Brand new world : the politics of state-branding in Kazakhstan and Qatar
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This thesis explores the political use of branding in international relations by focusing on the branding exercises of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the State of Qatar over the last two decades. In most of the existing literature, branding is theorised as a representational and instrumental practice that is strategically used to increase a country’s competitive edge. Adopting a critical constructivist lens to the study of International Relations (IR), this thesis challenges this reading and argues instead that branding is a productive and inherently political practice that (re)produces dominant interpretations of state–identity rather than merely describing them. Based on the core constructivist claim that much of politics revolves around the competition to give meaning to the world, this thesis argues that the version of the state promoted through branding is neither neutral nor brand new, but inherently politicised and tied to the conversation and legitimation of the incumbent political regime. Inspired by the ongoing practice turn in IR, the starting point for the analysis is a focus on the display of the state through a range of everyday practices long ignored by IR scholars. In particular, it focuses on how the political leadership in both Kazakhstan and Qatar has used the urban development of their capital cities, the hosting of international sports events, and the construction of ‘world–class’ universities to present new ideas about their state to various inter/national audiences. Using an original data corpus of multimodal primary and secondary material, the analysis traces how branding practices produce and normalise a certain interpretation of Kazakhstani and Qatari statehood, and then interrogates how we can understand this interpretation as politicised and tied to the interests of the regime. The goal of the analysis is twofold. First, this thesis aims to elucidate how relevant instances of state– branding unfold and travel across different empirical contexts (Kazakhstan and Qatar) and cases (urban development, sports and education). Second, it aims to push current scholarly understandings by (re)conceptualising branding as a genre of contemporary identity politics, and produce broader insights about the characteristics and mechanisms of this increasingly normalised – yet often as politically non–salient dismissed – practice of international relations.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2022-12-06
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 6th December 2022
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