Noé Cornago: ‘From contending plots to social semiosis'

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

‘From contending plots to social semiosis: diplomacy, historical narratives and the rise of the modern public sphere.’

Kicking off our third ‘History in conflict’-webinar, Noé Cornago, Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, provided an overview of the theory of history to show how the concept of writing about the past and thinking about the agency of historians have changed over time. Drawing on White, Ankersmit, Koselleck, De Certeau, Guha, and, particularly, Habermas, Cornago examines the performative aspect of historical narratives beyond the text. It was the rise of the modern public sphere, he argues, that provided a broad public access to historical narratives which before had been confined to historians and to those directly involved in conflicts.

This development has also intensified the contestation of historical narratives. As an example, he chooses the history of the diplomatic incidents which have been part of the relations between Bolivia, Peru and Chile from the early 19th century up to this day. The history of these incidents as told by historians and popular outlets employed by the state, he argues, has varied widely from that told, re-told, and constantly reconfigured by the participating actors, including people living in the border region each time that old conflict re-arises.  

To learn more about diplomatic incidents, consult Noé’s article ‘Beyond the media event: modes of existence of the diplomatic incident’, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy 14/1 (2018), 64-73. ( And if you want to know about the relations between Peru, Chile and Bolivia while also working on your Spanish, we recommend looking into Noé Cornago, ‘Diplomacia como heterología: Pluralismo social y múliples mediaciones en la frontera’, in Sergio González, Noé Cornago and Cristian Ovando (eds.) Relaciones transfronterizas y paradiplomacia en América Latina: Aspectos teóricos y estudio de casos, (Santiago de Chile: RIL editores, 2016).

Noé Cornago is Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) in Bilbao, Spain.

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