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Struggles over identity in diplomacy: ‘Commie terrorists’ contra ‘imperialists’ in Western Sahara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-499
JournalInternational Relations
Issue number4
Early online date26 Feb 2015
E-pub ahead of print26 Feb 2015
Published1 Dec 2015


King's Authors


How does diplomacy recognise the political identity of international actors? Drawing on critical approaches, this article analyses the development of identities in diplomatic communications concerning the Western Sahara conflict from the early 2000s to the present. It argues that a failure to question relationships between identities as projected in diplomatic sources and those of global threats like Islamic terrorism is a crucial driver behind the stalemate. The analysis demonstrates that Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (POLISARIO) and Morocco became subsumed into the binary identities of the War on Terror due to the dominance of concerns about terrorism pervading diplomatic communication. Morocco played a significant role in this identification through textual interventions that linked POLISARIO identity to concerns about terrorism, gaining significant agency in the articulation of US and French policy on the conflict. This case illustrates how representations of identity in diplomatic communication in relation to dominant policy concerns grant actors agency for policy outcomes.

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