Diplomacies – Call for papers
Call for papers for the journal Terrain
Issue coordinated by Emmanuel de Vienne and Chloé Nahum-Claudel
Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping exemplify through their very differences some far-reaching transformations of global diplomacy. The first makes an unprecedented use of new media to communicate directly with other heads of state (and with his own voters), in the process short-circuiting embassies and their traditional ‘dark arts’. The second seems to bypass diplomacy altogether, relying instead on a mix of brutal irony and, increasingly, brute force. Finally, the third pursues an explicit doctrine, a ‘new silk road’ (Eckman 2018, Zhao 2018) which, circumventing the Westphalian model of alliances, relies on bilateral partnerships in support of an ambitious economic and foreign policy. China relies extensively on soft power (Confucius institutes diffusing “Chinese culture” and teaching Chinese abroad, quest for international respectability…), while also casting itself as a bridgehead to a new, non-Western diplomatic model. The practices and principles inherited from the Vienna Congress have indeed lost their universality in the face of global geopolitical reconfigurations (Badie 2018), and of the multiplication of type and scale of actors involved in diplomatic relations (towns, regions, publics, NGOs, multinational companies, indigenous groups…).
Alongside these transformations in conventional international diplomacy, the figure of the ‘diplomat’ has also been evoked in the social sciences in connection with increasing efforts to address and include non-human entities. Indeed, the turn of the century saw a set of new cosmopolitical proposals (Stengers 2007, Latour 2007, Descola 2005): where Kant had sought to extend citizenship to the whole of humanity, these new proposals drew on a principle of symmetry to reach further still. They sought to provide equal recognition to worlds and beings whose composition eschewed the Western distinction between nature and culture. But how can such beings be represented, how can their voice be heard in the political arena ? This new diplomacy has been a key theme for Bruno Latour, who for instance gathered together students in the Theatre des Amandiers to act out a ‘Conference of Parties’ which included currently unrepresented actors, such as mountains, the air, the ocean or animals. Yet while this enlarged cast of characters was clearly inspired by comparative ethnographic examples, the form of the negotiation remained within a classically Western tradition: a select group of representatives and mediators assembled around negotiating tables in exclusive meeting rooms away from the general public.
For indeed societies do not simply differ in terms of the composition of the world, that is to say, in whether or not they include non-humans in the social. They differ also, and perhaps more fundamentally, in the ways in which they conceive self-other relations. Peace and war, enmity and solidarity, rivalry and cooperation, are not everywhere in mutual opposition – they can be combined. The norms of legitimate communication and appropriate negotiation also vary, and anthropologists have long been interested in the –occasionally productive – misunderstandings and frictions such different assumptions can cause (Sahlins 1979). The very idea of diplomacy in the strict sense – the delegation to an official representative of a power of negotiation with a foreign group – is far from universal. This vision is rooted in the historical emergence of a system of nation-states, and can be usefully contrasted with alternative models – rather as Claude Levi-Strauss spoke of the “foreign policy” of the Nambikwara in order to highlight the aporias of our own.
This issue of Terrain therefore seeks to explore other diplomacies, foregrounding with an emphasis on ethnography and case studies, in line with the journal’s editorial policy. Considering diplomacy to be first and foremost an art of communication, we shall examine diplomatic doctrines in light of actors’ concrete practices. Who takes on the functions of the diplomat in societies which do not traditionally have such a role ? What type of relationship (delegation, incarnation…) ties this person to the group in whose name they speak? What procedures of translation do they bring to bear on linguistic, conceptual and political worlds ? What are the implications of the increasingly multi-scalar nature of the diplomatic game ? And what, finally, is the opposite of diplomacy ?
With an eye to decolonising this art, we shall pay special attention to the diplomacy of the defeated. For it is typically the vanquished who, historically, have been obliged to be creative. In Europe, the role of diplomat as a permanent delegate to a foreign court (rather than as a mere temporary envoy or negotiator) emerged in Renaissance Italy, at a time of political fragmentation and weakness in the face of French and Habsburg Empires. At the congress of Vienna, Talleyrand saved France’s position as a key player in the balance of European powers, while Napoleon was heading for his second defeat. More recently, the Enawenë Nawe managed, despite their vanishingly small numbers, to become a full-fledged diplomatic interlocutor of the Brasilian state in relation to the construction of hydroelectric dams (Nahum-Claudel 2017). Finally, in the 1980s, as China began to rise again under Deng Xiaoping, the country’s diplomatic doctrine – “hiding one’s talents, biding one’s time” – turned precisely on seeming weaker than it actually was. This doctrine persisted into the 2000s, well after China had left behind its period of objective fragility.
Submissions can of course focus on the specialists of mediation with non-humans traditionally studied by anthropologists (shamans, priests, mediums), as long as their activity also aims to influence another human collective. This restriction is grounded in the observation that human beings are more difficult to convince than divinities.
Aside from standard academic articles (8000 words), the issue will also include “portfolios” – short essays built around a collection of images – and “narratives” (4000 words) – descriptive vignettes of encounters, based on archival or ethnographic material.
If you would like to contribute, please submit a title and 300-word abstract by the 1st of April 2019 to the editors of Terrain: email@example.com
Submission deadline for articles: 1st of June, 2019.
Badie, Bertrand, 2018. Quand le Sud réinvente le monde, essai sur la puissance de la faiblesse, Paris, La Découverte.
Descola, Philippe, 2005. Par-delà nature et culture, Paris, Gallimard.
Eckman, Alice (dir.), 2018. La Chine dans le monde, Paris, CNRS Éditions.
Latour, Bruno, 2007. « 2. Quel cosmos ? Quelles cosmopolitiques ? », in Jacques Lolive & Olivier Soubeyran (dir.), L’émergence des cosmopolitiques, Paris, La Découverte, p. 69-84.
Lévi-Strauss Claude, 1949. « La politique étrangère d’une société primitive », Politique étrangère, no 2, p 139-152.
Nahum-Claudel, Chloé, 2017. Vital Diplomacy. The Ritual Everyday on a Dammed River in Amazonia, New York, Oxford, Bergahn.
Ruggiero, Raffaele, 2018. « Castiglione à la cour de Charles Quint. La langue et les pratiques de la diplomatie italienne à la Renaissance », Cahiers d’études italiennes [En ligne], 27, mis en ligne le 30 septembre 2018, consulté le 07 octobre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cei/5239 ; DOI : 10.4000/cei.5239.
Sahlins, Marshall, 1979. « L’apothéose du capitaine Cook », in M. IZARD & P. SMITH (dir.), La fonction symbolique : essais d’anthropologie, Paris, p. 307-343.
Stengers, Isabelle, 2007. « 1. La proposition cosmopolitique », in Jacques Lolive & Olivier Soubeyran (dir.), L’émergence des cosmopolitiques, Paris, La Découverte, p. 45-68.
Zhao, Yongchen, 2018. “Dialectical Unity of Xi Jinping’s Thought on Diplomacy”, China international Studies, no 70, p. 15-36.