THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
JANUARY FEBRUARY 2015
The relationship between practicing diplomats and international relations
academics is fraught, and they are certainly not on the same wavelength
when it comes to teaching diplomacy. Does it matter?
BY PAUL SHARP
Paul Sharp, a professor of political science at the
University of Minnesota Duluth, was founding
co-chair of the Diplomatic Studies Section of the
International Studies Association and is founding
e Hague Journal of Diplomacy.
enerally speaking, practitioners of
diplomacy are not interested in what
the people who study international
relations have to say about them.
When they do glance at an academic
book on diplomacy, they will often
be puzzled as to why so much time
and space was required to make the
point in question.
A visit to an academic conference on international relations
can be similarly fruitless. Good luck to practitioners who seek
a panel on diplomacy as a safe haven in a sea of mathematical
modeling and impenetrable discussions about how identities
are constructed and constituted.
ey are likely to nd instead a
group of people who speak in tongues and beat their insights to
death, talking about things which seem as remote from the world
of ordinary diplomats as one could imagine.
Fortunately (at least if one values symmetry in relationships),
the diplomats’ lack of interest in academics is fully reciprocated.
Within academia, diplomacy is not one of the hot research areas
compared with, for example, international theory, international
political economy, international organization or global gover-
nance (although public diplomacy has made something of a
e subject of diplomacy does not even appear
The Study of
ON TEACHING DIPLOMACY
in the index of many new international relations textbooks; and
when it does, the listing usually directs readers to the briefest
discussion of ideas like immunity and asylum, before moving
them along to the much more developed sub elds of negotiation,
mediation and bargaining.
To add insult to injury, even the relatively few academics who
are genuinely interested in diplomacy tend to spend their time
investigating its declining importance and critiquing its estab-
ey argue that it must be overhauled to be of any
use in a networked world where information is plentiful, cheap
and easy to generate, and in which news travels fast among a host
of new international, transnational and global actors. What these
students of diplomacy do not do is spend a great deal of time actu-
ally looking at professional diplomats and their work, or what they
have to say about their chosen profession.
With this in mind,
e Hague Journal of Diplomacy
, which I
co-edit, has a section called “Practitioner’s Perspectives,” in which
we ask diplomats to re ect on what they actu-