Vicarious Identity in International Relations: Self, Security, and Status on the Global Stage

ISBN : 9780197526385

Christopher S. Browning; Pertti Joenniemi; Brent J. Steele
256 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Apr 2021
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Vicarious identification, or "living through another" is a familiar social-psychological concept. Shaped by insecurity and a lack of self-fulfilment, it refers to the processes by which actors gain a sense of self-identity, purpose, and self-esteem through appropriating the achievements and experiences of others. As this book argues, it is also an under-appreciated and increasingly relevant strategy of international relations. According to this theory, states identify and establish special relationships with other nations (often in an aspirational way) in order to strengthen their sense of self, security, and status on the global stage. This identification is also central to the politics of citizenship and can be manipulated by states to justify their global ambitions. For example, why might the United States look at Israel as a model for its own foreign policies? What shaped the politics of Brexit and why is the United Kingdom so attached to its transatlantic "special relationship" with the United States? And, why did Denmark so enthusiastically ally with the United States during the global War on Terror? Vicarious identity, as the authors argue, is at the core of these international dynamics. Vicarious Identity in International Relations examines the ways in which vicarious identity is relevant to global politics: across individuals; between citizens and states; and across states, regional communities, or civilizations. It looks at a range of cases (the United States, the United Kingdom, and Denmark), which illustrate that vicarious political identity is dynamic and emerges in different contexts, but particularly when nations face crisis, both internally and externally. In addition, the book outlines a qualitative methodology for analyzing vicarious identity at the collective level.


Chapter One: Vicarious Identity: An Overview
Chapter Two: Vicarious Identity in International Relations
Chapter Three: US Vicarious Identity with Israel: 1967-2020
Chapter Four: Vicarious Identification as Foreign Policy Strategy: The UK-US Special Relationship
Chapter Five: Aspiring for Vicarious Identity Through Engagement in War: The Case of Denmark

About the author: 

Christopher S. Browning is Reader of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. His research centers on critical approaches to security, identity politics, and critical geopolitics, with a specific focus on issues connected to ontological security, civilizational politics, nation branding, humor and public diplomacy, Brexit, and practices of Nordic and European region building. Pertti Joenniemi is Senior Researcher at the Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland. He has held positions of a senior researcher at the Tampere Peace Research Institute, Copenhagen Peace Research Institute, and the Danish Institute of International Studies. Brent J. Steele is the Francis D. Wormuth Presidential Chair, Professor, and Department Chair of Political Science at the University of Utah. He was previously at the University of Kansas. His research and teaching interest include topics connected to ontological security, international ethics, generational analysis,; critical security studies, US foreign policy, and global health.

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