International Misrecognition: The Politics of Humour and National Identity in Israel’s Public Diplomacy

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Recognition, or the lack of it, is a central concern in International Relations. However, how states cope with international misrecognition has so far not been thoroughly explored in International Relations scholarship. To address this, the article presents a theoretical framework for understanding international misrecognition by drawing on discursive and psychoanalytical theories of collective identity formation and humour studies. The article conceptualises international misrecognition as a gap between the dominant narrative of a national Self and the way in which this national Self is reflected in the ‘mirror’ of the international Other. We argue that humour offers an important way of coping with misrecognition by ridiculing and thereby downplaying international criticism. The significance for international relations is illustrated through an analysis of the public diplomacy campaign ‘Presenting Israel’, which, through parodying video clips, mobilised ordinary Israeli citizens to engage in peer-to-peer public diplomacy to explain Israel when travelling abroad. Public diplomacy campaigns are commonly seen by scholars and practitioners as attempts to improve the nation’s image and smoothen or normalise international Self–Other relations. However, after analysing the discursive and visual components of the campaign — which parodied how European media portrayed Israel as primitive, violent and exotic — this article observes that in the context of international misrecognition, such coping attempts can actually contribute to further international estrangement.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)3–29
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Social Sciences - Misrecognition, Public Diplomacy, Nation Branding, Israel, Diplomacy, National Identity, International Relations, international relations theories, Lacan

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