Herman van der Wusten – The geography of traditional diplomatic networks and nodes revisited: Multilevel foreign policy and multimedia



Event Date: 21 – 22 June 2013
South Wing G12, Council Room
University College London,
Gower St,
London WC1E 6BT

Spaces of Diplomacy

Part of the Diplomatic Cultures Research Network (AH/J013900/1)

The second workshop will focus on the spaces within and through which diplomatic culture is articulated and translated. If diplomacy is theorised as the process of negotiating estrangement between two groups, spatiality emerges as integral to any practice of ameliorating that estrangement. This has traditionally taken the form of either topological studies of diplomatic connections between places, systematic reviews of the location of diplomacy, or of case studies of particular diplomatic contexts. These concerns remain, but the contemporary moment begs new questions. How does the emergence of digital spaces produce new and different forms of diplomacy? Can ‘old’ diplomatic practices be translated for these ‘new’ spaces or does it require an entirely new theorisation? How are spaces produced as diplomatic spaces through the ritualised performance of actors? How does space shape the formation of diplomatic consensus?

Professor Herman van der WustenThe geography of traditional diplomatic networks and nodes revisited: Multilevel foreign policy and multimedia

Within the profession of traditional diplomacy (that is the body of people employed within a state apparatus plus in international organizations to deal with the fruitful handling of interstate relations, the facilitation of transnational traffic and the pursuit of the best possible position of one’s state or organization in international affairs), macro shifts have occurred as a consequence of shifts in the state system (increased size and diversity), transnational traffic (idem) and media structure (increased instantaneous news availability everywhere and the always expanding significance of mediated spaces culminating in digital space). This has major consequences for the substance of the profession itself; for the places in which its practices unfold and their significance in symbolizing those practices; and for the ways in which diplomacy uses space and is represented throughout space. In this paper we consider the morphology of diplomatic networks (the spaces of diplomacy) and the making and re-making of diplomatic places in terms of status, security and identity. We highlight changes in time, but also according to sender and host, and the path dependencies of the evolution of diplomatic connections and diplomatic sites. We are particularly interested in the ways the emergence of new diplomatic actors (such as the European Union) on the one hand and the increasing role of old and new media on the other hand, impact on the traditional geography of diplomacy.
In conclusion, we indicate distinctive features of the current transformations of traditional diplomatic practice in terms of space selection and place-making and consider how the preliminary experience of the European External Action Service (EEAS) illustrates the general line of these transformations.

Herman van der Wusten was Professor of Political Geography at the University of Amsterdam and dean of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences at that university, now emeritus. He did a PhD on Irish resistance movements to the United Kingdom 1800-1922, and wrote on urban questions, nationalism and global politics. In recent times he has concentrated on the making of political centres, particularly in Europe, and has thus become involved in studies of diplomatic practice. This work has notably appeared in European Review (1993), Political Geography (2004), Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie (2006, 2010), several of Peter Taylor’s edited collections on Global and World Cities, and in Robert Denemark’s multivolume International Studies Encyclopedia (2010). Some of these contributions have been written in close co-operation with Virginie Mamadouh and that applies also to the paper for this conference.



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