Place Branding and Public Diplomacy

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 64–73 | Cite as

Beyond the media event: modes of existence of the diplomatic incident

  • Noé CornagoEmail author
Original Article


Diplomatic incidents repeatedly create unexpected concern among chanceries worldwide, immediately capturing global media attention and public interest. Despite this, their academic treatment remains either fleeting and anecdotal or exclusively focused on detailed analysis of some critical cases that were historically conducive to serious international crises or war. These approaches have been unable however to anticipate the transfiguration undergone by diplomatic incidents into media events. Against this background, this article advances a more comprehensive approach. After some introductory considerations, the notion of ‘diplomatic incident’ will be examined through four consecutive prisms: the phenomenology of the diplomatic incident as a discrete event, or set of related events, rooted in some discernible causes, susceptible to being managed, and able to produce more or less controllable consequences; their consideration as memorable moments that serve as plot for the historical and popular narratives of national pride and shame; their functioning as dispositif through which the diplomatic system signals elements of friction and performs its constant adaptation to the changing functional and normative imperatives of the wider global system; and finally, their transfiguration through intense mediatization into global media events, whose eruption and effects ostensibly exceed the capabilities of public diplomacy techniques of control. In these circumstances diplomatic incidents reset their old ritual value for testing the consistency of national political imaginaries, but within a completely new context, namely that of a de-territorialized global public sphere.


Incident Event Plot Narratives Media event Dispositif Diplomacy Social drama Sovereignty 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of International Law and International Relations, Faculty of Social Sciences and CommunicationUniversity of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)BilbaoSpain

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