Wrestlemania! Summit diplomacy and foreign policy performance after Trump

Day, B. S. and Wedderburn, A. (2022) Wrestlemania! Summit diplomacy and foreign policy performance after Trump. International Studies Quarterly, 66(2), sqac019. (doi: 10.1093/isq/sqac019)

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In this article, we propose the category of “foreign policy performance” in order to argue that a recognition of foreign policy's theatricality can illuminate its contribution to generative processes of social construction and world-making. We focus on the practice of summit diplomacy, which operates according to a “theatrical rationality” that blurs the boundary between substantive and symbolic politics. Noting that Donald Trump's presidency called into question many of international relations’ prevailing assumptions regarding foreign policy's formulation and execution, we suggest that a performance-oriented analytic can facilitate a critical reckoning both with Trump himself and with the “statesmanlike” norms he eschewed. We read Trump's performances at international summits with reference to professional wrestling, which for all its melodramatic absurdity is a venerable and complex theatrical tradition with a highly developed critical language. Guided by four pieces of wrestling argot (“heat,” “heel,” “kayfabe,” and “cutting a promo”), we use process-tracing techniques to develop a wrestling-oriented reading of Trump's 2018 summit with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore. We argue that using wrestling in order to read Trump and Kim's deviation from the conventional norms and repertoires of foreign policy performance enables a critical assessment of the stakes at play in their reconstruction and re-establishment.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wedderburn, Dr Alister
Authors: Day, B. S., and Wedderburn, A.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Journal Name:International Studies Quarterly
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1468-2478
Published Online:31 May 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in International Studies Quarterly 66(2): sqac019
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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