Western Assumptions in Non-Western Public Diplomacies: Individualism and Estrangement

In: The Hague Journal of Diplomacy
R.S. Zaharna School of Communication, American University Washington, DC 20016-8017 United States

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Recently, there has been a drive to rebalance public diplomacy scholarship from its predominantly Western origins. However, even as we diversify to non-Western studies, buried assumptions laid in public diplomacy’s foundation may still continue to restrict our view of public diplomacy as a global practice. This Forum essay critically examines two of those assumptions. First, ‘individualism’ — as an ideal of separate, bounded entities — fosters a tight focus on individual actors and action, while often overlooking relational and contextual dynamics. Second, ‘estrangement’ normalises the idea of separation and alienation, a proposition not shared by other traditions that recognise diversity but presupposes inter-connectedness and commonality. From relational and holistic perspectives, mediating diversity is not the same as ‘mediating estrangement’. The goal of exposing assumptions is to recognise their limitations and create space for more relational and holistic perspectives to expand our vision from West/non-West to a range of global public diplomacies.

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