On February 28, 2010, at 3:34am, residents of Concepción, Chile and its surrounding cities were awakened by a devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake that left considerable damage that would take years to repair. The United States government was among the first to respond to this situation in the form of official phone calls, public statements and messages of condolences, a visit from the U.S. Secretary of State, and various forms of humanitarian assistance (US Department of State, Embassy in Santiago, Chile, 2010a). This response is a recent example of a long history of interventions in Chilean national affairs, and said response provided much more than physical assistance and verbal support. As I illustrate in this thesis, the crisis also provided an opportunity for the U.S. government to enact its own national identity and project identity traits for the country of Chile. Many scholars have claimed that identity construction - and even national identity construction - is a process that occurs through social interaction and more specifically, through discourse (Bruner, 2002, 2005; Burke, 1969; Charland, 1987; Hixson, 2008). Analyzing the messages from the U.S. to Chile after the 2010 earthquake provides an example of this identity formation. Specifically, taking on a dramatic approach to rhetorical analysis, I illustrate how U.S. and Chilean leaders enacted for the U.S. an exceptionally strong and heroic identity - one with an uncharacteristic ability to help others, with technological expertise, one that was always prepared, and one that was guided by a desire to support those who uphold democratic ways of governing. Conversely, through these rhetorical interactions, Chile's identity was crafted as fallen, weak and unable to life itself from its devastating situation alone. Between the two nations, a hierarchical relationship was enacted.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (MA) -- Communication; United States -- Foreign relations -- Chile; Chile -- Foreign relations -- United States; Earthquake relief -- Chile; National characteristics, Chilean; National characteristics, American

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Seaver College



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Selby, Gary