Negotiating Diplomacy: Institutional Identity and Linguistic Practices in the International Maritime Organisation, London, UK

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This paper will examine the construction, representation and reproduction of diplomatic identity and power in and through multilingual practices within the International Maritime Organisation, London (a related body of the United Nations). Recent work (McEntee-Atalianis, 2006) within this organisation has demonstrated that command of the linguistic resources supported by the organisation is critical for equitable and efficient communication. This paper will extend this analysis and discuss the established methods of communication and the status of ‘expert’ membership, which enables and empowers some delegates to gain control of institutional discourse and practices as they strive to achieve diplomatic success. Adopting both an ethnographic and sociological perspective, the paper will report on observations, interviews and recordings of ‘interventions’ (contributions) to the floor by delegates within a plenary session of the organisation. The study will focus on negotiation practices, the construction of linguistic routines and mechanisms used by delegates to construct subject positions whilst operating within the established organisational culture. With reference to the theoretical framework of ‘Community of Practice’ (Wenger, 1998) and the recent application of this construct in other ethnographic studies using narrative analysis (Moore, 2006) the study seeks to describe parameters which deem this multi-cultural grouping as a ‘community of practice’ and the role and means by which delegates contribute to its development and functioning. Moreover an examination of the nature and status of membership (e.g. core and peripheral), the construction of hierarchical/oppositional relationships and a discussion of ‘status (in)equalities’ in relation to the control of discourse will be made.


Keywords: International Maritime Organisation, United Nations, Community of Practice, Expert Knowledge, Institutional Discourse
Stream: Identity and Belonging; the Politics of Diversity; Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , Diplomatic Negotiation in an International Organisation


Dr. Lisa McEntee-Atalianis

Lecturer, Department of Applied Linguistics
School of Languages and European Studies, University of Reading

Reading, UK

Lisa McEntee-Atalianis has published articles in the fields of Aphasia, Sign Language/Deaf Studies and Sociolinguistics. In recent years she has reported on sociolinguistic/social-psychological studies in Cyprus, the Greek-Cypriot community in London, UK and the autochthonous Greek-Orthodox community of Istanbul, Turkey, investigating: language attitudes; use; identity; shift and ethnolinguistic vitality. She is currently involved in an investigation of language policy and discourse practices in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), a branch of the United Nations, in London. She is lecturer in Applied Linguistics at the University of Reading, UK.

Ref: D08P0431