Theorizing Public Performances for International Negotiations
This article theorizes how public performances matter in international negotiations. Studies of international negotiations are predominantly focused on power-political instruments in use around the negotiating table. I argue that public communication cannot be dismissed as cheap talk but that it plays a constitutive role in and on international negotiations. Contributing to the international relations (IR) literature on negotiations, the article suggests an orientation toward an increasingly important aspect of international negotiations in a hypermediated world political context, namely public performances that challenge the distinction between domestic signaling and claim-making toward negotiating parties. Hypermediated negotiations mean that much of what goes on in IR is spread to large audiences in new and emerging digital sites in near real time. Actors use public performances to define and legitimize their desired visions for negotiating outcomes. As public performances, these are power-political instruments in and of themselves, part of the array of tactics that states turn to when competing for influence in international negotiations. The theorization is illustrated with an example from the UK–EU Brexit negotiations. The illustration is a qualitative Twitter analysis that shows the performative toolbox in use, as well as the importance of public performances themselves in the endgame of the Brexit negotiations.