Communicating through Protocols: The Case of Diplomatic Credential Ceremonies

Roni Berkowitz, Gadi Heimann*, Zohar Kampf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study questions to what extent state agents invest efforts in building interpersonal relations with their counterparts. It is based on data collected during two years of ethnographic fieldwork at the Israeli president’s residence, where we observed credential ceremonies involving ambassadors from twenty-three states and interviewed the president’s advisors. We consider the credential ceremony an extreme case study regulated by highly formalized protocol, including the strictest guidelines existing in the world of diplomacy. We assume that if relation-building between statespersons takes place in the most unexpected spaces of international politics, we can detect it in all sites of diplomacy. Adopting a relational practice approach, we identified two methods of positive signaling for relationship building: preplanned by the organizers “from above,” directed at the individual-as-state-representative, and conveyed by participants “from below,” targeting the individual-as-guest/host. We conclude by discussing the implications of the prevalence of interpersonal relation-building in international politics, the role of diplomatic protocols as a communicative resource that affects the diplomatic environment, and how the concept of affordances provides a fresh look at one of the most fundamental debates in the field of IR: the relationship between agency and structure.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Political Sociology
Volume18
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) (2024). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association.

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