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Telling Stories of Failure: Narrative Constructions of Foreign Policy Fiascos

Foreign Policy
Kai Oppermann
University of Sussex
Kai Oppermann
University of Sussex
Alexander Spencer
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU

While many agree that foreign policy fiascos are in the eye of the beholder and are not objective facts but are constructed in discourse, very few have employed discourse analytical methods for their analysis. This paper illustrates the method of narrative analysis and shows how foreign policy fiascos are discursively constructed in the media. Based on insights from literary studies and Narratology it shows that stories of failure include a number of key elements including a particular setting which guides appropriate behaviour, a characterization of the main actors as well as an emplotment of the ‘fiasco’ through the attribution of cause and responsibility. The paper illustrates this through a narrative analysis of German media reporting on the highly criticized German government abstention in the UN Security Council vote on Resolution 1973 in March 2011 regarding the military intervention in Libya.
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