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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

JANUARY FEBRUARY 2015

39

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

co-editor of

e Hague Journal of Diplomacy.

G

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

showing recently).

e subject of diplomacy does not even appear

PRACTITIONERS,

SCHOLARS AND

The Study of

Diplomacy

FOCUS

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-

lished practices.

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-