Högskolans skriftserier

The Ambassador's Letter

On the Less Than Nothing of Diplomacy

Omslag för The Ambassador's Letter: On the Less Than Nothing of Diplomacy

Stagnell, Alexander

The principal aim of this dissertation is to answer the age-old question What is diplomacy? But this study approaches the question in what might, on first look, appear oblique. By employing Slavoj Žižek’s reworked notion of Ideologiekritik with respect to the history, science, and artistic explorations of diplomacy, this work begins by extracting three of its essential problems: the name, death, and representation. A presentation of the central concepts and theoretical perspectives at play in Žižek’s work is elaborated upon, focusing on his understanding of politics, ideology, and the core of the conceptual apparatus of Lacanian psychoanalysis.

The overarching argument of the thesis is that diplomacy constitutes an Ideological State Apparatus, i.e. that it offers a symbolic link destined to, through ideology, repress the fundamental inconsistencies of the modern nation state, in order to secure its continuous functioning. Diplomacy is shown to constitute the name that points to the impossibility of the state to become One with itself, and the thesis aims to capture how this impossibility, and that which must be excluded from the state to keep the fantasy of fulness alive, always returns to haunt it. Empirically, this is explored by way of re-reading the history of the word diplomacy, whose modern birth coincided with the events of the French Revolution. The study seeks to retrace diplomacy through three distinct historical formations, which here are referred to as the archi-political, ultra-political, and post-political. Each of theses formations functions as a covering over of the fundamental impossibility of the state. Readings of Immanual Kant, Henry James, André Brink, Mads Brügger, and 20th century IR-theory and Diplomacy Studies are presented in order to elaborate the way in which these formations are constituted as ideological fantasies protecting the state and, for that matter, diplomacy from their abyssal ground.

Uppsala : Department of Literature, Uppsala University, 2019. 312 sidor.

Serie: Södertörn Doctoral Dissertations, 1652-7399 ; 161

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