Visual Diplomacy in Virtual Summitry: Status Signalling During the Coronavirus Crisis

August Danielson, Elsa Hedling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On March 26, 2020, the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies (G20) convened in an emergency virtual meeting to discuss the extraordinary situation facing the world. Virtual summitry provided a stark visual contrast to the traditional staging of modern multilateral diplomacy―leaders were suddenly responsible for their own staging, leaving them with new opportunities to create a favourable impression of how they, and their respective state, would be seen. Taking the disruption of virtual summitry as a starting point, we focus on the resulting new opportunities for visual diplomacy. We draw on the symbolic interactionism of Erving Goffman and we argue that status signalling in this context was based on a shared understanding of the symbols and resources that have social value in the interaction order of summit diplomacy. Based on a visual analysis of 51 photographs from the G20 video conference, we find that the visual performances during the extraordinary meeting reflected evident, but not necessarily intentional, attempts at status seeking. The article thus contributes to an increased understanding of how visual performances contribute to uphold status distinctions in multilateral diplomacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-261
JournalReview of International Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Nov 12

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Political Science

Free keywords

  • summit diplomacy
  • status
  • signalling
  • visual politics
  • COVID -19


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