Diplomatic representation in the Public Sphere

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Part of diplomatic work is public, which means that a diplomat has to be presentable, that is ‘lean, smart, or decent enough to be seen in public’ (Oxford English Dictionary). Part one recognizes the recent spate of work on aesthetics and
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  1 Diplomatic Representation in the Public Sphere: Performing Accreditation 1  Iver B. Neumann, Norwegian Social Research, The Fridtjof Nansen Institute, Norway Presentable. Adjective: Clean, smart, or decent enough to be seen in public https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/presentable Example 2: ‘you'd better make yourself presentable’  Synonyms: smartly dressed, tidily dressed, smart, tidy, of smart appearance, well groomed, dapper, elegant, trim, spruce informal: natty https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/thesaurus/presentable Abstract Part of diplomatic work is public, which means that a diplomat has to be presentable, that is ‘lean, smart, or decent enough to be seen in public’  (Oxford English Dictionary). Part one recognizes the recent spate of work on aesthetics and representation in the social sciences and diplomacy studies, and asks why it was so late in coming when representation has always  been constitutive of diplomacy. In answer, it points to the enlightenment’s distrust of visuals and particularly to the twentieth-century reaction against Nazi aestheticizing of politics. Part two sets out what it takes to stage a successful visual performance and points to three factors: the agent’s own preparations, audience assessment and mediation to broader public. Part three analyzes two particularly successful performances of accreditation and highlight how they succeed because they were deemed to be particularly presentable by being particularly smart and decent, respectively. In conclusion, I argue that smartness trumps decency. This offers female diplomats more options than males, but also incurs greater risks. Keywords: VISUAL DIPLOMACY, PERFORMATIVITY, FEMALE DIPLOMATS, PUBLIC SPHERE, IRAN, JAPAN 1  I should like to thank Cecilie Basberg Neumann, Roland Bleiker, Lene Hansen, Emma Hutchison, Halvard Leira, Lena Liepe, Wrenne Yennie Lindgren, Ali Shams-Lahiani Paul Sharp and Ann Towns for comments on earlier incarnations of this article, which is part of a project on Images and International Security based at Copenhagen University and funded by the Danish Research Council for Independent Research, grant no. DFF – 132-00056B.  2 Diplomatic Representation in the Public Sphere Representation is one of three key tasks for a diplomat (with the other two being information-gathering and negotiation). In order to represent, you not only have to stand in for your Queen and Country, that is, be present where the country itself is absent (Constantinou 1994; Constantinou 1996; Hennings 2011). You also have to be  presentable, that is, ‘lean, smart, or decent enough to be seen in public’, as the O xford English Dictionary has it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that diplomacy, as generally understood, is not only the mediation of estrangement (Der Derian 1987), but also a prolonged exercise in embodied representation, which must include presentability. To be presentable boils down to having a pleasing comportment, a measured body language, a well-groomed appearance, a decent sartorial  profile and a pleasant manner of speaking. ‘ The presentable ’ concerns the aestheticized aspect of the diplomat, and of any person for that matter. It takes one or more audiences to be  presentable, so presentability always has to be performed. Performance demands a sphere. Some of these spheres are public. An inquiry into the specifics of how presentability works can lean on rich groundwork on aesthetics and diplomacy (Bleiker 2001, 2009; Butler and Bleiker 2016; Campbell 2003; Cohen 1987; Constantinou 2016, 2018; Edkins and Keir 2013; Hansen 2011, 2016; Williams 2003). General historical overviews are in place (Assmann 2011; Neumann 2006; Roosen 1980; also Wang 1971). So is work on the importance of diplomatic signaling (for overviews, see Jönsson and Aggerstam 1999; Kinne 2014), mediatisation (Fitzpatrick 2007; Cross and Melissen 2013; Pamment 2014) the sociological microfoundations of diplomatic representation (Holmes 2013; Faizullaev 2013, Cornut 2015). However, with some notable exceptions (Neumann 2006, Kuus 2015, McConnell 2018, Nair 2019), the actual performance of diplomatic representative work has not yet been that much studied. The first part of this  paper asks why it took so long for diplomatic representation to receive the attention it now has. I suggest that part of the answer lies in how, after the Second World War, intellectuals came to blame some of Fascism ’s success  on its successful aestheticisation of politics. Many  proceeded to deny the importance of aesthetics in favour of deliberation. I then go on to tie the analysis to the literature on performativity, and suggest that three factors determine the degree of success of a diplomatic performance. These are the presentability factor (body capital, work on envicling the presentability of the body), the media factor (the degree in which the performance will be distributed and received) and, finally, the audience factor (the degree in which a favourable reception emerges in traceable form). The second part of the paper turns to two case studies of successful diplomatic presentability. They have been chosen with a view to maximizing cultural distance between established states, and also because they were both deemed successful by mainstream audiences involved and were widely publicised, but for different reasons. The fact that the cases stand out as  particularly successful, means that they are chosen for their exemplarity, not for their representativity. They both belong to the genre of accreditation, that is, the ritual whereby ambassadors of a sending state deliver and have accepted their credentials to the head of the receiving state. The first performance, of how an American ambassador to Tokyo delivered her credentials to the Japanese head of state, was successful because the ambassador was held to be presentable in the sense of being lean and smart. The second performance, of how a  Norwegian ambassador to Tehran delivered her credentials to the Iranian head of state, was held to be presentable in the sense of being decent. I decode the different ways in which these  performances were deemed to be presentable by drawing on art historian Erwin Panofski (1988: 28-30; compare Heck and Schlag 2013), and think of diplomacy as a particular kind of  3 iconography. Panofski suggests that we conduct iconographic analysis in terms of three layers of consecutively more context-dependent signs. The primary layer consists of objects that most humans living in large-scale societies will immediately recognise, such as a human  body. The secondary layer consists of conventional subject matter, which may be widely understood due to its function, but not so widely as natural objects, say a necklace. Tertiary objects are those whose meaning is intrinsic to the cultures that produce them, such as a national dress. In conclusion, I highlight that it is not a coincidence how my two chosen exemplary examples of successful diplomatic performance in the public sphere both involve Western female diplomats. Western hegemony and Western media dominance mean that interest in Western dress, and how Westerners dress, is still more pervasive than interest in other sartorial traditions. Female diplomats have a wider palette from which to choose when staging a  performance, even in the one state whose laws lay down rules for how to dress (Iran). Wider freedom of choice, however, also comes with a higher risk of failure. Performing (in) the Public Sphere Presentability is an aspect of a performance, in both its senses. It is performative in the sense of being an enacting intended to make an impression (Alexander 2011; Ringmar 2015), and it is performative in the sense of creating the phenomenon that it enacts (Weber 1995). Another way of saying this is that performances are constitutive of public spheres. Given that diplomatic representation in public spheres has been with us since the dawn of complex polities (Assmann 2011), one might have expected the question of presentable  performances to have been thoroughly studied by students of politics and diplomacy. If spectacle, pomp, ritual is central to politics and diplomacy, then we must ask how it came to  be occluded. One answer is well known from other analytical contexts: since the Enlightenment, reason has done its best to occlude the study of other phenomena, such as aesthetical orders. The attack on the motor behind these orders, beauty, fell into two phases. First, in the second half of the eighteenth century, the category of beauty was bifurcated into sublimity and beauty, and sublimity seemingly made off with all the action: it was sinister where beauty was sunny, Northern to beauty’s Southern, etc. etc. (Neumann 2006). This move also had a gendered aspect, since sublimity was supposed to be male, whereas beauty was female (Etcoff 1999; Scarry 1999; Neumann 2017). What was now referred to as beauty  –   basically that which gives pleasure and satisfaction (as opposed to shock and awe, which now became something sublime) -- was left by the wayside as politically irrelevant. There is an added reason why visual and performative aspects of politics and diplomacy are less studied than what the phenome non’s antiquity would have us ex  pect, which is to do with the powerful and successful ways in which totalitarian movements were able to aestheticise  politics in the interwar period. The Frankfurt School famously tried to debunk the visual as a legitimate political phenomenon worthy of scholarly attention. This tendency came to a head with Jürgen Habermas’s ([1962] 1989) studies of the public sphere. H abermas argued that ‘the better argument’ and ‘the ideal speech situation’ should be (should be  –   not is) the focus of politics in general, and of scholarly attention particularly. Anything that stood in the way of this ideal should be abolished, as a phenomenon, and certainly as a focus of scholarly study. Habermas’s move was also cleverly historicizing, for it turned on his definition of the public sphere as being a specifically modern phenomenon. It was made possible by the coming of modernity and the specific idea that the relationship between the king and his subjects should  4 allow for politically relevant conversations between the latter. 2  So, by a sleight of hand, everything that had constituted public spheres before the coming of modernity, such as the visual, was simply chopped off and left behind as irrelevant. Habermas and his precursors in the so-called Frankfurt School had their reasons. Working under the growing shadow of Nazi aesthetization, the first generation of the Frankfurt School had made it a concern to warn against the aesthetization of politics (the locus classicus  is Benjamin [1936] 1968) and the various forces that made for what was rightly seen as inauthenticizing aesthetics (Adorno and Horkheimer 2002; Jay 1992; Wiggershaus 1994). Fascist regimes everywhere demonstrated the prescience of these warnings. Habermas’s answer to the experience of Fascist aesthetisation was to wage a normative campaign against it, a campaign that included an insistence on banishing the study of how aesthetics is imbricated with any politics, be that Fascist politics or otherwise. There are a number of reasons to join this political critique of aesthetisation, and not only in its Communist and Fascist tappings. Political rallies orchestrated by contemporary politicians who otherwise differ widely, say Erdogan, Morsi, le Pen, Putin and Trump, unquestionably draw on some of the same visual tropes as did interwar politicians. From an ontic point of view, however, Habermasians simply overlook that beauty is a basic motivating fact of social life and so is inherently relevant to political action and analysis. From a scholarly point of view, Habermas’s and Ha  bermasian understandings of public spheres are therefore inadequate, for it simply denies the existence of visual phenomena that are not only in clear view in rallies organized by authoritarian politicians, but in all politics (Jay 1994; Hansen 2011). 3  We need a more power-sensitive and historically attuned understanding of the public sphere than the one presented by Habermas and the Habermasians. For an alternative, let us turn to Hannah Arendt. Arendt sees the public sphere as a frail construction, fully dependent on the state’s willingness to uphold it, where there may be room for debate and creativity, but where  participants are al so subject to ‘innumerable and various rules, all of which tend to “normalize” its members, to make them behave, to exclude spontaneous action or outstanding achievement’ (Arendt 1957: 40). For social analysis, then, the main importance of the public spher  e does not lie in a celebration of deliberation, but ‘in its potential as a mode of social integration’ (Calhoun 1992: 6). The public sphere is a place not only of deliberation, but also of representation, of architecture (Loeffler 1998), monuments (Neumann 2018) and ritual (Callahan 2017), of spectacle (Debord 1983). Performances will be staged in the sense that they will draw on all these (Neumann 2013). The one discipline that has specialized in studying such performances, is ethnology. That discipline has also come up with an understanding of performativity that is highly useable for diplomatic studies. Ethnologist Richard Bauman defines performance as: a mode of communicative display, in which the performer signals to the audience, in effect, ‘hey, look at me! I'm on! Watch how ski llfully and effectively I express myself’. That is to say, performance rests on an assumption of responsibility to an audience for a display of communicative virtuosity, highlighting the way in which the 2  As Mah (2000: 166) points out, this argument hangs on Habermas ’s insistence that earlier publics cannot be public spheres because people did not meet there on an equal footing, but as socially ranked individuals, with the result that the meeting ground could not construct itself ‘as a unified entity’.   3  I would agree with Villa (1992: 716), who finds that the general approach ‘conceals the disciplinary underside of “acting together” and covers over the antiagonistic, antiinitiatory implications that flow from the regularization of moves in a ny language game’ .  5 act of discursive production is accomplished, above and beyond the additional multiple functions the communicative act may serve. In this sense of performance, then, the act of expression itself is framed as display (Bauman 2004: 9). For our purposes, this focus on the individual performance is useful. The individual  performance is not only a audial, but also a visual affair. The agents will use what they have. A successful performance will involve high body capital (a presentable body that is ‘lean, smart, or decent enough to be seen in public’ ), the right clothes and accoutrements, and the right body comportment. The rub where diplomacy is concerned, is that general cultural distance between polities will usually also spell aesthetic cultural distance. As experienced by diplomats who plans a  performance, this will mean that they have to dress and act in a way that is seen as presentable both  by their sending and hosting states. The success of any one performance, then, will hang on three commonsensical factors. The first factor is the body capital, the envicledness and the work that goes into making a diplomat presentable. This is the presentability factor. The second factor is the degree in which the performance will be distributed to and received by audiences that are not physically present. This is the media factor. The third factor is the degree in which the various audiences involved will find the performer and the performance to have been presentable. This is the audience factor. Performing the smart and lean diplomat In the morning of 19 November 2013, the Japanese P rime Minister’s office  sent a    zagyoshiki  -- a horse- drawn ‘state carriage’ -- to the American Residence to fetch the new American ambassador, who was scheduled to present her credentials to the Emperor of Japan later that day. On its way back, the horse-driven cortege was greeted by thousands of Japanese lining the route. 4  The event was broadcast live on NHK, the major state television channel, where it was followed by millions more. 5  The arrival of Her Excellency Caroline Kennedy was a major public event in Tokyo.   The spectacle of the ambassador of a foreign King (or in this case, President) who is arriving in style and is being brought to see the local King while being gawked by the crowds is a  practice (that is, a socially recognised type of action that may be performed well or badly) that harks back to the beginning of complex polities. In the Asian and European Middle Ages, this was a regular, if not highly frequent, occurrence, for which trinkets were distributed,  pamphlets printed and high art produced (Um and Clark 2016). With the spread of permanent representation throughout Europe from the 16 th  century onwards, the meaning of ‘ambassador’ changed from being the head of an embassy understood as a group on a  peripatetic mission, to the head of an embassy understood as a permanent structure locally located (also, and to underline the continuity, ca lled ‘a mission’). Permanently settled or not, ambassador still have to arrive. There have been important technological changes in what ‘public’ means . In addition to in-the-flesh encounters, historical extras like printed media, television and the world wide web keep appearing and making for public spheres that exceed 4  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqR2-CsRQoc, retrieved 29 February 2016. For the route, which is standardized when it does not rain, see http://www.kunaicho.go.jp/e-about/kyuchu/shinninjo/basha.html; retrieved 3 April 2019. 5  See http://news.yahoo.com/us-envoy-caroline-kennedy-meets-japans-emperor-100234814.html,  retrieved 2 March 2016. I thank Wrenn Yennie Lindquist for explaining Japanese context and terminology.
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