Liminality and the Diplomacy of the British Overseas Territories: An Assemblage Approach

Authors: Jason Dittmer*, University College London, Fiona McConnell, University of Oxford
Topics: Geographic Thought, Political Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: diplomacy; British Overseas Territories; liminality; assemblage; the event; legitimacy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Endymion, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Recent work in human geography has called attention to the event as a crucial element of the political. This paper examines a set of diplomatic events that compose our world as dynamic and yet also seemingly affirm the status quo. It turns attention to the entrepreneurial creativity of individual diplomats, the transformations occurring at threshold moments, spaces and practice, and the materiality of diplomacy that exceeds human agency. The paper does so by forging an innovative dialogue between assemblage theory and the notion of liminality as developed in cultural anthropology, and by focusing on a hitherto overlooked set of diplomatic actors: British Overseas Territories (OTs). Three vignettes of OT diplomacy are traced: an account of the liminal subjectivity of London-based OT representatives; the 1982 Argentinian invasion that tipped the Falkland Islands into a state of greater autonomy; and the geophysical ‘tipping point’ of the 1997 volcanic eruption on Montserrat that made the island dependent for the foreseeable future. The paper concludes by noting potential avenues of future research that the synergy between liminality and assemblage may open up in the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS), anthropology and geography.

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