Diplomacy as translation: British foreign policy as a techno-cultural assemblage

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

This project reconsiders British diplomacy from the perspective of the everyday interactions with other diplomatic entities that are prior to, and shape, foreign policy formation. It does so through a series of historical snapshots of moments when new 'outside' elements were incorporated into the British diplomatic apparatus. Produced through archival research and interviews, these snapshots together provide a different picture of the way foreign policy is produced than is usually presented. The first historical snapshot is of the creation of the Foreign Office itself, in the late eighteenth century. Prior to this there had been two secretaries of state, each of whom had domestic and international responsibilities. The creation of the Foreign Office involved producing everyday bureaucratic procedures and interactions among those previously attached to the two secretaries, and constituted for the first time a coherent approach to that which was beyond the kingdom's borders. This understanding of foreign policy, as the coherent, rational decision-making emanating from within a specialized bureaucracy, remains popular to today - both within the FCO and outside of it. The remaining historical snapshots serve to problematize this account, as they entail the steady incorporation of 'outside elements' into the foreign policy apparatus.
The first of these is the implementation of intelligence sharing in the post-WWII context, first with the United States and later with other allies such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. From this point on, British foreign policy would be premised on a slate of information shared among a group of states. That these states were like-minded in some way prior to the agreement is obviously true. But the everyday sharing of intelligence serves to predispose these states further to like-mindedness, given a common set of understandings of what is going on in the world. Other historical moments widen this circle of collaboration, such as the creation of NATO and its principle of interoperability (by which allies prepare to act in common, both in terms of infrastructure and procedures) and the creation of the EU's External Action Service (which attempts to coordinate member state's foreign policies, both centrally and among EU embassies 'in country'). While none of these dictate UK foreign policy, and clearly there are moments of divergence (e.g., the Iraq War), they nonetheless hint at the ways in which British diplomacy can be understood to be integrated with other diplomatic actors in an everyday sense, meaning that the 'outside' is already 'inside' before any formal diplomacy occurs.
This theoretical shift towards everyday diplomacy is important because it hints at the possibility that a loose group of states (often referred to as 'the West') have enmeshed their foreign policy apparatuses in ways that predispose them to (but do not require) collective action. Just as a group of people can congeal into a crowd, with their micro-scaled interactions resonating to create collective actions (like a crowd becoming a mob) without each individual losing the sense of their own agency, we might imagine everyday diplomatic interactions as productive of just such a collective.
This is particularly important, as the final snapshot is of the First Class Foreign Policy Programme, an attempt to, among other things, advance the meaning of 'digital diplomacy' by integrating internet-based expertise into foreign policy formation processes. This ongoing effort promises to incorporate non-state elements into the British foreign policy apparatus. Therefore, understanding how these micro-scaled interactions might resonate and shape international relations is of paramount importance.

Planned Impact

This project is a partnership between the PI and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCO is currently undertaking a review of its internal policy-making procedures, known as the 'First Class Foreign Policy Programme'. This Programme incorporates several dimensions, but this fellowship is primarily concerned with its emphasis on the recruitment of outside expertise to challenge the internal analysis of the FCO. One way in which this is being done is by extending the FCO's already-strong presence in 'digital diplomacy' from the usual efforts (representing British foreign policy to residents of foreign states) to a more dialogue-centred emphasis. In this new paradigm, digital diplomacy is aimed at 'internet elites' (well-known topical experts from the blogosphere, etc.), not because they are opinion-formers (although that might be a beneficial side effect), but because they can challenge the policy formulated within the FCO and produce better outcomes.
The research and leadership activities of this project are intended to 1) historicize the digital diplomacy (and related) elements of the First Class Foreign Policy Programme amidst other moments in time when the British foreign policy apparatus reterritorialized around new elements that would normally be thought of as 'outside'; and 2) bring this historical understanding of the way new elements changed the processes of foreign policy formation to the contemporary implementation of the First Class Foreign Policy Programme.
The primary method of doing so will be an overnight Retreat, funded through the fellowship, to be held at Farnham Castle with FCO staff involved in digital diplomacy and the First Class Foreign Policy Programme as well as outside experts recruited to assist discussion. During this Retreat, relevant insights from my research will be offered with discussion ensuing as to the impact of this historical perspective on contemporary policy. Following the retreat, I will write up a report based on the various opinions and perspectives presented to be presented to the FCO. The intention of this research is therefore animated by an interest in contemporary social theory and its impact on our understandings of history and British foreign policy, but is deployed for the benefit of the FCO.
Other beneficiaries might include the European Union (especially the material on the External Action Service and its everyday relationship to British diplomats), other international organizations, and governments that are (like the UK) ensconced within the geopolitical assemblage known loosely as 'the West'.

Publications

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Dittmer J (2015) Everyday Diplomacy: UKUSA Intelligence Cooperation and Geopolitical Assemblages in Annals of the Association of American Geographers

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Flint C (2019) Review forum in Political Geography

 
Description In this research I have traced the emergence of transnational geopolitical agencies that act on, and through, the various state apparatuses that compose them. Crucially, these agencies overlie one another, tracing out a web of varying affective intensities that must be examined to see their impact on individual policy-making processes.
Exploitation Route I expect it to be relevant to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Sectors Security and Diplomacy

 
Description AAG (Chicago) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Transnational militarism: Everyday diplomacies of interoperability in NATO." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the AAG in Chicago, IL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description AAG Annual Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Mar. 2016 "Bureaucratic Affect: Assembling a Common Foreign and Security Policy." Paper presented at the AAG Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description AAG Conference (Tampa) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Banal Transnationalism: Intelligence cooperation and geopolitical assemblages." Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the AAG in Tampa, FL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Cambridge University Geographical Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Feb. 2017 "UK in the World/the World in the UK." Invited seminar for the Cambridge University Geographical Society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Duke University Center for International and Global Studies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Feb. 2017 "UK in the World/the World in the UK." Invited seminar at the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Durham University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Apr. 2016 "Bureaucratic Affect: Assembling a Common Foreign and Security Policy." Invited seminar given at the Department of Geography at Durham University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited keynote (Jerusalem) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Popular geopolitics and digital diplomacy." Invited paper given at the 'Popular Culture and International Conflict' workshop at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Invited lecture (Athens, 2014) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Globalization and intelligence cooperation." Invited lecture given at Harakopio University in Athens, Greece.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited lecture (Leeds) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Popular geopolitics and digital diplomacy in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office." Invited lecture given at the University of Leeds.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited lecture (Uppsala) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Everyday diplomacy: UKUSA intelligence cooperation and geopolitical assemblages." Invited seminar given at the Department of Social and Economic Geography at Uppsala University, Sweden.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited lecture, Newcastle 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Everyday diplomacy: UKUSA intelligence cooperation and geopolitical assemblages." Invited seminar given to the School of Geography, Politics, and Sociology at Newcastle University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Invited presentation at the University of Siegen (Germany) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I was invited to present on my project to the geopolitics students at the University of Siegen.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited semina (Cambridge 2016a) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact "NATO Interoperability and Geopolitical Assemblages." Invited seminar given for the Chorley Society at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited seminar (Cambridge 2014) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact "Everyday diplomacy: UKUSA intelligence cooperation and geopolitical assemblages." Invited seminar given to the Cambridge University Geography Society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited seminar (Cambridge 2016b) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "NATO Interoperability and Geopolitical Assemblages." Invited seminar given for the Chorley Society at the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited seminar (Colorado) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "NATO Interoperability and Geopolitical Assemblages." Invited seminar given for the International Affairs program at the University of Colorado.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited seminar (Georgia) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Transnational militarism: Everyday diplomacies of interoperability in NATO." Invited seminar given at the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Invited seminar (Glasgow) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Everyday diplomacy: UKUSA intelligence cooperation and geopolitical assemblages." Invited seminar given at the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Invited seminar (Liverpool) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Assembling the Foreign Office, 1839-1874: Towards a more-than-human diplomacy." Invited seminar given at the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Liverpool.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Invited seminar (Oxford) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Assembling the Foreign Office, 1839-1874: Towards a more-than-human diplomacy." Invited seminar given at the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Invited seminar (Royal Holloway) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Transnational militarism: Everyday diplomacies of interoperability in NATO." Invited seminar given at the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Invited seminar (UNC) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Transnational militarism: Everyday diplomacies of interoperability in NATO." Invited seminar given at the Department of Geography at the University of North Carolina.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Invited seminar (Wisconsin) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Transnational militarism: Everyday diplomacies of interoperability in NATO." Invited seminar given at the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Invited talk (Malta) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact "Affect, network building, and Maltese public diplomacy." Invited talk given at the 'Dialogue in the Mediterranean: Exploring identity through networks' conference in Valletta, Malta.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description PGSG Pre-conference (San Francisco) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Mar. 2016 "Bureaucratic Affect: Assembling a Common Foreign and Security Policy." Paper presented at the PGSG Pre-conference in San Francisco, CA.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description PGSG presentation (Chicago) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Transnational militarism: Everyday diplomacies of interoperability in NATO." Paper presented at the PGSG Pre-conference in Chicago, IL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Political Geography pre-conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact "Banal Transnationalism: Intelligence cooperation and geopolitical assemblages." Paper presented at the PGSG Pre-Conference in Tampa, FL.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Presentation at the Centre for Security Studies at ETH Zurich 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was an invited participant at the 'Which Region?' workshop in Zurich. There were about 20 in attendance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description School visit (Oxford University Geographical Society) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 50 students attended my lecture, for which I was invited by the Oxford University Geographical Society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description UCL Global Governance Institute 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Jun. 2016 "Transnational militarism: Everyday diplomacies of interoperability in NATO." Paper presented at the Science and Technology in Security workshop at the UCL Global Governance Institute.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016