Performing Statehood through Crises: Citizens, Strangers, Territory
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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This article applies the growing International Relations literature on state performance and performativity to the question of how practitioners categorize different kinds of crises. The aim is to add value to the crisis literature by paying more attention to how performances are staged for multiple audiences, how statehood is produced as a collective (as opposed to an individual) body, and how and why one and the same state actor performs statehood in different ways. Drawing on interviews and participant observation, we discuss how one state apparatus, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), performs statehood during different types of crisis. The MFA has institutionalized crisis management in three very different ways, depending on whether the MFA defines the crisis as a security crisis, a humanitarian crisis or a civilian crisis. Different crises have different audiences, are performed in different repertoires, and produce three different aspects of the state that we name, respectively, caretaking, do-gooding and sovereign. Bringing the performativity literature to the study of crises gives us a better understanding of the statecraft that goes into using crises as opportunities to make visible and strengthen the state as a presence in national and global social life. Conversely, our focus on the specificity of various state performances highlight how the performance literature stands to gain from differentiating more clearly between the straightforward performing of practices, and the performing of state identity by means of same practices on the other.