Call for papers: Imagining Place and Politics: Theorizing the Branding of Nations

As marketing techniques are employed to shape the perceptions of nation states, this conference examines different theoretical perspectives in understanding and studying the use of branding in a contemporary and historical perspective.

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Illustration: Coloubox

Over the past three decades, the struggle to shape the perceptions and reputations of nation states has taken a new turn. In international relations and domestic politics, states have sought to improve their competitive economic advantage, enhance their soft power, and build national identity through a range of techniques, including the increasing use of marketing and branding. The spread of information technology and high-speed media has made global opinion a central site for negotiating global flows of critical resources. Cities, regions, and states compete for positive external and internal attention to their culture, economy, public policy, and technology, spending increasing resources on strategic communication, public diplomacy, and especially nation branding to achieve this aim.

While this development has received growing critical scrutiny from political scientists, international relations scholars, historians, and critical cultural students, it is still mainly the concern of marketing professionals and students of communication. The scholarly literature surrounding the strategic use of imaginaries for political purposes is mostly of an instrumental nature, namely the management, design, and evaluation of branding initiatives.

This conference seeks to introduce different theoretical perspectives on the understanding and study of this turn to branding.

We ask:

  • Is branding a distinct form of communication or does it simply encapsulate existing approaches such as public diplomacy or propaganda?
  • Can branding be used as an analytical framework to study strategic image-creation, including historically?
  • How can the global turn to branding can be studied from different theoretical perspectives, including sociology, critical studies, international relations and law, and other disciplines?
  • Can branding theory itself contribute to other theoretical perspectives on soft power and identity building?
  • Which empirical methods can be used to study the role and impact of branding?
  • How can spontaneous global opinion of countries and places be distinguished from calculated or planned communication?
  • How does one distinguish between the commercially planned efforts of smaller states and minor cities and widely circulated images of great powers and mega-cities which are less sensitive to random events and freak occurrences
  • Given that perceptions of societies are highly complex, diverse, and dynamic, do nation branding practices risk presenting sanitized and simplified narratives and which critical studies of nation branding often risk replicating rather than deconstructing, thus confirming rather than interrogating the nation branding “image” of a particular place?
  • How and why did nation branding emerge and rise to such a central position? What ideological and social development does it relate to (e.g. neoliberalisation, globalisation)

Submission and deadline

In recognition of the need of moving beyond replicating the image of places and in response to these theoretical challenges to the field of critical nation branding studies, the UiO:Norden Nordic Branding project and the ReNEW Nation Branding working group jointly invite paper proposals for theorising nation branding at an international workshop in Oslo, 14-15 October 2020.

We accept abstracts of 200-300 words which should be submitted by 15 May 2020 here.

The papers may be published later as a special issue or in an edited volume. This will be discussed and decided at the conference.

Travel support and accommodation can be provided where necessary.

Programme committee

Malcolm Langford, Professor, University of Oslo (

Carl Marklund, Associate Professor, Södertörn University (

Tori Loven Kirkebø, Project Coordinator, Nordic Branding, University of Oslo (


Published Feb. 27, 2020 6:29 PM - Last modified Mar. 5, 2020 2:11 PM