The rise of social media, coupled with intensifying demands for more transparency and democracy in world politics, brings new challenges to international diplomacy. State leaders and diplomats continue to react to traditional media, but now also attempt to present themselves proactively through tweets and public diplomacy. These efforts often take place simultaneously and sometimes interfere directly with closed-door negotiations and its codes of restraint, discretion and secrecy. Yet the relationship between confidential diplomacy and public representation remains understudied. International Relations scholars lack theoretical and methodological tools to grasp how the information revolution transforms diplomacy.

DIPLOFACE develops a sociologically and anthropologically informed approach to studying how state leaders and diplomats manage their nation’s ‘faces’ or ‘images of self’ in the information age. DIPLOFACE explores the relationship and tensions between confidential diplomatic negotiations and publicly displayed interventions in the media, taking the micro-sociological concept of ‘face-work’ to the international level.

The project hypothesis is that diplomatic face-work is increasingly important for decision-makers who perform simultaneously on the ‘backstage’ and the ‘front-stage’ of international relations. DIPLOFACE sets out to identify, theorize and analyse the repertoire of face-saving, face-honouring and face-threatening techniques practices employed in confidential negotiations and in public.

DIPLOFACE advances our theoretical understanding of diplomacy in the 21st century significantly beyond existing International Relations and diplomatic theory. DIPLOFACE combines participant observation, interviews and digital studies, generating important new knowledge about the relationship between public and confidential multilateral negotiation, how state leaders and diplomats handle new media, and the role of face-saving and face-threatening strategies in international relations.

The project is organised around three sub-projects that each explore a particular stream of diplomatic negotiations and public debate.

The project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC).