Diplomatic Sites

A Critical Enquiry

Part of the Crises in World Politics series
May 2013 9781849042406 176pp


Although diplomacy increasingly takes place in non-traditional settings that are increasingly non-Western, our debates about diplomacy still focus on traditional points of contact such as the conference table, the ministerial office and the press conference. This book is framed as a discussion on whether increasing globalisation and the rise of powers such as China, India and Brazil will precipitate a crisis in diplomacy; it also tackles the problem of diplomatic Eurocentrism head on. The author, who has broad working experience of diplomacy, reflects on sites that range from the dining table — a quotidian and elementary meeting place where all kinds of business is settled amid a variety of culturally specific but little-known practices — via the civil-war interstices where diplomats from third parties try to facilitate and mediate conflict, to grand diplomatic extravaganzas, the object of which is to overwhelm the other party. In a media age, popular understanding of diplomacy is a force to be reckoned with, hence the book discusses how diplomacy is represented in an almost wholly overlooked space, namely that of popular culture. The author concludes that, far from being in crisis, diplomatic activity is increasingly in evidence in a variety of sites. Rather than being a dying art, in today’s globalised world it positively thrives.


‘Iver Neumann presents a bold new approach: the study of diplomacy as anthropology. The subject is ideally suited to such a method, and it is a surprise it has not been attempted before.… In [a] stimulating, wide-ranging and, occasionally, engagingly eccentric work… he has interpreted his rich experience as fieldwork and analysed it in this light. Such a perspective retrieves the subjectivity of international relations as a human activity, but far more rigorously than a mere harvesting of anecdotes. By reflecting on lives, ways and stories, it explores structures of identity, meaning and practice in this shared social world.’ — International Affairs

‘… an intriguing book [that] sets out to look afresh at the art of diplomacy in an increasingly globalised modern world, and draws extensively on [the author’s] practical experience and research.’—Asian Affairs

‘Iver Neumann is one of the most sophisticated commentators on contemporary diplomacy, and also one of the most entertaining. This delicious book judiciously blends erudition and anecdote, in the process offering fresh perspectives on aspects of diplomacy that are routinely taken for granted. A delight from beginning to end’ — William Maley, Professor and Director, Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, The Australian National University

‘Iver Neumann does a fine job of analysing the significance of where diplomacy takes place. In a time of continuing globalisation, diplomatic practice is becoming more diffuse, with its venues ranging from physical to virtual conference tables and beyond. Although many diplomatic traditions are not obsolete, they exist in a dynamic new context that Neumann explores thoroughly and thoughtfully.’ — Philip Seib, Professor of International Relations and Director, Center on Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California

‘Diplomatic Sites is a collection of thought-provoking, challenging and often unconventional meditations on the nature of contemporary diplomacy. Neumann forces the reader to think through issues and scenarios that often step far beyond the more comfortable ambits of international relations.’ — Michele Acuto, Stephen Barter Research Fellow for the Oxford Programme for the Future of Cities, University of Oxford

‘Ranging from Byzantium to Star Trek, and drawing on his own experiences, Iver Neumann tells us what diplomacy is really like. He shows that what diplomats eat, and where they sit, can be just as important as what they say to one another.’ — Patrick Salmon, Chief Historian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

‘A highly original, stimulating and entertaining survey of diplomacy, in the wider sense of peaceful management of relations between states, the chief tasks of which he categorises as information gathering, negotiating and communicating one’s position.’ — Sir Peter Marshall, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General 1983-1988, The Round Table



Iver B. Neumann is professor and Director of Research at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). Between 1980 and 2005, he worked in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in four different capacities, for a total of six years. His latest books are At Home with the Diplomats and (with Ole Jacob Sending), Governing the Global Polity.

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