Preface [chapter]

2020 Diplomatic tenses  
Preface In the summer of 1980, I went to work as a guard and interpreter at the Norwegian embassy in Moscow. The work was my partial payment to the Norwegian Army for having taught me Russian. There was a guard at the gate, put there by our Soviet hosts, so the guarding basically consisted of sleeping on the premises at night and hoisting the flag in the morning. Then there was the interpreting, which turned out to be mostly translation -that is, the work was written rather than verbal. I had
more » ... han verbal. I had ample time to watch diplomats at work, and to ponder the peculiarities of the Soviet Union in general, and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs in particular. One stood out: we were not allowed to travel more than 40 kilometres from the city centre without permission. I returned from Moscow and went on to finish a doctorate on Russia. When the time came to pick a topic for my post-doc, I settled on diplomacy. My first book on the topic was an ethnography on discourse and practice: what do diplomats do, what do they say they do, and what is the difference between the two (Neumann 2012)? My second book on diplomacy was on the places where diplomacy plays out, and detailed how diplomats put an exorbitant amount of energy into planning and preparing the sites where their trysts are about to happen (Neumann 2013b). Once one has committed to writing a book on space, a book on time follows logically. There is really only one way of finding out why my sometime Russian hosts insisted on restricting diplomatic travel from Moscow, and that is to trace the practice back in time. As it turns out, the practice is centuries old. When Russians began to host Western diplomats on a regular basis from the sixteenth century onwards, the visitors were met at the border, their coaches were draped so that they should not see their surroundings, and only then were they escorted to Moscow, where they were not allowed to move around unescorted. As this example is meant to demonstrate, and given diplomacy's world-historical ubiquity, there is a need for a book that discusses the emergence of diplomacy over the longue durée. Extant histories of diplomacy, which are without exception written from a Western perspective (e.g. Anderson 1993, Berridge 1995, Hamilton and Langhorne 2011), tend to treat changes in diplomacy as something planned by states, which is of course perfectly legitimate. Such an approach should nonetheless be complemented by one that looks at the social institution of diplomacy as something that has emergent properties -that is, that evolves as a result of ever-new changes. The past is definitely still with us. To take a leaf out of the phenomenologist's book, when we take action, it is always informed by our past experiences, and also by our expectations about future events. Temporality -that is, the way time appears to humans -is a many-tensed affair. There are three tenses in the English language: past, present and future. They are all in what a grammarian would call the realis mood, which means that they purport to state facts. It is a delightful part of human existence, however, that we do not Iver B. Neumann -9781526148735 Downloaded from at 12/13/2020 12:18:01AM via free access
doi:10.7765/9781526148735.00006 fatcat:td7vfxdrnzexhhbqvrynspqtxy