Manual Identity and Foreign Policy

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Even if all these obstacles to the study of identity can be overcome, one also must question whether identity is actually doing any constitutive or causal work in the cases we seek to understand. Constructivist arguments, in brief, account for factors that fundamentally shape ideas about what is possible, desirable, and necessary, prescribing and proscribing behaviors based on understandings of identities and interests that purely rationalist arguments do not problematize. That a gun in the hand of a friend differs from a gun in the hand of an enemy is commonsensical.

The explanation for this lies not in distributions of material capabilities, but in the intersubjective understandings that give meaning to relationships between actors. Several recent works of constructivism addressing the challenges enumerated above directly engage the role of norms and identity in foreign policy and thus provide guidance for developing an overarching analysis of the relationship between domestic identity politics and foreign policy.

This book incorporates and builds on insights from this foundational scholarship, developing a well-grounded study newly examining the foreign policy arena as a locus of national identity contestation. In doing so, I develop a theory that identifies the underlying sources of what may otherwise appear to be inchoate sets of pick-a-mix foreign policy strategies.

With the goal of providing a more comprehensive analysis of the relationship between domestic identity politics and foreign policy, this book conceptualizes p. This approach offers a broader lens for the analysis of the relationship between national identity debates and foreign policy than those viewing the latter solely as an outcome of struggles among competing identity groups or as the source of those struggles.

Rather than being a theory of domestic politics explaining struggles over economic resources or other forms of material power, inside-out identity contestation theory analyzes struggles to define the appropriate identity for a particular social group. Drawing on insights from experimental research in social psychology regarding the ontological function of social identities, inside-out theory assumes p. Inside-out theory also assumes that in-group members share a desire to realize in practice the goals envisioned by their identity. In constructivist IR terms, this is equivalent to an actor fulfilling the interests generated by his or her identity.

Individuals—and particularly elites, who may be better equipped with financial tools and skill sets—thus strive for hegemony of their proposals to satisfy personal needs and realize group interests. While acknowledging that hegemony is a loaded term, I select it to connote the power wielded and legitimacy enjoyed by an identity proposal that has achieved a certain status. Hegemony is thus a goal for which supporters of competing identity proposals strive but rarely if ever achieve.

As another theoretical contribution, I also identify the conditions under which this identity contestation takes place outside, rather than inside, the state. By conceptualizing foreign policy as a locus of national identity contestation, the theory I develop identifies an additional, and counterintuitive, site in which supporters of identity proposals attempt to advance these proposals toward hegemony other than within the domestic sphere.

Further, foreign policy is treated here not solely as the realm of governmental elites, but also as a site in which identity proposal supporters who are not in power may also attempt to p. Externalizing contestation in the foreign policy arena can serve as a highly successful strategy for advancing identity proposals when there are major domestic obstacles to these proposals, because the contenders and rules in the foreign policy contest differ.

Crucially, there is no pushback from opponents who vehemently defend competing proposals for the same identity, whose content may fundamentally conflict with that of the proposal being advanced and therefore be viewed as intolerable. The ontological commitments to particular components of a national identity are much weaker, if present at all, for interlocutors in foreign policy than they are in the domestic arena, because they have much less stake in the identity content of the in-group.


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Supporters of an identity proposal may therefore use the foreign policy arena to pursue hegemony if doing so at home risks posing an organizational or even existential threat to the in-group. Political or religious groups that have been forced to disband, for example, but whose members have reconstituted a moderated version of the group, may be more likely to fight in the foreign policy arena due to past experiences and fear of future repression from those who find the content of their identity proposal intolerable.


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  • In addition, in drawing on both comparativist and IR literatures, we can identify several mechanisms by which supporters not only circumvent obstacles but also benefit from opportunities available in the foreign policy arena. With the mechanism of contestation used to advance the spread of identity proposals across a population having been outlined, the last part of this section presents a framework for analyzing the identity content specific to each proposal. This shared content—such as beliefs about membership in and desired goals of the in-group, as well as how the in-group should relate to others—is difficult to determine empirically and even more difficult to capture analytically.

    Inside-out contestation theory therefore utilizes a replicable framework, first proposed in an interdisciplinary and mixed-methods volume by Abdelal, Yoshiko Herrera, Alastair Iain Johnston, and Rose McDermott, 42 that breaks down identity content into four components, thus making the nebulous concept of identity easier to grasp. Second, the social purpose component defines group interests, the goals that the in-group believes it should achieve.

    Importantly, this framework does not posit that any of these elements are fixed; rather, through processes of contestation both within an in-group and among an in-group and its various out-groups, these components can change.

    Russia's Contested National Identity and Foreign Policy - Oxford Scholarship

    This framework therefore facilitates the analysis of such topics as a change in the norms of behavior for a specific identity proposal over time e. This framework also facilitates identifying clear red lines of seeming intolerability among proposals. I theorize that supporters of competing proposals run up against issues that appear to be unsolvable and thus object to norms of prescribed behavior that are not only inappropriate but unacceptable to supporters of a rival proposal: 43 for example, is Europe our friend or enemy, are we pacific or bellicose? Some components of identity content may be shared across proposals e.

    Identifying intolerable components among proposals thus provides insight into why supporters of a proposal may encounter challenges that block their pursuit of hegemony in the domestic arena. To understand how blockage functions, I conceptualize those challenges powerful enough to thwart such pursuits as identity-based obstacles.

    I demonstrate that pursuits of hegemony that are ultimately thwarted by the presence of identity-based obstacles lead supporters to take their identity contestation outside through foreign policy. In sum, the framework developed here specifies content components of identity proposals and highlights points of intolerability among proposals. The framework is used in conjunction with the specified mechanism of contestation, which allows for both the content of particular proposals to change and levels of support to shift from one proposal to another over time.

    Identity and Turkish Foreign Policy

    As such, the framework provides a basis for replicability within cases and cross-case comparison of identity proposals in future scholarship. Vital to constructing and applying any theory of identity contestation is developing a method for identifying and distinguishing among competing identity proposals. In basic terms, how do we know an identity proposal when we see it? This step allows for the analytical assembly of the bits of identity stuff into coherent and cohesive concepts once located, but the task of determining how to collect and interpret these bits remains.

    Searching for evidence of certain identities could easily prejudice the findings in numerous ways, such as by creating predetermined notions of p. Rather than engage, therefore, in basic ascriptive classification, I employ an intertextual analysis approach that seeks to extract existing proposals for national identity content from discourse. This approach deliberately avoids application of identities specified a priori by initiating investigation agnostic about the understandings of identity content expected to be found. Intertextual analysis involves inductively recovering existing but potentially obscured identities from oral, written, and symbolic texts, 44 organically constructing collective identities that cohere around shared understandings.

    The sources used to extract various identity proposals in this study include texts found in print and online news media; social media sites; and government archives, including minutes from parliamentary debates, party platforms, and legislation published in the Official Gazette Resmi Gazete.

    About Identity and Turkish Foreign Policy

    Novels can serve as an extraordinarily useful vehicle for gaining insight into the contours of identity debates, providing a forum in which overt discussions of normally taboo issues regarding identity can take place. Through analyzing such texts, the researcher—particularly one not native to the country of study—becomes privy to scenes one might not otherwise be able to observe. Further, sifting through various public reactions to controversial novels also provides insight into the reasons particular subjects are taboo.

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