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Introduction

Scripts for a New Stage: United Nations’ Observances and New Perspectives on Diplomatic History

Paul van Trigt

This introduction to a special issue about the United Nations’ observances (days, weeks, years, decades) explores how scholarly engagement with UN observances may provide fresh perspectives on diplomatic history. The introduction discusses the origins of these observances and the limited historiographical attention they have received. It argues that observances need to be conceptualized and historicized as “diplomatic scripts.” This approach helps to understand how the UN has functioned as a diplomatic platform and how the UN, especially since the 1970s, has been used by a broad range of diplomats in different locations and with different agendas. It highlights the diversity of diplomatic activity beyond the state-to-state model and uncovers actors and processes that have stood in the shadow of well-known diplomatic events and developments. The last part of the introduction provides a short overview of this special issue.

Lukas Schemper

The article discusses the creation of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (idndr, 1990–1999), a global observance event that emanated neither from within the United Nations – for whom until then disaster management or rights of disaster victims had not been a real priority – nor from within civil society organizations or governments. In actuality, it was primarily a scientist-led initiative. This article suggests that this episode is a rare example of a joint effort on the part of a scientific community to create international scientific institutions to deal with the issue of disaster risk. The framing of the issue as “scientific” by earth scientists led the UN Secretariat and governments to embrace an issue that they had hitherto neglected. However, archival evidence also suggests that the eventual takeover of the project by the UN bureaucracy weakened the role of earth scientists in the idndr and changed its orientation.

Veronika Flegar

This article analyzes unhcr’s understanding of disabled refugees during the 1959–1960 World Refugee Year (wry) and the 1981 International Year of Disabled Persons (iydp) and, specifically, how this understanding is intertwined with the international-protection activities that were undertaken on their behalf during both years. This analysis is based on archival material on the two years from the unhcr archives in Geneva. The article finds that unhcr’s engagement with disabled refugees during the two UN observances is characterized by the economic rationale of self-sufficiency and the humanitarian rationale of vulnerability – depending on what was perceived as the best-selling frame in light of the political climate at the time. Both cases therefore highlight the political nature of classifications and frames for the international protection of disabled refugees and expose how the international protection of disabled refugees is not static but, instead, remains repeatedly reconstructed.

Gavin Brent Sullivan and Chris R. Day

Abstract

Pride and shame are typically viewed as diametrically opposed but dynamically related personal emotions that also occur in group-based and collective forms. Building upon seminal work by Cooley and Scheff to explain the generation and manifestation of these emotions in the imaginations and everyday realities of people’s social-relational individual and group lives, our analysis addresses contemporary developments in social and psychological science (Collins, Mackie & Smith, Reicher & Neville, Skey, Sullivan, von Scheve & Ismer, Wetherell), by highlighting patterns of complex, dynamic relations between occurrences of group-based pride, group-based shame, collective pride and collective shame in prototypical group contexts of celebration, competition and conflict. Our novel analysis includes underexplored group agency and performative details and we argue that mixtures of negative group pride and anger evident in collective hubris or contempt and some forms of aggression directed towards other groups are not necessarily produced by repression of collective shame.