Global Governance Institute


How Do Diplomats Know What They Know?: Expertise and Authority in Europe's External Relations - Merje Kuus

12 October 2016, 6:15 pm–7:30 pm

Merje Kuus

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Archaeology G6 LT

To grasp how the European Union exercises power around the world we must first understand how EU diplomats produce knowledge about the world.

Questions around what diplomats do or ought to know vex policy-makers too, as foreign services at national and EU levels alike compete to generate high-value diplomatic expertise. To comprehend the long-term directions of the diplomatic profession in Europe, we must therefore examine what counts as expert knowledge in Europe's diplomacies: whose expertise succeeds and whose fails there, why and how this happens, and with what consequences.

These questions are particularly fascinating in the context of EU diplomacy-both the Union's external relations and the intra-EU diplomacy among the member states. This is so because EU diplomacy is a uniquely trans-national professional field to which there are no close equivalents elsewhere. In Brussels, individuals must combine a solid grasp of the Union's infamously complex regulations with a sharp sense of the city's peculiar social milieu. Brussels can therefore illuminate the knowledge-intensive character of diplomatic work more broadly.

Drawing on nine years of research on EU diplomacy, this presentation examines the production of expert knowledge in that professional field. Synthesizing insights from over 150 qualitative one-to-one interviews conducted with nearly 100 foreign affairs professionals since 2007, I offer a relatively 'peopled' or experience-near view of EU diplomacy. The in-depth empirical material, which centers on Brussels but brings in six more capital cities, enables me to underscore and unpack the individualized and creative character of diplomatic knowledge.

Merje Kuus is Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She is a political geographer who studies diplomacy and transnational decision-making in Europe. Dr. Kuus is the author of Geopolitics and Expertise: Knowledge and Authority in European Diplomacy (Wiley Blackwell, 2014) and Geopolitics Reframed: Security and Identity in Europe's Eastern Enlargement (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007); she is also a co-editor of the Ashgate Research Companion to Critical Geopolitics (Ashgate, 2013). Dr. Kuus has been the recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship and the Killam Fellowship as well as individual research grants from the United States Institute of Peace and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, among other bodies. Her current work, funded by a five-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, investigates diplomatic training in Europe.

This seminar is open to all, but to avoid disappointment please register here.