Nation branding and feminist diplomacy after crisis: France’s response to SEA allegations in Central African Republic

Holmes, Georgina and White, Sabrina (2023). Nation branding and feminist diplomacy after crisis: France’s response to SEA allegations in Central African Republic. European Journal of International Studies (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/eis.2023.19

Abstract

This article makes the case that gender and race analyses of the constitutive interplay between nation branding and diplomacy advances understandings of how liberal states use feminist agendas in response to political crises. Adopting a feminist postcolonial approach and drawing on a discourse analysis of French diplomatic speeches made in the UN Security Council between July 2011 and January 2020, the article examines how male and female diplomats address France’s accountability failures when French peacekeepers sexually abused children in the Central African Republic in 2014-15, widely known as the SEA Crisis. Operating as embodied brand ambassadors, diplomats use affective and performative strategies to progress through the political crisis life-cycle quickly and re-establish France’s ontological security. It is contended that while feminist foreign policy and feminist diplomacy serve as short term solutions to reputational damage, France’s longer-term nation branding project, which follows a masculine, white supremacist neoliberal logic, stabilises the grand narrative of the middle power and its projected image as a legitimate strategic leader in global governance. Yet in attempting to control the narrative on the SEA Crisis, French diplomats downplay the global crisis of accountability surrounding sexual exploitation and abuse and silence the personal crises of SEA survivors.

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