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.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of applying modernity theory to ‘disability history’? Giving voice to people with disabilities, disability history aims to show how disability is a part of broader, complex power relations in society. The article discusses several possible approaches. The framework of modernity and eugenics developed by Zygmunt Bauman is shown to be too one-sided for disability history. Ulrich Beck’s modernity theory proves to be more useful. Actor Network Theory (ANT), and in particular the theory developed by Annemarie Mol, offers the most sophisticated approach to disability history. ANT enables disability historians not only to give voice to people with disabilities, but also to approach disability as existing in multiple ways. This allows scholars to take into account seriously criticism of the influential, so-called ‘social model’ of disability.