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At Home with the Diplomats

At Home with the Diplomats: Inside a European Foreign Ministry

Iver B. Neumann
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    At Home with the Diplomats
    Book Description:

    The 2010 WikiLeaks release of 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables has made it eminently clear that there is a vast gulf between the public face of diplomacy and the opinions and actions that take place behind embassy doors. In At Home with the Diplomats, Iver B. Neumann offers unprecedented access to the inner workings of a foreign ministry. Neumann worked for several years at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he had an up-close view of how diplomats conduct their business and how they perceive their own practices. In this book he shows us how diplomacy is conducted on a day-to-day basis.

    Approaching contemporary diplomacy from an anthropological perspective, Neumann examines the various aspects of diplomatic work and practice, including immunity, permanent representation, diplomatic sociability, accreditation, and issues of gender equality. Neumann shows that the diplomat working abroad and the diplomat at home are engaged in two different modes of knowledge production. Diplomats in the field focus primarily on gathering and processing information. In contrast, the diplomat based in his or her home capital is caught up in the seemingly endless production of texts: reports, speeches, position papers, and the like. Neumann leaves the reader with a keen sense of the practices of diplomacy: relations with foreign ministries, mediating between other people's positions while integrating personal and professional into a cohesive whole, adherence to compulsory routines and agendas, and, above all, the generation of knowledge. Yet even as they come to master such quotidian tasks, diplomats are regularly called upon to do exceptional things, such as negotiating peace.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6299-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Who Are They and Where Do They Come From?
    (pp. 1-17)

    Handbooks are a fascinating source for social inquiry. They tell us how things should be. If enough people use them, what began as a recipe may become a social reality. In 1917, Sir Ernest Satow, a naturalized British citizen born in Sweden to an English mother and a German father, who had enjoyed a distinguished diplomatic career in East Asia, published a Guide to Diplomatic Practice. Satow defined diplomacy as “the conduct of official relations between the governments of independent states.” All six subsequent editions, the latest of which appeared in 2009, retain that definition. “Satow” remains a key authority...

  5. 1 Abroad: The Emergence of Permanent Diplomacy
    (pp. 18-33)

    The public image of the diplomat as the wining and dining man about town is grounded in fact.¹ It is not unusual for a senior field diplomat to travel for a month or two out of the year and, while at home, to eat another hundred working dinners, some of which he will have to host. The food may be fancy, the drinks plentiful, the staff helpful, but the hours are long, and family life suffers. I never came across a diplomat who complained about this. “It’s all part of the job.” “This is how it is.” “This is what...

  6. 2 At Home: The Emergence of the Foreign Ministry
    (pp. 34-62)

    I had not seen Giles since we both studied international relations back in the late 1980s. He had gone on to join the British diplomatic service, and now he had just finished a tour as ambassador to one of the Soviet successor states. I asked him what it was like to be back in Whitehall. Well, he said, “there is not an obvious connection between what you do and what happens.”

    One often overlooked forerunner of today’s diplomat is the adviser working not abroad, but first at the king’s court, then in the state’s administration. When posted abroad, the diplomat...

  7. 3 The Bureaucratic Mode of Knowledge Production
    (pp. 63-93)

    We know about the production of diplomatic knowledge at home; it involves notes, memos, reports, white papers, op-eds and, not least, speeches. When I arrived at the Norwegian MFA to work as a planner, I was expected to pick up the skill of writing in the bureaucratic mode with no delay. Since the ministry produces a large number of speeches for its ministers, its state secretaries, and also its senior civil servants, it was no coincidence that my first assignment was as a speechwriter. In terms of learning the ropes, however, it would not have mattered much what specific genre...

  8. 4 To Be a Diplomat
    (pp. 94-128)

    The bureaucratic mode of production is the diplomat’s main modus operandi when at home, as we have seen, and it is consistently undercommunicated by diplomats themselves. That begs the question how diplomats negotiate their own identities among themselves and vis-à-vis third parties like myself. That is the topic of this chapter. Broad historical comparison suggests that representing a polity, gathering information for that polity, and negotiating on its behalf are three basic diplomatic functions. Gathering of information by the diplomat abroad clashes with the bureaucratic mode of the diplomat at home, I suggest, and the juggling of the two tasks...

  9. 5 Diplomats Gendered and Classed
    (pp. 129-168)

    Where the previous chapter asked what it is like to be a diplomat, this chapter discusses their differences and hierarchies.¹ Historically, diplomatic functions have tended to be performed by merchants, noblemen, and clergy. In medieval Europe, monks dominated. With the rise of the state and the coming of permanent diplomacy, the aristocracy took over diplomatic missions. As postings became permanent, the resident diplomat needed traits that were

    not contemplated at all in the older theory of diplomacy. He was the man counted upon to influence the policies, or perhaps simply the attitudes, of the government to which he was sent...

  10. Conclusion: Diplomatic Knowledge
    (pp. 169-190)

    Traditional stories about how diplomacy emerged have not taken adequate note of the fact that all polities need mediation. While it is true that today’s diplomacy is the successor to the diplomacies of ancient Greek polis, Italian city-states, and Westphalian territorial states, diplomacy may also be found before these versions, in between them, and elsewhere. Moreover, since they focus on representation abroad, traditional stories about contemporary diplomacy routinely omit those origins of contemporary diplomacy that are to be found at home. In the institutionalization of court advisers in the thirteenth century, the emergence of foreign ministries toward the end of...

  11. References
    (pp. 191-210)
  12. Index
    (pp. 211-216)