Contesting Security and the Binding Effect in the US and the UK Discourse and Policy of “War on Terror”: A Theoretical and Empirical Exploration through a Dialogical-Relational Framework
Date: 7 October 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Politics
Post-structuralist IR has often treated foreign policy/security discourses and their effects on policy through a “representational model”, i.e. how one dominant representation makes possible particular policy outcomes. However, in a longitudinal analysis, where the concern with “outcome” is already about continuity/change, this model ...
Post-structuralist IR has often treated foreign policy/security discourses and their effects on policy through a “representational model”, i.e. how one dominant representation makes possible particular policy outcomes. However, in a longitudinal analysis, where the concern with “outcome” is already about continuity/change, this model is restricting and must be replaced by a model integrating multiple voices and contestations, and looking for non-linear mechanisms of long-term constraints. Thus, the purpose of this thesis is, first, to develop a theoretical-analytical framework suitable for an explicit interest in contestations and tracing constraints; and second, in an illustrative-explorative study, to apply such relational-dialogical framework to “war on terror” in the US and the UK (2001-2012). Bakhtinian Dialogism occupies an important status in the framework; therefore, a broader aim is to demonstrate how a “dialogical turn” inspired by the philosophy of Mikhail Bakhtin and his circle would enrich debate. Developments of the past decade – increased anti-war critique, change of governments in the US and the UK, and protracted withdrawal – provide new grounds for a longitudinal inquiry into “war on terror”. Moving beyond the question how “war on terror” was initially constructed and legitimised, scholarly attention must focus on a longitudinal inquiry into why “war on terror” endured. In this respect, the formidable deconstructions of official discourses by anti-war critique have received marginal attention in IR. The empirical part explores how critical discourses have contested the official narratives; how the latter have engaged with them as well as with moderate deliberative critique, and to what effect for continuity/change, to understand whether and how successive governments in the US and the UK have been discursively constrained (bound) in their attempts to change policy. Without claiming to be a comprehensive explanation, it locates and interprets patterns and logics within the discursive exchanges, delineating potential routes contributing to constraints and hence continuation. Thus, on the one hand, destabilising critique was shattering the foundations of the official “war on terror” narratives without fully re-inscribing the dislocated space with new imaginings, thus inviting official representatives to re-claim such space. On the other hand, deliberative voices were pushing for the realisation of the promises inherent in the official discourse, demanding “winning” the (albeit “mistaken”) war, thus inviting for continued engagement.
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