Subversive Diplomats? A Study of Diplomatic Discretion and Resistance in Moments of Rupture

Authors: Judit Kuschnitzki*, University of Cambridge
Topics: Political Geography, Middle East, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Diplomacy, State Theory, Multi-Sited Ethnography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Chairman's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drawing on a nine-month study of the Yemeni, Egyptian, and Tunisian diplomatic service in 2011, this paper uses ethnographic data to assess how diplomats perceive and assign meaning to their own behaviour and professional setting. It argues that normalized diplomatic routines were disrupted, debated, challenged, and reformed in the wake of the 2011-uprisings. Torn between ambiguous professional norms and diverging emotions, political opinions, and moral dispositions, diplomats struggled defining their roles and responsibilities at a time of profound socio-political rupture. Examining the role of human agency in reproducing the state, this paper illustrates the different strategies of variously-situated diplomatic actors. In doing so, it builds on, and responds to, the interdisciplinary literature on state bureaucracies. It simultaneously advances the people- and practice-centred research on diplomacy that has recently emerged within the fields of political geography and international relations.

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