Ousmane Traoré's picture
Call for Papers
April 19, 2016 to April 21, 2016
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
European History / Studies, Medieval and Byzantine History / Studies, Middle East History / Studies, Modern European History / Studies, Political History / Studies

If diplomacy and violence appear a priori to be contradictory, or even mutually exclusive, it is because the current definitions of these two terms relies on the theorization of diplomatic practices that is taking shape in the modern era. Diplomacy, also called “the art of negotiation,” is increasingly standing out from the other forms of action in international relations to become – at least in theory – the peaceful means par excellence to resolving conflicts between states. 

Beyond this idealized image, which is largely a legacy of the Grand Siècle and Enlightenment, the question of the relationship between diplomacy and violence remains to be addressed in a global historical approach. It is primarily in the political science arena and for the contemporary period that this relationship has been the subject of specific study,[1] although extensive case studies have also been undertaken for the Middle Ages and the modern era. According to this research, while violence and diplomacy have coexisted in the past, this appears to be the exception to a rule that diplomacy's primary vocation is to redirect the violence of armed conflict using negotiation techniques in pursuit of peace.

It is this apparent contradiction between diplomacy and violence that we wish to examine, in an international symposium bringing historical sources and approaches together in a global perspective, so as in particular to measure the degree of violence present during diplomatic relations between two “civilizations.” Is this degree of violence comparable to that observed in relations between European powers? Moreover, does diplomacy between players who are relatively unfamiliar with one another (due to geographic distance and the resulting differences in culture, language and diplomatic practices) show evidence of a specific type of violence? 

We must also define the different forms of violence that enter into the scope of diplomatic practice: physical violence, of course, but also symbolic violence (in ceremonial acts, for example), threat and intimidation, violence in relations between political entities, pressures, and denigration of the other negotiating party. By thus expanding the notion of violence, we should be able to answer the core question: is violence inherent to diplomacy?

In this perspective, the theoretical positioning of professionals of diplomacy and jurists with respect to this phenomenon could be a subject for specific study: how and based on what traditions do theoreticians of international law and diplomacy view the relationship between violence and diplomatic negotiation? How are violent events that take place in the context of negotiations interpreted? Are they perceived by observers as transient events, dysfunctions of diplomacy, or rather as elements inherent to the “art of negotiating?”


[1] Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence, Yale University Press, 2008.

Contact Info: 


Indravati Félicité, Ph.D

Centre Rolland-Mousniers, Paris-Sorbonne-Paris IV et Ousmane TRAORE, Ph.D

Assistant-Professor of African & Global History, Wagner College (Staten Island, New York)

Wagner College (Staten Island, New York) & Université Paris-Sorbonne-Paris IV (Paris, France) co-organizers. The conference will be held in New York (at Wagner College, Staten ISland).