Are We Talking With or Past One Another? Examining Transnational Political Discourse across Western–Muslim “Divides”†

Tromble, Rebekah K.


Article written by 2007 DPDF Rethinking Europe: Religion, Ethnicity, Nation Fellow Rebekah K. Tromble and Miriam Wouters:

In a time of rapid, globalized communication, what are the possibilities for truly meaningful cross-cultural political dialogue? Optimists contend that we may now speak of transnational public spheres—of spaces in which people reach across national boundaries to engage one another on issues of common concern. Skeptics, on the other hand, maintain that political, cultural, and linguistic barriers continue to preclude truly meaningful transnational discourse. And in the wake of 9/11 and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, many express specific skepticism about the potential for Western and Muslim societies to bridge such divides. Yet little systematic empirical research investigates the realities of cross-national dialogue, particularly between Western and non-Western societies. Using an original dataset produced via content analysis of British and Pakistani newspapers, we examine the discursive links formed during a quintessential transnational media event: the 2005–2006 Danish Muhammad cartoon controversy. Comparing the frames deployed and actors engaged in each of these countries, we find clear evidence of genuine transnational engagement between Muslims and non-Muslims. And though the scope of our data limits our findings, they nonetheless provide a sense of cautious optimism regarding the potential for the formation of transnational public spheres.