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Book looks at political players' use of stories to communicate

Professor Laura Roselle co-authored a book that explores the way world leaders and policy makers interact with each other, and with their citizens, through the narratives they share.

Professor Laura Roselle

By Sarah Mulnick '17

The post-Cold War world poses new challenges for political scientists and international relations experts who research the way global leaders communicate to their own citizens and to people of other nations.

An Elon University professor makes clear those challenges and, alongside two colleagues, begins to answer critical questions about political rhetoric in a new book published this fall by Routledge.

In “Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order,” professors Laura Roselle of Elon University and Alister Miskimmon and Benjamin O’Loughlin of Royal Holloway, the University of London, focus on the communication methods and structure of narratives that political actors use.

Climate change, poverty, terrorism and more are all defined by the way political actors – whether they be politicians, diplomats, or regular citizens – shape stories. The book looks at the strategies behind these stories as it examines how people interpret and interact with information.

“Strategic Narratives” asks a lot of big questions, Roselle said, and it studies the areas where ideas turn complicated. “What is ‘international’ and ‘domestic?’” she said. “Where does communication fit and how does it work? How does the way that we think about the world make it real?”

The book is arranged around four themes: order, actors, contestation and information infrastructure. It explores how those themes shape the way communications can work, and the authors investigate interactions and structured narratives by international actors as well as domestic policy makers.

The book also examines strategic narratives as an alternative to a previous concept of “soft power.”

“Narratives are a different structure,” she said, and not simply short messages that flow through Twitter, Facebook and other social media. “Human beings think in stories, so you have to trace how political actors use those stories.”

Reviews of the book are positive, with the potential for discussion about the themes and concepts posited throughout it gearing up in 2014.

“It is invaluable reading for those wanting to understand modern diplomacy,” Philip Seib of the University of Southern California said in a review of the book.

Roselle plans to continue her studies of political narratives with a focus on developing a methodology for research: how to study the narratives, what is defined as a narrative, and how are narratives structured.

Her previous books include 2006’s “Media and the Politics of Failure: Great Powers, Communication Strategies, and the Military Defeat.” In 2007, she collaborated with Elon Associate Professor Sharon Spray to publish “Research and Writing in International Relations,” a supplementary text for students studying international relations and comparative politics. Roselle is currently working with Miskimmon and O’Loughlin on an edited edition of “Strategic Narratives. “

Roselle joined Elon’s faculty in 1993 after earning her bachelor’s degree from Emory University and her master’s and doctorate from Stanford University. She received Elon University’s Distinguished Scholar Award in 2009 and, two years later, was named an Elon Senior Faculty Fellow.

Roselle is the immediate past president of the Information Technology and Politics section of the American Political Science Association and is co-editor of the journal “Media, War & Conflict.” She teaches courses in political communication, media and war, media and the Cold War, international relations and comparative politics.


Eric Townsend,
1/2/2014 9:30 AM