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CPSA/ISA-Canada section on International Relations

C05(b) - Contemporary Diplomatic Studies: Understanding Diplomatic Practices, Actors, Spaces, and Technologies

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 01:30pm to 03:00pm | Location: SWING 309

Chair/Président/Présidente : Susan J. Henders (York University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Brian Job (University of British Columbia)

Session Abstract: The study of contemporary diplomacies has in recent years been animated by a diversity of methodologies, approaches, and concepts and theories, as well as the analysis of new actors, spaces, and technologies of diplomacy. The panel reflects upon and advances these developments. Drawing on the turn in the literature towards interpretive approaches and toward the study of diplomatic practices, the papers examine the nature and significance of non-state diplomacies involving overseas nationals, tourists, and others; they theorize the West-centrism of traditional diplomatic studies; and they advance understanding of the impact of new communication technologies such as Twitter on diplomatic narrative practices involving both state and non-state participants.

American Tourists in Cuba: Other Diplomatic Encounters and the US-Cuban Relationship: Lana Wylie (McMaster University)
Abstract: American tourism to Cuba has waxed and waned in response to changes in the political relationship. During the 1940s Americans saw Havana as an exotic locale for their gambling holidays, making Cuba the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean in this period. In contrast, during the Cold War, American tourism to the island was almost non-existent. Since the end of the Cold War, Cuba has attracted American tourists, peaking at the end of the Obama era when Raul Castro and Barack Obama began to normalize relations. Although the numbers have declined since the election of Trump, a significant number of Americans continue to visit Cuba. This paper will discuss the evolution of the US-Cuba relationship paying particular attention to the degree to which encounters between American citizens and Cubans have informed public opinion in both countries. It will also explore the impact of tourist encounters on the relationship between the societies and whether the presence of American tourists in Cuba has the potential to impact the bilateral relationship. Using an "other diplomacy" framework, this paper will investigate the degree to which American tourists in Cuba and the Cubans they encounter engage in diplomatic practices such as negotiation of difference, communication, representation, information gathering, and the management of relationships between the two societies.

Non-State Actors and Digital Diplomacy in Practice: Jérémie Cornut (Simon Fraser University)
Abstract: This paper looks at how new technologies of communication change diplomats’ narrative practices. Digital diplomacy and the use of Twitter in particular, though they are relatively new inventions, are fulfilling a role that has existed for a long time in politics and international relations: manipulating information and the public’s perception of government’s positions. Building on the practice turn in IR, this paper considers digital diplomacy to be a practical activity performed by individuals embedded in webs of relations. It is analyzed not principally as a tool or instrument of states, but as an activity undertaken by state and non-state actors selecting from repertoires of narrative practices. I take the Twitter war between Canada and Russia in August 2014 as illustration. The Canadian delegation to NATO posted its Russia/Not Russia map with the goal of asserting Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. In this case, they instrumentalized digital diplomacy to serve this purpose and, thanks to non-state actors that retweeted their message, they succeeded in attracting the attention of a much wider audience than would have been possible with a simple, formal speech expressing their disagreement with Russia’s position on the matter. This analysis makes sense of how new technologies have transformed the way diplomats communicate and publicly engage with state and non-state actors. All this will contribute to a better understanding of how non-state actors contribute to diplomacy in their own ways.

Uncovering Political Subjecthoods of the Non-West through Other Diplomacies: Suneth Wijeratne (McMaster University)
Abstract: The field of Diplomatic Studies, reflecting the broader discipline of International Relations, has a largely Western-centric focus. Non-Western diplomacies, in the few instances that they are mentioned, are discussed as practices that existed in the past. Current diplomatic practices, in contrast, are those that are dominated by modern states and their accredited agents. The concept of the modern state is inherently a Western-centric ideal that was imposed on much of the non-Western world through colonisation. Therefore, merely shifting the geographic focus of diplomatic studies from Western states to non-Western states is insufficient to escape its state and Western centrism. This paper argues that for non-Western diplomacies to be taken seriously as legitimate knowledges that can construct political subjecthood and agency, it requires decentring the state and focusing on how non-state actors, forming actual living communities in the non-West interact across differences of identities. I argue that representative and rule-making aspects of interactions between different living communities can be recognised as performances in other diplomacies which allows non-state actors in the non-West to be recognised as acting subjects in international politics. The concept of other diplomacies is well positioned to examine how living communities engage in international politics since it focuses on functional aspects of diplomacies performed by non-state actors through their interactions across political, legal and normative boundaries. The implications of the research suggest that other diplomacies allow political subjecthood to be constructed through non-Western thought, broadening the field of Diplomatic Studies and International Relations to better encompass global diversity.


Norm-Making in World Order and the Making of Canadian-ness: The Non-State Diplomacies of Canadians Living in Hong Kong: Susan Henders (York University)
Abstract: The paper examines how diplomatic practices by non-state actors contribute to making, negotiating, and representing Canadian identities and values abroad. The goal is to better understand the nature of the contemporary Canadian diplomacies involved in contesting democracy, human rights, and sovereignty in world order, and the significance of these diplomacies for contestation over Canadian identity and values at home. Empirically, the paper focuses on the diplomacies of Canadians living in Hong Kong during democratization and human rights struggles in the Umbrella Movement era and its aftermath. This population, one of the largest of overseas Canadians, is mainly composed of Hong Kong-born individuals who migrated to Canada before returning to the territory—or their offspring. The analysis draws from interviews, media reports, social media posts, and participant observation. It uses an “other diplomacies” framework to identify the specific diplomatic practices used (e.g., representing the self; identifying and interpreting the other; mediating differences between self and other; and negotiating and managing relationships between them), their extent, and the contexts in which they occurred. Finally, to begin to understand the significance of these non-state diplomatic practices, the analysis examines how they conflicted, overlapped, or converged with the diplomatic practices of the Canadian state vis-à-vis Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China. It also considers how these non-state diplomatic were influenced by understandings of Canadian identity and values expressed in political debates and policies back in Canada, including those that question the very “Canadian-ness” of newcomers and overseas nationals.