposing frames dialogically interact with each other during the onset, escalation, and resolution of a crisis. While crisis disputants may have incompatible interests that are conveyed in aggressive exchanges in the media, a shared concern about maintaining ‘face’ can bring crisis interactions to converge on a mutually agreeable frame. For the empirical illustration of my argument, the recourse to mediated public diplomacy during two crises in U.S.-Pakistan relations in 2011 are analyzed. First, the Raymond Davis diplomatic immunity dispute and, second, the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. The data for each case study is drawn from official statements, news reports, and elite/expert interviews.