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A13 Subaltern Diplomacy

Subaltern Diplomacy 1930-1960

Koordination: Madeleine Herren-Oesch


With a postcolonial perspective and the inclusion of diplomatic history/the history of international relations, the project combined two topics of historical research which were rarely connected in historiographical debates so far. Based on the database LONSEA, the project provided a new reading of those acting at the margin of the international system; it gave a voice to those hitherto not considered in the history of international relations: stenographers and translators, exchange students, typists, temporary collaborators, consultants from all over the world, activists from non-European states, or young people involved in transnational movements. Making their careers and networks visible, the project asked whether we can specify a subaltern form of diplomacy. Working for the world from below figured not only as a rarely mentioned part in the history of decolonization. The analysis of this "diplomacy from below" also included the question to what extent those formerly low voices changed the Western tradition of a male, elite diplomacy. Within this concept, Benjamin Auberer investigates Australian international civil servants working for the League of Nations in Geneva. He asks to what extent their international experiences paved the way for post-World War II careers and professional opportunities. Carolin Liebisch examines actors from the Ottoman Empire and focuses on the Turkish nation building after the Great War, using the asymmetrical relations between Turkey and the League of Nations as a testing ground for a global history of nation building. Timo Holste considers internationalist youth movements and discusses the Boy Scouts International Bureau in their confrontation with nationalist and fascist claims from 1930 to 1942.

Transcultural Methodology

This project critically investigated the question about who speaks for whom in a global context. The research design was based on a triple methodological fundament: It used an actor-based network analysis and conceptualised global history with a transcultural approach (Herren/Rüesch/Sibille 2012). The project understood transculturality in a dynamic way and thought of networks as border crossing and changing relations. It followed the relational grid of institutions, persons, and places provided by the database LONSEA. The project continued the extension of LONSEA on the basis of additional information found in the League of Nations Secretariat's personnel files and published sources. The database’s relational grid allowed reconstructing careers during the war and at the beginning of the UN system in the light of manifold transformations. In addition, the methodological focus of the research design tackled the question of conceptional shifting across borders and contributed to ongoing debates on whether the history of concepts should introduce a global "Sattelzeit", to describe for e a period when dense border crossing introduced a "global momentum" indicating structural change.

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