Role Theory, Narratives, and Interpretation: The Domestic Contestation of Roles

Leslie Wehner, Cameron Thies

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This article assesses the possibilities for the development of foreign-policy role theory using the concepts of traditions and dilemmas from the interpretive approach to foreign policy, as well as narratives as an interpretive method for analysis. While role theory is rich in conceptualization, it still suffers from overt structuralism, inattention to domestic processes of divergence/convergence affecting national roles, and from methodological underdevelopment. This article goes beyond studies of national role conceptions that present foreign-policy behavior as determined by the national role, thus making it possible to understand the interplay of competing voices in determining a national role, the processes of role change, and the resulting reorientation of foreign policy. This article illustrates the possibilities and limitations of merging role theory and the interpretive approach through the study of Chile's and Mexico's attempts to join the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), their accession to APEC, and their performance once accepted into APEC.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)411-436
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number3
Early online date22 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2014


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