From the Green Zone to Havana Syndrome: Making Geographic Sense of Rotationality and Hardship in Diplomacy

In: Diplomatica
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  • 1 Department of Political Science, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada,
  • | 2 Department of Political Science, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada,
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Most foreign ministries use a rotational system in deploying personnel abroad, with diplomats moving between foreign posts every few years and earning salary premiums based on the risks, dangers, and hardships associated with different foreign posts. We examine rotationality and hardship in diplomacy, identifying these as spatial and institutional practices for managing a global network of diplomatic personnel and sites. These are institutionalized in foreign ministries’ processes for assessing and compensating hardship and danger, and embodied in the design, function, and locational contexts of embassy buildings in foreign capitals. We rely on empirical examples from the US and Canadian foreign services, looking at US embassies in Berlin and Baghdad, and “Havana syndrome” among American and Canadian diplomats and their family members. We conclude that security-heavy forms of hardship assessment and management can limit diplomats’ ability to build local knowledge and constrain the interaction and openness usually prized in diplomatic practice.

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