Representation and agency in diplomacy: how Kosovo came to agree to the Rambouillet accords

  • Tobias WilleEmail author
Original Article


This article traces how Kosovo came to agree to the Rambouillet accords, with the aim of exploring the nexus between diplomatic representation and international agency. It demonstrates that, in the world of diplomacy, entities like ‘Kosovo’ can act only when they are carefully staged. Thus far, however, the academic discipline of International Relations (IR) has largely failed to acknowledge the role of diplomacy in the constitution of agency. Therefore, to clarify what is at stake in the theoretical debate, I begin with a systematic discussion of how IR has conceived of diplomatic representation. Taking cue from Bruno Latour’s and Lisa Disch’s writings on political representation, I then suggest an alternative understanding of diplomacy that takes its performative character seriously. Equipped with this conceptual toolkit, I subsequently turn to the story of Kosovo’s representation at the Rambouillet conference held in 1999. Tracing how Kosovo Albanians and their international supporters staged Kosovo’s diplomatic performance, and how the Yugoslav/Serbian delegation tried to undermine it, I demonstrate that diplomatic representation can indeed generate agency. I also identify three factors that influence whether or not a diplomatic performance succeeds in making those who are represented act: recognition by other international actors, practical competence, and the alignment of the represented.


Agency Diplomacy Kosovo Performativity Political representation Practice theory 



I would like to thank the interviewees on whose accounts this article builds for their time and their willingness to share their recollections of the events at Rambouillet with me. Sedat Burrniku, Arban Mehmeti, Ariana Musliu Shoshi, and Meriton Shoshi helped me to make sense of Kosovo politics and to arrange interviews. I am grateful to Benjamin Braun, Christopher Daase, Kristina Lepold, Christian Reus-Smit, Erik Ringmar, Berthold Rittberger, and Sebastian Schindler, as well as to the anonymous reviewers and the editors of JIRD, for their helpful comments on various drafts of this article.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cluster of Excellence ‘The Formation of Normative Orders’Goethe University FrankfurtFrankfurt (Main)Germany

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