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Neumann (2007) "A Speech That the Entire Ministry May Stand For," or: Why Diplomats Never Produce Anything New

Neumann, I. B. (2007). "“A Speech That the Entire Ministry May Stand for,” or: Why Diplomats Never Produce Anything New." International Political Sociology 1(2): 183-200.

Neumman, Iver B.
Publication date: 
Ethnography, speech writing, practice

This is a great article that is written from Neumann's own experience as a speech writer in the Norweigian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I have put it in the library because I think it offers insight into the kind of research that can be realised through critical research techniques, and in particular through engaging with our own situadness and the experiences it generates.

Drawing on ethnographic material on speech writing in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I argue that this practice and others like it integrate the Ministry by setting up the work so that every subsection of the Ministry is allowed a say, and by short-circuiting outside attempts to access the practice for other purposes, such as tailormaking speeches to audience needs and expectations. Speeches are treated first and foremost as instantiations of the ministry. Inasmuch as a Ministry of Foreign Affairs consists of units that mediate relationships to widely different worlds, there is a pressing need for it sometimes to speak in one voice. Speech writing turns out to be such a practice, and the work of the ministry is set up in such a way that this is guaranteed to continue, barring outside intervention from politicians. This finding supports the hypotheses of Michael Herzfeld and Mary Douglas about the integration of organizations, while also demonstrating in detail how diplomatic working routines secure invariance by actively relegating innovative moves in order to repeat an already existing form. Change will therefore reach the interior of the organization from its margins, where the costs of non-adaptability is most keenly felt. Change in diplomacy may therefore be expected to be initiated by politicians, not by diplomats themselves.