International relations (IR) scholars studying public diplomacy expect that if a foreign public accepts and responds favourably to the narrative disseminated by a public diplomacy actor, this actor is more likely to achieve its desired policy objectives in the country. So how can we explain that pro-European elites in Ukraine employed the European Union’s narratives during the Maidan protests, leading to regime change in Ukraine and a separatist war involving Russia — situations the European Union had wanted to avoid? Drawing on Gadamer’s theory on the transformation of meaning in communication processes, this article seeks to explain how local activists pick up, transform and employ narratives disseminated by an international actor. Arguing that public diplomacy narratives can be reinterpreted by the receptor, thus leading to unintended effects, the article calls for further attention on the role of narratives and their reception by local actors in the study of IR.
The Hague Journal of Diplomacy – Brill
Published: Aug 7, 2018