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Edges of Diplomacy: Literary Representations of the (Honorary) Consul and the Public-Private Divide in Diplomatic Studies

Giles Scott-Smith
  • Corresponding author
  • Institute of History/RIAS, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
  • Email:
Published Online: 2017-07-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ngs-2017-0016


This article investigates the relevance of consular positions, and particularly the honorary consul, through their representations in modern literature and the arts. Although the honorary consul’s official status is codified in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, this document clearly identifies the limits to diplomatic immunity for this position, such that the honorary consul occupies a hybrid space on the boundary between the public and the private. This hybridity opens up the possibility for ambiguity in terms of conflicts of interest and divided loyalties. Acknowledging this hybridity requires re-examining the position of honorary consul beyond formal descriptions in mainstream diplomatic studies which are often evasive on the position’s actual status. In contrast, their representation in modern literature and the arts offers a more candid insight into the ontology and practice of consuls and consular work. As a result, the article makes the claim that the honorary consul illustrates that the public/private divide in contemporary diplomacy is less stable than is generally presented, and that the rise of private entities as diplomatic actors is therefore more a question of intensity than the emergence of something entirely new.

Keywords: honorary consul; consul; Vienna Convention on Consular Relations; proxenos; privatization of diplomacy


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-07-01

Citation Information: New Global Studies, ISSN (Online) 1940-0004, ISSN (Print) 2194-6566, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ngs-2017-0016.

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