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In search of the bellwether: A text as data approach for assessing trend-making in international discourse

International relations are essentially discursive. Through text and speech, states engage with each other, interact and respond to various political phenomena. Based on socio-discursive theory, this research theorizes and empirically analyzes how and under which conditions states take the lead in formulating and designing international discourse. We argue that exposing processes of trend-making and dictating reveals latent political shifts, shedding light not only on what makes a certain state a discursive influencer but also what makes other states follow and adopt specific frames to various international subject-matters. Taking a text-as-data approach, we apply LDA topic-modeling models to analyze speeches delivered during the annual General Debates of the UNGA (1970-2018; n=8042). By evaluating which keywords enter into or are discarded from the primary topics of the UNGD speeches and identifying which states lead these processes, this research offers an indicative measure to evaluate how and which states have the power to influence international discourse across time. It thus provides an additional prism to assess the linkages between power, socialization, and sense-making in the international arena.

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