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Telling NATO’s story of Afghanistan: Gender and the alliance’s digital diplomacy

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Katharine A. M. WrightORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Sage Publications Ltd., 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


NATO’s public diplomacy plays an important role in constituting the alliance’s identity in global politics, yet has remained marginal to many scholarly accounts of the alliance. This article considers NATO’s increasing footprint in digital diplomacy and the role of gendered narratives in shaping it. The central point of analysis is NATO’s ‘story of Afghanistan’, told in the web-documentary Return to Hope, which was released to much acclaim in September 2014 to coincide with the drawdown of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Afghanistan. It finds personal narratives given precedence over historical events, key temporal omissions and the silencing of Afghan women. As such it provides an important critique of the masculinist protection logic underpinning NATO’s efforts, which has served to instrumentalise (Afghan) women and falls short of expectations given the alliance’s commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wright KAM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Media, War and Conflict

Year: 2019

Volume: 12

Issue: 1

Pages: 87-101

Print publication date: 01/03/2019

Online publication date: 19/09/2017

Acceptance date: 18/08/2017

Date deposited: 18/08/2017

ISSN (print): 1750-6352

ISSN (electronic): 1750-6360

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/1750635217730588


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