Date of Award

Summer 8-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Chair

Robert Pauly

Committee Chair School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 2

Joseph St. Marie

Committee Member 2 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 3

Thorten Moritz

Committee Member 4

Tom Lansford

Committee Member 4 School

Social Science and Global Studies


International Relations suffers from underspecified treatments of culture that risk reifying, essentializing, or ignoring the effects of cultural differences in the conduct of relationships between states. Following a review of the development of the culture concept, this interpretivist, epistemologically critical realist, dissertation introduces intercultural adaptive frameshifting from the intercultural communication literature. To assess whether culture has effect within an epistemic community, four frameworks are evaluated within a non-IR field (global Christian reasoning). Speech act theory is used to assess meaningful affect through illocutionary and/or perlocutionary divergence based on cultural difference.

Following the findings that such cultural differences do in fact matter in the non-International Relations epistemic community, the culture concept is brought back into IR through three case studies employing most-similar and most-different case design. Counterfactual analysis is used to assess the potential for intercultural competence, exercised by one foreign policy executive in each dyadic case, to impact the conduct of international relations at a critical juncture brought about by cultural difference. Through process tracing, and particularly through practice tracing, culture is found to meaningfully affect the conduct of international relations, and intercultural adaptive frame-shifting (also called intercultural competence or intercultural development) is found to attenuate the effects.

The findings of this dissertation are intentionally tentative, and primarily take the form of passing the hoop-test. This program of research points to the need for more robust consideration of the culture concept in International Relations. It does not supplant existing paradigms, but could easily come alongside and be used within Neoclassical Realism, Constructivism, and some strands of Liberalism and Neoliberal Institutionalism. The findings are meaningful for practice as well as theory, as intercultural competence is both assessable and trainable.