In Patrick A. Mello and Falk Ostermann (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Foreign Policy Analysis Methods. Routledge, 2023, pp. 39-50. 

Ethnography is a nice – in my view, the best available – method when it comes to capturing the social form of the organizations active in the foreign policy process. We have some fine work on this which typically pertain to international organizations and foreign ministries. We lack relevant ethnographic studies of state organizations such as parliamentarian foreign affairs committees and diplomatic postings, as well as of party secretariats, NGOs and networks (but see Constantinou 2006, 2021; Bleiker and Butler 2016). It is also a highly apt way of studying what different kinds of foreign policy does to the respective life chances of different groups of people who have to live with their effect. While we have some ethnobiographical studies of how effects of foreign policies such as genocide and war affect scholars themselves, the many extant studies that look at the effects of foreign policies do so without linking those effects to the actual foreign policies in question. Here we have a research question that is ripe for the picking, either in the form that foreign policy scholars re-read such studies and link them back to their own areas of expertise, or in the form that new work is undertaken. Let me end by wishing students and colleagues who intend to study these and other issues by drawing on ethnographic methods well, and offer these final pieces of advice in the spirit of Micawber and Douglas Adams (1979): Do not despair when it comes to field access. There are more ways than one to skin a cat. Do not despair when it comes to interpreting your notes. Something will jump out on you. And do not despair of getting your material published. Sooner or later, your ship will come in.



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