Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Soft Power in International Relations: An Introduction to the Role of Media and Culture

LEVEL 01 - Year 1 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT International Relations

DESCRIPTION This study-unit introduces students to ways in which the media and cultural industries are sources of “soft power” in world politics. It aims to sharpen students’ competences in analysing the roles played by the media in the workings of society and the role they ought to have in liberal democracies. Global campaigns of persuasion will be discussed in view of ways in which the media may have subtle effects on perceptions, values, and ideologies. This will lead to an exploration of the media and culture as useful instruments in “public diplomacy” efforts. Insights from the social theory of communication will be used to question whether the media reflect or whether they can shape international society.


At the end of the study-unit the learner will be exposed to the following specialised knowledge:

Knowledge of how Public Diplomacy fits within theories of international relations;
Knowledge of the role of professional political-insiders and their influence on the media of the public sphere;
An introduction to key theoretical and historical resources related to the changing role of communication and information in the area of international relations.


At the end of the study-unit the learner will have mastered the following skills:

An understanding of how public diplomacy goes beyond self or national interest to take account of the interests of others;
To identify strategies used to mobilise public support at a national and at an international level;
Identify the role of public diplomacy vis-à-vis the global Information Society.


At the end of the study-unit the learner will have acquired the responsibility and autonomy to:

An ability to critically assess various case studies;
An ability to identify ways in which refined public diplomacy efforts could help to avoid conflict;
To appreciate ways in which national interest can gain from difference and multiplicity.

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the study-unit the learner will be able to:

Develop their critical senses and a cultural sensitivity that is central in communicative action;
Gain an understanding of intercultural communication and how public diplomacy must be a channel of listening and conversation not merely a method of persuasion;
An ability to enter into a tolerant and respectful dialogue with cultural “others”.

Reading List:

Gilboa, E. (Ed.). (2002). Media and Conflict: Framing Issues, Making Policy, Shaping Opinions. Ardsley, NY: Transnational Publishers.

Gilboa, E. (2008). Searching for a Theory of Public Diplomacy. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 616 (March), 55-77.

Fisher, A., Brockerhoff, A. (2008). Options for Influence: Global Campaigns of persuasion in the new worlds of public diplomacy. Counterpoint: UK.

Melissen, J. (Ed.). (2006) The News Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Oates, S. (2008) Introduction to Media and Politics. Sage: London, New Delhi, Singapore. ISBN: 978-1-4129-0261-8.

Sakr, N. (2007) Arab Television Today. London: IB Taurus.

Paterson, C. and Sreberny, A. (Eds.) (2004) International news in the twenty-first century, UK: John Libbey Publishing.

Powers, S., & Gilboa, E. (2007) The Public Diplomacy of Al-Jazeera. In P. Seib (Ed.). New Media and the Middle East. New York: Palgrave, 53-80.

Taylor, P. M. (2003) Munitions of the Mind: War Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Nuclear Age (3rd Ed.), Manchester University Press.

Thussu, D. K. and D. Freedman, Eds. (2003). War and the Media. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi, Sage Publications.



Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Classwork SEM1 Yes 20%
Assignment SEM1 Yes 80%


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.