Manipulating Diplomatic Atmospheres: the UN Security Council and Syria

Authors: Alun Jones*, University College Dublin
Topics: Political Geography, Middle East
Keywords: Atmosphere, Manipulation, Diplomacy, UN Security Council, Syria
Session Type: Paper
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This paper connects growing interest in affective atmospheres in human geography with critical geographies of diplomacy. Diplomats inhabit, discuss, and operate in and through atmospheres. Specifically, and uniquely, this paper explores atmospheric manipulation by them and its connection to geopolitical claim making. In this way it adds to the work in human geography on atmospheres by revealing its politics, that is, the ways in which atmospheres through spatio-temporal and relational processes are manipulated to do the work of geopolitics. Importantly, it also exposes how atmospheres are not incidental, accidental nor unimportant to geographies of diplomacy. Manifestly, atmospheres are political and have consequences. This paper is grounded empirically in accounts of atmosphere in the United Nations Security Council by its high-level current diplomatic members. The focus is upon the intensity of their ‘lived’ experience and their registering and appraisal of the emerging, transitioning and transformative atmospheres in the Council. Crucially, their accounts link the complexities of atmospheric perturbations, diplomatic ‘moments’ and subjectivity with manipulation. Collectively, they expose the cognitively penetrable though differentially impacted nature of atmospheric manipulation, and how the staging of an atmosphere is taken up and reworked by diplomatic bodies. The specific context for the study of atmospheric manipulation is a Council meeting on the worsening political and humanitarian crisis in Syria and the formulation of a military response by three of its permanent members (United States, France, and the United Kingdom) in April 2018.

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