ASA15: Symbiotic anthropologies: theoretical commensalities and methodological mutualisms

(P18)
Anthropology and diplomacy
Location Room 4
Date and Start Time 14 April, 2015 at 09:15
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • David Henig (University of Kent) email
  • Magnus Marsden (University of Sussex) email
  • Diana Ibanez Tirado (SOAS, University of London) email

Mail All Convenors

Discussant Madeleine Reeves (Manchester)

Short Abstract

We invite contributions that will deploy the umbrella concept 'everyday modes of diplomacy' to ethnographically examine the repertoires of practices, skills, and moral registers through which individuals and communities engage in and influence international affairs and geopolitics today.

Long Abstract

There is an ongoing assumption in much writing that the most influential modes of conducting diplomacy in the world today are those that take place behind the closed doors of presidential offices and embassies. This perspective assumes that in the modern world diplomacy has been separated from other domains of life. This leads to the assumption that the only actors authorised/able to conduct diplomacy - i.e. to act on behalf os, speak for, and mediate between players at the international stage - are the nation state's representatives. Existing scholarship thereby treats community involvement in geopolitical processes as of secondary importance. Another approach recognises that local communities play a role in such processes but as unthinking automatons deceived by nation states. This is clearly the case in depictions of Russia's recent interventions in the Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe. This panel will turn attention away from the use of diplomatic strategies by nation states and ask instead how communities affected by such processes relate to, evaluate, and arbitrate between such processes. We look to solicit papers that address the types of diplomatic skill cultivated in particular communities. We are interested in how such forms of diplomacy merely reflect official types of international diplomacy or do they provide a window into other types of diplomatic practice? How far is the concept of everyday modes of diplomacy helpful in analysing such modes of behaving? Do everyday modes of diplomacy allow communities to engage in and influence international affairs?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Diplomatic traders: Afghan transnational networks

Author: Magnus Marsden (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I seek to contribute to debates on how we might conceptualise ‘global forms of civility’ through a consideration of ethnographic material concerning the ways in which transnational traders of Afghan background consider ‘being diplomatic’ to be an essential aspect of their daily activities.

Long Abstract

In this paper I seek to contribute to debates on how we might conceptualise 'global forms of civility' through a consideration of ethnographic material concerning the ways in which transnational traders of Afghan background consider 'being diplomatic' to be an essential aspect of their daily activities. A consideration of such modes of 'being diplomatic' reveals how these traders' worlds are geared as much towards the navigation of international relations, boundaries, and divisions, as to any attempt to forge a space or network that transcends such divisions by creating shared registers of religion, culture, ethnicity, or political ideology. As diplomats, the traders' mobility and their internationally oriented subjectivities are connected to their work, career trajectories, and material lives: the skills of diplomacy ideally allow them to negotiate between multiple positions rather than to forge an overarching sense of unity, brotherhood, or collectivity. Afghan traders' internationalism is however not devoid of moral registers, debates, and anxieties, and reflective simply of these peoples' inherent pragmatism or strategizing. A mundane act of diplomacy, such as changing clothes at an international border, instead, provokes multiple questions for the traders concerning their loyalty to Afghanistan, the sincerity of the attempts to live a Muslim life, or commitment to a particular region. The paper assess the ways in which traders seek to mediate between such contrasting moral concerns, and documents, in the context of the complex and conflict-ridden worlds they inhabit, the limits of the forms of being diplomatic that they advocate.

Corporate diplomacy in the 'age of conversation'

Author: Paul Gilbert (University of Brighton)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines 'corporate diplomacy' in the extractive industries, and an effort to recast relationships with mine-area communities as part of an 'Age of Conversation.' This conversational approach to commercial statecraft gives the lie to the idea diplomacy is a preserve of the nation-state

Long Abstract

Drawing on ethnography of London's mining market, this paper examines a shift from 'corporate social responsibility' (CSR) to 'corporate diplomacy' in the extractive industries. Anthropologists studying the mining sector have depicted CSR regimes as part-and-parcel of corporate reproduction; exercises in indebtedness engineering that are ultimately experienced by mine-affected communities as antisocial instances of 'failed exchange'. CSR managers, lawyers and public relations professionals have come to terms with aspects of this critique, and attempted to recast their relationships with mine-area communities in terms of an "Age of Conversation." The corporate diplomat is summoned as a key figure within this Age of Conversation, who often declares that the responsibility of mining companies is self-evident - since they are absolutely disciplined by an all-seeing, ever-discoursing social mediascape. Yet when corporate diplomats mount their missions to embattled mine-sites, only a select few "influencers" are admitted into the conversation. Corporate diplomacy, then, involves artful manipulation of the everyday diplomats allegedly accommodated by the Age of Conversation. As ethnography carried out behind the closed doors of London's mining market reveals, the Age of Conversation is only one aspect of a broader turn towards 'corporate foreign policy': engaging the right mine-area 'influencers' can provide mining companies with the support they need when dealing with unsympathetic host-states. The rise of this conversational form of commercial statecraft gives the lie to the notion that diplomacy today is the preserve of the nation-state, which may itself jostle with the corporation for a place in the international order.

Grassroots diplomacy: Indian trading economy within a Chinese county

Author: Ka-Kin Cheuk (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

This paper is an examination of the grassroots diplomacy in the international business engagement among the Indian traders within a local setting in China.

Long Abstract

This paper is an examination of the grassroots diplomacy in the international business engagement within a local setting in China. Drawing on field research between 2010 and 2012, the paper is based on an ethnographic study conducted in Keqiao county of Zhejiang Province. Keqiao is Asia's largest fabric wholesale market, with over 30 percent of China-made fabrics traded through this small county to more than a hundred countries around the world. At this world centre of fabric trading, Keqiao, more than ten thousand Indian agents have organised a vibrant middleman economy. The local trading activities between Indians and Chinese are mostly a mix of formal and informal economies, often inevitably in conflicts with the Chinese state's interests. In order to avoid any undesired confrontation with the state, the Indian agents 'localise' their international business operations to the extent that its bureaucratic outlook becomes entirely national. This paper demonstrates that such localisation strategies are particularly productive at a grassroots level when the insurmountable trade deficit has long shadowed the Sino-Indian diplomatic relations at large. Quite ironically, the grassroots diplomacy appears to be working at its the best while the concerned international relations is at its lowest point.

Crises of legitimacy: kinship, reciprocity and the state in Pakistan

Author: Stephen Lyon (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

Pakistani state officials who prioritise kin obligations are able to count on their supporters to promote their virtue, and ensure support at critical regime transitions which provides a tool for establishing and maintaining public legitimacy.

Long Abstract

The Pakistan state has confronted persistent crises of legitimacy since independence. Current calls for radical transformation of governance models from new political and religious organisation are driven by widespread frustration with the ways in which decisions are taken by government officials and the perception of unfair distribution of state resources. Despite repeated calls for a Pakistan Spring, the state appears to function as it always has and continues to draw support from broad and distributed segments of the population. So while the crises are not fabricated, the state, through its elected representatives, appointed executives and civil service organisations has sufficient popular support to justifiably claim a legitimate mandate to govern. There are multiple sources for the production and maintenance of such support, but an important one is found in kinship relations.  Pervasive relationships of familial mutual support and reciprocity, rather than being perceived as corrupt, are necessary proof of the virtue of state officeholders. Satisfying kinship obligations allows politicians and civil servants to maintain respectable reputations as legitimate wielders of state power. Using data from the elected officials in the National and Provincial Assemblies of Pakistan and Punjab, I argue that individuals who prioritise kin obligations over 'impartial' decision making and resource distribution, are able to count on their supporters to promote their virtue, and ensure material and symbolic support at critical regime transitions which provides a powerful tool for establishing and maintaining public legitimacy over time. 

Palestinian journalists as national and international mediators

Author: Nofret Berenice Hernandez Vilchis (Aix-Marseille University)  email

Short Abstract

Palestinian journalists are aware of their social role in keeping the collective memory and the national identity of the Palestinian nation. They tend to ‘speak for’, and represent their society to the world, becoming mediators between citizens and national and international institutions.

Long Abstract

Palestinian journalists are aware of their social role in keeping the collective memory and the national identity of the Palestinian nation. They tend to 'speak for', and represent their society to the world. "A great storyteller -whether a journalist or editor or filmmaker or curator- helps people figure out not only what matters in the world, but also why it matters." (Popova, 2014) Based on interviews conducted in the West Bank with Palestinian journalists between 2010 and 2012, I suggest in this paper that Palestinian's journalistic work is similar to 'diplomacy' because it aims to present the point of view of the 'Palestinian people' to show their "truth" to the world. "The truth itself involves a form of justice. It involves the restoration of a moral world where lies are lies, truths are truths, and the state is not unpunished." (Dresser, 2014) By doing so, Palestinian journalists shape themselves as mediators between the Palestinian people and the national and international governments, institutions and political elites. Journalism and information is a tool to fight for the respect of basic human right among minority groups. "Israeli and Mexican authorities have created a speech against the insurgency. On the other hand, the activists who defend the Palestinian struggle and neo-zapatist have developed communication strategies to oppose the official discourse and obtain foreign support." (Ferron, 2012)

Dining diplomacy: Dervish brotherhoods and the (re)making of cosmopolitanism in Southeast Europe

Author: David Henig (University of Kent)  email

Short Abstract

By amplifying the idea that a ‘meal is the best synecdoche for diplomacy’ I trace how the notion of ‘sofra’ (table/dining) is deployed by a cosmopolitan Muslim Dervish brotherhood in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a mode of 'being diplomatic' to forge and mediate relationships between various ‘Others’.

Long Abstract

This paper contributes to the debates on the nature of diplomacy in the modern world which seek to critically examine 'the sites' where diplomacy actually takes place (Neumann 2013). One such 'site' which epitomises the quintessence of diplomatic practice is dining and food sharing. By amplifying this axiom beyond state-level diplomacy, I trace how the notion of 'sofra' (table/dining etiquette) is deployed by a trans-national Muslim Dervish brotherhood from Bosnia-Herzegovina that is part of a larger network spanning across the frontiers of Southeast Europe and the East Mediterranean. I suggests that the notion of 'sofra' embodies a mode of 'being diplomatic' that enables the dervish brotherhood to forge, maintain and/or mediate relationships between various linguistic, national, and confessional 'Others'. This paper focuses ethnographically on the lives of stories and arguments, moral idioms and exempla, as well as skills and etiquette that the dervish disciples associate with 'sofra' as a form of 'dining diplomacy' through which the dervish disciples seek to mediate and pursue their cosmopolitan identities in the surrounding world ridden by ethnonational and sectarian separations.

Spaces of appearance: Russian-speakers and Latvians in a transnational political field

Author: Dace Dzenovska (University of Oxford)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on engagement with post-Soviet polity formation in Latvia, I examine the social fabric that has emerged within the divided Latvian polity and ask whether and how it enables “everyday modes of diplomacy”, especially in relation to the widely perceived threat of Russian invasion.

Long Abstract

Since Russia's interventions in Ukraine, tensions between Russian-speakers and Latvians have taken on new dimensions. On the one hand, there is a palpable sense of fear within Latvian publics that Russia is planning local provocations by mobilising Russian-speakers in Latvia's eastern borderlands and in the media. On the other hand, Latvia's Russian-speaking publics are outraged that they are suspected to be Russia's "fifth column".

Tensions between Russian-speakers and Latvians as two "categories of difference" are shaped by historical and contemporary power relations that extend beyond the boundaries of the Latvian state and the current historical moment. In fact, these tensions are at the foundation of the Latvian state. The state's political institutions, governing mechanisms and practices of knowledge production rely upon and reproduce the distinction between Russian-speakers and Latvians in most spheres of life.

Drawing on more than a decade of engagement with post-Soviet polity formation in Latvia, this paper will examine the social fabric within the divided Latvian polity and ask whether and how it enables or forecloses "everyday modes of diplomacy"? Where and how do individuals appear to each other as produced through diverging histories and memories, yet without reproducing the "categories of difference" deployed in national and international politics alike? Can such appearances rework the transnational political field that depends on the distinction between Russian-speakers and Latvians? In posing these questions, the paper will engage the concept of "everyday modes of diplomacy" and scholarship that seeks possibilities for political action in understanding, sociality and everyday life.

Embodied diplomacy: the politics of Tajikistan's national dress

Author: Diana Ibanez Tirado (SOAS, University of London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper advances the notion of ‘embodied diplomacy’ through an analysis of the uniforms imposed by Tajikistan’s government to pilgrims during the annual Hajj, and which include veils and shirts displaying Tajikistan’s flag.

Long Abstract

The word diplomacy conveys the representation, negotiation, mediation and reconciliation of nation-states in the sphere of international politics. In this paper, however, I seek to go beyond treating diplomacy as the act of conducting foreign relations through professionalised diplomatic personal. Rather, by exploring dress as an 'assemblage of body modifications and/or supplements' (Eicher and Roach-Higgings 1992, in Hansen 2004: 371) in a manner that brings attention to the limitations of understanding the human body as simply 'biological' or 'natural' and clothing and body modifications as 'cultural' or 'artificial', this paper analyses the central significance of the politics of dress to Tajikistan's attempts to present the 'authentic nation' both within Tajikistan and to international audiences. I argue that the clothing expected of Tajikistan's pilgrims to Mecca and Medina during the Hajj is a case of embodied diplomacy. In 2010 Tajikistan's President decreed a law by which all hojjis are compelled to wear a uniform with the Tajik flag and the name 'Tajikistan' embroidered upon the women's headscarves and the men's shirt-pockets during the course of the pilgrimage. According to Tajikistan's government, the logic behind this requirement is that Tajikistan's pilgrims must be recognised as Tajiks in Saudi Arabia and must conform to 'proper' forms of behaviour during the pilgrimage not only because of their being Muslims in the process of conducting a central Islamic rite, but because they are representing the Tajik nation during their sojourns away from the home country.

Not soft power, but speaking softly. 'Everyday diplomacy' in field relations during the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Author: Jeremy Morris (University of Birmingham)  email

Short Abstract

In the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, this paper examines ethnographer and informants alike as unwilling ‘diplomatic’ representatives. It discusses political neutrality in field relations, indirect communication, and affective states that both facilitate and threaten ‘everyday diplomacy’.

Long Abstract

Based on long-term fieldwork in Russia, but focussing mainly on the aftermath of the 2014 Malaysian airliner downing in Ukraine, this paper examines the individual ethnographer and informants alike as unwilling 'diplomatic' representatives in the field. Firstly, I discuss the familiar 'political testing' experience of researchers by informants, and field-relation 'neutrality' (Ergun and Erdemir 2009). Next, I draw on the anthropology of indirect communication to characterise 'everyday diplomacy' after the event as 'silence' (Hendry and Watson 2000) but also civility. Third, I examine attendant affective states of 'tension, disturbance, or jarring' (Navaro-Yashin 2012) that both threaten diplomacy and enable it. Finally, I argue that classic ethnographic rapport building deserves further examination in the light of the porosity of politics, the social environment and the field.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.