The power of (emotion) words: on the importance of emotions for social constructivist discourse analysis in IR

Abstract

Constructivist approaches in International Relations (IR) often emphasise the importance of language in the construction of reality, identity and power relations. It is sometimes overlooked that the discursive exercise of power, for example, via status differentiation, is rooted in collective emotions that undergird and reproduce social discourses and identities at the international level. It is argued here that the inclusion of emotions as an additional category in the analysis of intersubjectivity allows further questions and that the scope of meanings that emerge from the discussion of emotions is too often overlooked in constructivist discourse analysis. To this end, this article presents building blocks for emotion-based discourse analysis in IR. Building on process sociology, it is shown how particular emotion categories can strengthen relational structures of domination and resistance but can also lead to the transformation of social hierarchies in world politics. The theoretical and conceptual assumptions are then empirically illustrated using emotion-based power figurations between the EU member states and the EU candidate countries. Finally, the article summarises the theoretical implications of the argument and provides a possible research agenda for emotion-based constructivist discourse analysis.

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Acknowledgements

This research has been generously funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as part of the research network Constructivist Emotion Research. Thanks are due to Roland Bleiker, Thomas Diez, Anna Geis, Regina Heller, Marina Karbowski, Andrew Ross, Monika Schwarz-Friesel, Stephan Stetter and the anonymous reviewers as well as the editors for their excellent suggestions and critique.

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Koschut, S. The power of (emotion) words: on the importance of emotions for social constructivist discourse analysis in IR. J Int Relat Dev 21, 495–522 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41268-017-0086-0

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Keywords

  • emotions
  • discourse
  • power
  • social constructivism