Center for Strategic Communication

In case you missed it back in December 2013, I wanted to direct attention back to a presentation given to the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy on Capitol Hill. There, the incisive Emily Metzgar and myself presented some preliminary observations about the state of public diplomacy research based on an expansive, meta-review of over 700 articles related to public diplomacy research over the past few decades. We are currently nearing completion of the project, along with the help of rising public diplomacy scholar Efe Sevin, and will ideally present our findings to the International Studies Association next year.

This preliminary testimony shouldn’t be surprising. Much of the research on public diplomacy is focused on the United States. Public diplomacy research is remarkably thin on theory. The dominant theory is soft power (which Nye himself argues is not really a theory, but an ‘analytical concept’). It is also largely normative or framed as policy prescription. What is clear to me at least is that there needs to be greater cross-disciplinary attention to public diplomacy research, where fields like political communication, cultural studies, social psychology, cyber-culture studies (to name a few) can and should see public diplomacy as a rich site of inquiry.