UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Symbolic power in diplomatic practice : matters of style in Brussels Kuus, Merje


This article investigates the workings of symbolic power in diplomatic practice. At the level of empirical observation, it focuses on the intangible incalculable ‘feel for the game’ that distinguishes a well-informed and relaxed insider from an ill-informed and ill at ease outsider in European Union (EU) diplomatic circles in Brussels. By highlighting the play of social resources like reputation, presence, poise, and composure in these circles, I examine EU diplomacy from an angle -- symbolic power -- that is often overlooked in the existing work on that field. Conceptually, the article foregrounds the role of informal social resources rather than formal institutional structures in diplomatic practice. It also outlines the potential synergies between the study of diplomacy in international relations (IR) on the one hand and geography, anthropology, and sociology on the other. The article thereby advances the analytical toolbox of diplomatic studies and practice theory. Such conceptual sharpening is needed especially now that diplomacy is becoming more transnational and less linked to the foreign ministries of states.

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