Reassessing “Whose Story Wins:” The Trajectory of Identity Resilience in Narrative Contests

R. S. Zaharna


Controlling and winning the narrative has become a prominent refrain in public diplomacy as political actors seek to dominate the information battlefield. However, while actors may readily engage in narrative battles, they struggle to win them decisively, especially when using social media. This article argues that narrative contests are inherently identity battles in that narratives contain intertwined elements of identity and image. Although intertwined, identity and image appear to have distinctive features, inhabit different information realms, and, when challenged, assume divergent narrative spheres and trajectories. Whereas images are largely contestable and follow a linear trajectory of narrative coherence, challenges to identity spark a trajectory of identity resilience that ensures the survival of the entity but results in a cascade of narrative paradoxes. Underexplored distinctions between identity and image raise the need to reassess strategic options in narrative contests, especially when using social media. The Israeli–Hamas narrative battle on Twitter during the Gaza 2014 conflict is used to probe examples of identity self-expression and self-preservation in the narrative trajectory of identity resilience.


public diplomacy, strategic narratives, identity, images, Israeli–Palestinian conflict

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