Intervention Theatre: performance, authenticity and expert knowledge in politicians’ travel to post-/conflict spaces

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This article explores the role of official travel activities by politicians to post-/conflict spaces in German foreign policymaking. Starting from the observation that official travel justifications stress the value of authentic insights and unfiltered information, while journeys in practice are meticulously planned and staged, it asks what kind of knowing is possible, how actors make sense of the staged nature of field trips, and how multiple performances create and/or undermine notions of authenticity and first-hand expertise. The article shows that official on-site visits are composed of multiple conscious performances by all actors involved, but that these performances do not undermine the notions of authenticity and expertise. On the contrary, knowledge authenticity—or truth claims on the basis of authentic insights—and related expert authority are produced through travel-as-performance. The emphasis policymakers put on on-site presence and (the performance of) localized knowledge contradicts intervention literature’s generalized finding of a prioritization of technocratic over localized knowledge. The article draws on politics and performance scholarship and authenticity theories in tourism studies to make sense of a wealth of empirical material on the claims, practice and functions of German MPs’ journeys to post-/conflict spaces as part of broader political struggles over policy knowledge
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-80
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Intervention and Statebuilding
Issue number1
Early online date05 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 02 Jan 2017


  • German foreign policy
  • authenticity
  • conflict knowledge
  • expertise
  • field trips
  • international intervention
  • on-site visits
  • peacebuilding
  • performance
  • politics


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