Diplomacy and Symbolism

in The Hague Journal of Diplomacy
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Summary

Diplomacy makes extensive use of symbols, rituals and ceremonies. This practice is related to the nature of the state and diplomatic representation: (a) states and their intentions can be objectified through symbols, symbolic actions and interactions; and (b) diplomatic agencies and agents symbolically represent the state. Symbolism in diplomacy helps people to capture the meaning of international affairs and socially and individually to experience states and inter-state relations. Symbols, rituals and ceremonies in diplomacy are designed to create a shared sense and also to motivate and regulate the moods of groups and individuals who directly or indirectly participate in or observe diplomatic practice. Linguistics, imagery and ritualistic/ceremonial formats of symbolism exist in diplomatic practice. Each can have communicative, regulative and affective functions. Symbolism is meaningful and instrumental in making sense of states and international politics and in managing and regulating inter-state relations. However, diplomatic symbolism can also be used formally and manipulatively.

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