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Two PhD theses on Public Diplomacy successfully defended/ Zwei Dissertationen zum Thema Public Diplomacy erfolgreich verteidigt


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Two PhD theses on Public Diplomacy successfully defended/ Zwei Dissertationen zum Thema Public Diplomacy erfolgreich verteidigt

Alice Srugies und Claudia Auer, Mitarbeiterinnen des Fachgebiets Medienwissenschaft, verteidigten im Juni 2016 erfolgreich ihre Dissertationen. Alice Srugies and Claudia Auer from the Department of Media Studies successfully defended their PhD theses in June 2016.

Alice Srugies (Foto: Katrin Jungnickel)

In her PhD-thesis with the title “Competition or cooperation? A comparative analysis of the public diplomacy of the European Union and selected member states”, Alice Srugies conducted a comparative, empirically grounded analysis of European public diplomacy at a national, regional, and transnational level. It centers on France and Sweden as two selected EU member states. The study explores the questions of how EU and member state organizations conduct public diplomacy and to what extent public diplomacy efforts on the regional and national level complement or contradict each other. It enriches theory development in public diplomacy research by integrating theoretical approaches and insights from public diplomacy research, communication studies, sociology, and organization theory. Based on a combination of a qualitative document analysis and guided expert interviews with public diplomacy practitioners, this study suggests that both France and Sweden pursue a rather centralized public diplomacy approach, whereas EU public diplomacy is much more decentralized with separate strategies and structures for communicating to internal and external publics.

While Alice Srugies chose an empirical approach to explore the phenomenon of public diplomacy, Claudia Auer examined the theoretical foundations of the concept. Largely ignored by German communication researchers, public diplomacy has advanced to one of the most important concepts in the professional practice of many governments and international organizations as well as in Anglo-American research. However, the growing number of publications belies a significant deficit: A theoretical consistent description of public diplomacy is still remaining. Claudia Auer’s dissertation encounters that deficit by developing an integrative, sociological approach by which public diplomacy can be theoretically described and explained. Based on an empirical reconstruction of the professional practice of public diplomacy in Germany, the action theories of Max Weber (interpretative sociology) as well of Alfred Schütz and Thomas Luckmann (phenomenological sociology) are combined with the actor-centered differentiation theory of Uwe Schimank and thereby an actor-theoretical reformulation of Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory to a consistent and compatible multi-level-approach. The result shows that the theory is not only fertile for the theoretical analysis of public diplomacy but also for different forms of strategic and public communication. Taken the examples of PR and journalism, it is outlined how the developed theory can lead to new insights even in research fields that are already well conceptualized by social theories.