In recent years, scholars in the academic discipline of International Relations (IR) have become increasingly interested in practices and the everyday. As part of this trend, which is often referred to as IR's "practice turn," a broad spectrum of practice-theoretical approaches from sociology and social theory have been introduced to IR and further developed and transformed in response to the particular questions that the study of the international poses. While the various approaches to the study of international practices are far from forming one singular theory, they nonetheless share a many core concerns. These concerns include an emphasis on process, sensitivity for different forms of knowledge and learning, and an understanding of the world as performative and anchored in materiality. Practice theory in IR has been associated with several promises. Its proponents argue that it allows for inter-paradigmatic dialogue, to better conceptualize social change, to get closer to the everyday activities of those involved in international politics, to re-appreciate materiality, and to develop forms of analysis resonating with practitioner communities. The goal of this article is to familiarize the reader with the major studies that draw on and develop practice-theoretical concepts in IR. The article introduces, first, the core programmatic texts, overviews, and collections that give shape to the practice turn in IR as a research program. Second, it presents a range of distinct approaches to international practice theory. Finally, it highlights a range of thematic areas that have featured prominently in discussions of the practice turn in IR.
Wille, Tobias. 2016. “Diplomatic cable.” Making things international 2: Catalysts and reactions, edited by Mark B. Salter, 166-178. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Abstract
The term "cable," as used in the context of diplomacy, is ambiguous. It denotes both a message and its technological messenger. Telegraph wires were used around the middle of the nineteenth century to connect the capitals of Europe. The network soon expanded, and by 1870, with the laying of submarine cables, fast-traveling telegraphic messages could be sent between Britain, Continental Europe, North America, the Middle East, and India. Through these cables, diplomatic posts communicated with their ministries back home. But the term "cable" also came to denote the message that was sent by telegraph. In this chapter I use this ambiguity as an entry point for an exploration of what the new materialist turn can bring to Diplomatic Studies. I will demonstrate how at three particular points in history the cable, as both diplomatic message and technological messenger, made a difference to how things played out. To make sense of this, one needs to be perceptive of the myriad ways in which meaning and materiality intertwine in the making of what we call diplomacy. What is called for is, in other words, a material-semiotic analysis of diplomacy...