Disruption and creativity in shaping a country image and identity through citizen diplomacy: The 2017 protests in Romania
Authors: Dolea, E.
In February 2017 Romania made headlines in major international media across the globe: during an entire month massive anti-corruption protests took place almost daily across the country. There were the largest protests since the fall of the communist regime in December 1989 and were triggered by a government’s decree to decriminalize abuse in office by officials if the sums were less than circa 45.000 euro.
In reporting about the protests, the international media covered extensively aspects such as: (1) the civic nature of the protests (high rate of engagement among citizens in order to make their voice heard); (2) the use of social media for the organization of the protests (Facebook events, #rezist, etc); (3) the creative use of digital technologies during the protests (wall projections, mobile phone lights to recreate the national flag and the EU flag); (4) the creativity of the posters created by protesters (initially in Romanian, then in English in order to be understood by international audiences); (5) setting an example in Europe for how citizens stand up for democratic values, fight corruption and mobilize (Romania was considered the last country in the region to fight populism, while protests in France are legitimizing from the Romanian ones, etc).
Main research question: Can protests be a form of citizen diplomacy, generating alternative discourses about the country image and identity?
Methodology: Historical reconstitution & chronology of events; Exploratory corpus of data for January 18 - February 28, 2017 in the Facebook community “Coruptia ucide” (posts and events).
Findings: Protests became a form of citizen diplomacy, indirectly, through a gradual process of social construction (stages intersect & influence each other) Conclusion: Protests gain international relevance due to appeal to universal democratic values. Protesters become aware of their symbolic soft power and strategically instrumentalize creativity and humour to gain international benevolence. They generate alternative discourses about Romania - creative country, the hope from East Europe.
The results of this study contribute to the understanding of how non state actors are increasingly engaging in strategic campaigns of promoting their country and how social movements become opportunities for generating alternative discourses about a country and about its national identity.