This book addresses a critical issue in global politics: how recognition and misrecognition fuel conflict or initiate reconciliation. The main objective of this book is to demonstrate how representations of one state by another influence foreign policymaking behaviour. The key argument is that representations are important because they shape both the identity of a state and how it is recognised by others. States respond to representations of themselves that do not fit with how they wish to be recognised. The book provides a thorough conceptual engagement with the issues at stake and a detailed empirical investigation of the fraught bilateral relations between the United States and Iran, which is perhaps one of the most significant flashpoints in global politics today. Despite Iran and the US finally reaching an agreement on the nuclear issue that allows Iran limited nuclear technological capacity in exchange for the lifting of certain sanctions, the US withdrew from the deal in May 2018. However, questions remain about how best to explain the initial success of this deal considering the decades of animosity between Iran and the US, which have previously scuppered any attempts on both sides to reach an amicable agreement. Increasing concerns about declining Iran–US relations under the Trump administration suggest even more so the power of recognition and misrecognition in world politics. Scholars and strategists alike have struggled to answer the question of how this deal was made possible, which this book addresses.
Representation, recognition and respect in world politics
This chapter introduces the main objective of my book: to demonstrate how representation and recognition influence foreign policy, with specific reference to Iran and the United States, and the methodology used in the study. It explores the connection between representations and recognition and how these are informed by feelings of respect or disrespect that instigate the projection or protection of state identity. The key argument of this book is that representations are important because they shape both the identity of a state and how it is recognised by others. Representational schemas are key to producing images of state Self and Other that act to reinforce or re-imagine frameworks of national identity. Recognition plays a crucial role in the process because inadequate or failed recognition is tantamount to what quickly becomes perceived as disrespect. Disrespect acts as a trigger for foreign policy that is in itself an emotional reaction or response to particular representations. Emotions are linked to the constitution of a collective identity, which in turn has implications for the forms and types of representations that are used to talk about the Self and the Other. Such emotional division is part of a broader process of boundary making that informs interstate engagement.
This chapter illustrates the links between representation and foreign policy. It argues that representation and foreign policy are inextricably linked, but how states respond to these representations is not fully examined. Representations of Self and Other are also informed by the historical narratives states hold about themselves. In order to understand how a state receives different representations of itself to that which it has artfully cultivated, and to what extent these impact on the dynamics of its identity construction, we must examine its ability and strength to project reinterpreted representational schema in response. Knowledge of how a state, represented by others, manoeuvres its foreign policy can offer insight into how policymaking shifts discursively in all polities concerned.
This chapter examines the role of recognition in foreign policy. It argues that the powerful links between recognition and representation can best be appreciated through a focus on emotions. Conceptualising emotions as part of the struggle for recognition provides a clear mechanism for understanding why states choose to act in defence of an identity, rather than accepting or rethinking how they are recognised. Engaging with the emotional issue of disrespect within the struggle for recognition offers a key for navigating the reasons behind specific foreign policy decisions. States respond to representations of themselves that do not fit with their own constructed image, claiming misrecognition. How states represent and recognise one another has implications for how they behave: this can trigger political crises or open potential avenues for peace. Such a focus allows us to understand how the politics of representation influences foreign policy, and vice versa, creating a deeper comprehension of how and why shifts in policymaking evolve.
Identity is a powerful force in shaping foreign policy. Yet identity is not a rigid category; rather, there are different domestic and international factors that interact and develop a cohesive image of who a state believes itself to be. Regardless of the uniqueness and variation in state identities that exist, there are a core set of ideational structures that help to produce an imagined state Self, which then influences foreign policy. This chapter focuses in particular on the United States and its state identity with reference to history, culture and national mission. It is important to analyse state identity because projections of identity inform a state’s foreign policy direction. Before we can understand the impact that representations and recognition have in interstate relations, we first need to understand which factors constitute state identity itself. Understanding the core elements that feed into the framework of state identity allows for a deeper appreciation of state behaviour. Such an appreciation of state identity will, in turn, also facilitate an understanding of how representations influence foreign policymaking.
This chapter illustrates how the components feeding into Iranian state identity have been continually negotiated and (re)constructed over time. Iranian state identity under the Pahlavi shahs, from 1925 until the overthrow of the last shah in 1979, is often understood as completely distinct from the post-Iranian Revolution identity framework introduced under the Islamic Republic from 1979 onwards. While Iranian state identity was, and continues to be, constituted in unique ways that manifest as two different sets of representations of what Iran is and how Iran should behave, there is nevertheless a strong convergence as to what constitutes Iranian identity: evoking a unique and powerful state that deserves respect. Iranian state identity is explored through the broad categories of history, cultural traditions and national mission. The boundaries between each ideational category often overlap or complement one another within and across these diachronically separate time periods. Yet one element is shared between the Pahlavi dynasty and Islamic Republic eras: the desire for Iran to be recognised as a unique, powerful and deserving of respect.
This chapter begins the case study of the representations that frame Iran–United States foreign policy discourse. The key objective is to examine US representations of itself, Iran and Iran’s nuclear program. The chapter argues that the US representations of itself (Self), as good, rational, the leader of the international community, and Iran (Other), as dangerous, irrational, aggressive and undeveloped, produces a particular discursive framework through which it understands Iran and its nuclear program. Analysing US representations is important because it allows for an understanding of how the US wishes to be recognised, and how the state recognises Iran. The resulting US emotional response to being misrecognised will then be able to be illuminated to provide purchase for understanding the powerful links between representation and recognition. Consideration of these links will, in turn, facilitate the understanding of how the politics of representation impact on the creation of foreign policy, and vice versa.
In this chapter the case study of representations that frame Iran–United States foreign policy discourse continues. The key objective is to examine Iranian representations of itself, the US and Iran’s nuclear program. It argues that Iran represents itself as a Shi’a state, progressive, triumphing over adversity, and represents the US as a bully, deceitful, meddling and threatening. Iran’s representations form a particular discursive framework through which it understands the US and its response to Iran’s nuclear program. Iranian representations of the US are well established within a Self–Other framework, particularly in terms of religion as a civilisational discourse. However, the rhetoric Iran employs challenges the US representational hierarchy of a dominant US and Iran as the subaltern. Iranian representations reinforce its agency as a state and its position of power in the international system, whereas the US is represented as a bully focused on undermining Iran. The historical narratives Iran uses to represent both itself and the US are the 1953 Mossadegh coup and the 1980–1988 Iran–Iraq War, which emphasise the intimidating and imperialist nature of the US.
This chapter demonstrates how emotions frame and are framed by the representations evident within discourse surrounding Iran–United States relations, which then drive the struggle for recognition and respect. The emotions underpinning both Iranian and US representations securitise the notions of ‘threat’ or ‘danger’, whether imminent or long-standing. They produce a particular desire to be recognised in the way that each state sees itself, not through the representational nexus that is built by the other state. As a result, a sense of mistrust or apprehension regarding foreign policy choices and activities is reinforced over time. A struggle for recognition emerges, wherein each state attempts to act on behalf of its own representational schema, influenced variously by humiliation and empathy. The decision to engage in a struggle for recognition on the part of Iran is fostered by the belief that resisting and challenging US representations of Iran will result in Iran being treated with respect in the international system. Iran’s nuclear program is the key foreign policy issue through which the struggle for recognition is exemplified.
Representation, recognition and possibilities for transformative change
The objective of this book is to provide insight into how representations of one state by another influence foreign policymaking behaviour, with a particular emphasis on the reciprocal representations of the United States and Iran. It argues that representations matter in foreign policymaking. How an actor is represented, or wishes to be represented, influences its actions. Desire to cultivate a certain image of the Self, to be recognised in a particular way, is driven by a feeling of disrespect that manifests through misrecognition. Analyses of representations provide critical purchase for understanding international conflict, such as disagreements over Iran’s nuclear program, because misrecognition is emotionally powerful. It can create feelings of disrespect that underlie foreign policy crises. In this conclusion the main claims of this book are revisited and a brief consideration of the enduring power of representation and recognition in world politics is provided.