Managing uncertainty: the everyday global politics of post-9/11 US public diplomacy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Uncertainty lies at the heart of public diplomacy. And yet as a field, public diplomacy has been predominated by the International Relations (IR) concept of soft power that cannot account for the uncertainties of our late modern moment. Exploring public diplomacy as everyday politics, this chapter maps out an alternative theoretical and methodological path to critically explore public diplomacy and its entanglement with the politics of uncertainty. It advances a critical IR approach – a poststructuralist framework of performativity and governmentality – to trace how multiple everyday uncertainties make themselves felt in contemporary US public diplomacy. Drawing from a larger research project on ongoing US cultural exchange programmes ‘in response to’ the September 11th 2001 attacks, it argues that everyday life and culture co-constitutes global politics. Centring the ordinary individuals and banal practices that comprise these cultural exchanges enables this critical approach to interrogate the specificities of these programmes and thereby reveal the uncertainty co-constituted within them. This chapter explores how the everyday global politics of post-9/11 US public diplomacy hinges upon the management of/via uncertainty across three key sites: uncertainty as riskiness, as contingency, and as possibility. By engaging with uncertainty in multiple and complex ways, this chapter illustrates how an alternative and critical approach of performativity and governmentality provides rich, insightful analyses of the everyday practices of US public diplomacy and the global politics it co-constitutes. Uncertainty then can be embraced as opening possibilities for other knowledges, alternative identities and a reimagined politics of the everyday of US public diplomacy.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic diplomacy and the politics of uncertainty
EditorsPawel Surowiec, Ilan Manor
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9783030545529
ISBN (Print)9783030545512
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePalgrave Macmillan series in global public diplomacy


  • Public diplomacy
  • Uncertainty
  • Cultural exchange
  • Everyday life
  • Politics


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