Geographies of diplomatic labor: Institutional culture, collective bargaining, and Canada’s foreign service

Authors: Jamey Essex*, University of Windsor, Ilkin Yusibov, University of Windsor
Topics: Political Geography, Canada
Keywords: Canada, diplomacy, expertise, foreign service, labor geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Galerie 6, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The common perception of a foreign service career emphasizes the role of high-ranking diplomats traveling the world to engage in the high politics of statecraft and negotiation. Critical geographic scholarship, however, has recently turned to examine the more mundane, quotidian, and regularized work of foreign policy professionals in consulates, embassies, and foreign ministries. This paper examines the work of Canadian foreign service officers (FSOs) to further develop a labor geography of diplomatic professionals, and build an historical and institutional understanding of two long-term processes shaping this work. The first is the changing “institutional culture” within the foreign service, especially how FSOs understand their work and its relationship to the foreign ministry as a political institution and as a workplace. The second is the process of collective bargaining, as performed through the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO), which represents and bargains on behalf of foreign service officers in Canada. The work of Canada’s foreign service officers is understood through a closer examination of how they view this labor as an embodied practice, tied to notions and practices of professionalism, expertise, and movement through ranks and between posts, as well as the broader scope of national identity and national interest.

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