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Call for papers: Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Institutional Responses to Complexity Diplomacy

The Hague Journal of Diplomacy is calling for research papers. The deadline for submission is the first of June 2018. This will be used for a book and special issue of the The Hague Journal of Diplomacy

Background and context

In Diplomatic Studies, with contributions from IR, Foreign Policy Analysis and other fields, there have been many recent studies discussing trends and change in diplomacy, collectively updating our understanding of new developments in diplomacy. Traditional, state-based diplomatic practice is incorporating or coexisting with variants ranging from digital diplomacy to sport diplomacy or science diplomacy, even culinary diplomacy and many other hyphenated diplomacies. These different perspectives constitute no ‘new diplomacy’ but, in their own way, they do contribute to a better understanding of early 21st century diplomatic practices - often at the expense of the role of ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs). Here we see a case for pulling together the best research on foreign ministries.

As far as state-based diplomacy is concerned, dealing with complexity in a diplomatic landscape in which different actors, competing cultures, alternative approaches and new means, poses a greater challenge for diplomacy than in eras less affected by the velocity of change. This is not least a result of the need for accommodation of specialized knowledge and the paradoxical development of diplomacy simultaneously becoming less state-based and more driven by the concentration of power.

Interest in the study of diplomatic institutions and organizations, notably foreign ministries confronted with competition from other actors, has been limited. In recent years, monographs on MFAs have tested the main hypotheses of practice theory and political sociology (Neumann, 2012; Robertson 2016; Lequesne 2017).  Taking a broader perspective on MFAs, however, scholars often refer to books published some 20 years ago (Hocking, 1999), to former practitioners’ contributions (Riordan 2003; Cooper, 2003; Ross, 2007, Copeland, 2009; Rana, 2013; Fletcher, 2016) or to the work of former practitioners with a productive academic ‘afterlife’ (Bolewski, 2007; Kleiner, 2010).

Fresh research

When it comes to the examination of the role of MFAs, we see a clear need for a research-based update grounded in ongoing academic debates in diplomatic studies, IR and other fields. With an accelerating interest in the study of diplomacy, attention for the MFA as a key actor should not stay behind. Faced with challenges from inside and outside the state machineries, and no longer possessing the monopoly to design foreign policy, MFAs find themselves in a constant whirlwind of adaptation to change. There is a need to address new empirical, theoretical and methodological questions about their influence on foreign policy and different roles. It is time to take stock of progress and, perhaps, frame the main task for MFAs in terms of complexity management.


A special issue of The Hague Journal of Diplomacy (Web of Science indexed) and a book in the Brill Nijhoff Diplomatic Studies series (peer-reviewed) will constitute the output of this project. HJD will consider some of the maximum 8,000-word book chapters for advance journal publication. Apart from research papers, the special issue will also feature a Forum with short, argumentative contributions of three thousand words on “Theorizing MFAs”, guest edited by Marcus Holmes.


The collection of essays that we have in mind for the book has a thematic rather than country-specific focus, with scope for theoretical, comparative, qualitative as well as quantitative or methodology-oriented research papers, and including case studies breaking new empirical ground. The book will therefore have an eclectic, inter-disciplinary approach and it is determined to avoid Western-centrism. It will analyze the contemporary role of ministries of foreign affairs all around the world. We will only consider submissions that represent original work.

We are reluctant to suggest themes as the book aims to be inclusive and wide-ranging in scope. We can however imagine a range of topics including questions on the organization, culture, functions, composition and other characteristics of MFAs. The project is open-minded vis-à-vis different disciplinary contributions and methodological approaches, with the qualification that it is not on the history of diplomacy. Aiming at originality, the editors have a special interest in contributions from parts of the world with less of a voice in the existing literature.


Christian Lequesne, Institut dÉtudes Politiques, Paris: christian.lequesne@sciencespo.fr

Jan Melissen, Clingendael Institute, Leiden University, and University of Antwerp: jmelissen@clingendael.org

Marcus Holmes, College of William & Mary: mcholmes@wm.edu

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