The Strategic Narratives of the BRICS: A Coherent Story?
van Noort, Carolina Elisabeth
Strategic narratives play a fundamental role in generating public support for political objectives. The formation of strategic narratives has intensified in the twenty-first century due to the pluralization of state and non-state actors aiming to shape the meaning of the international order. BRICS, a group of rising powers comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is a diplomatic platform formed in 2009 with a mission to foster a fairer and more democratic multipolar world order. The BRICS group advocates for more influence and representation in international organizations commensurate with its economic power by means of strategic narratives. There has been much debate on whether the BRICS group will change the world order, but systematic investigation into the strategic narratives that constitute its political cooperation remains under-researched. Therefore, this thesis addresses the question of how the BRICS group are forming strategic narratives to give meaning to the international environment, to themselves and to policy discussions. Narrative contestation is two-fold: the BRICS group contests existing narratives of asymmetric globalization while its own strategic narratives are correspondingly being challenged internally by non-state actors. The coherency of the BRICS strategic narratives is tested through an in-depth study of contestation in Brazil over the issue of infrastructural development. It contrasts the formation of a collective issue narrative with Brazil’s existing foreign policy narrative towards Africa. A qualitative mixed-method research design was used to address these questions. The documentary methodology supported by narrative and thematic data analysis techniques was adopted to identify and analyse the strategic narratives of the BRICS in the official joint communiqués. This study identified a system narrative of dynamic growth, an identity narrative of inclusive participation and an issue narrative on infrastructural development. By means of a narrative grammar, the findings suggested a lack of coherency and strength in BRICS strategic narratives. The in-depth interview methodology was used to elicit narrative contestation about BRICS issue narrative on infrastructural development. Interviews with academics, members of civil society and spokespersons for Brazilian multinationals suggested that BRICS issue narrative on infrastructural development did not embed Brazil’s foreign policy narrative towards Africa strategically. With the aid of a narrative grammar, this incoherency demonstrated the weaknesses of BRICS issue narrative to convey a comprehensive and integrated storyline for a pluralized space of multi-stakeholder engagement. Overall, the findings suggest that the BRICS strategic narratives lack coherency and strength.
Advisor: Rudd, Chris; Slotten, Hugh
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Politics and Media, Film & Communication
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: strategic narratives; BRICS; international relations; qualitative research design; narrative analysis; rising powers; infrastructural development; Brazil; Brazil-Africa relations; narrative contestation
Research Type: Thesis