20 November 2020

Drama, politics and the making of private authority

Invoking metaphors of theater, Alejandro Esguerra presented a toolkit that sheds new light on how private institutions are made at our last Global Governance Colloquium

The governance of a wide range of issue domains - from labour, to the Internet, to the environment - is shaped to various degrees by private actors. They include civil society organizations, corporations, scientists, foundations, among others, that make rules and standards that are adopted by others, including parliaments and government agencies.

How does this private authority come about, through what mechanisms is it sustained, and how has it come to have a prominent impact on world politics?

On 16 November 2020, Alejandro Esguerra, postdoctoral researcher at the Bielefeld University’s Political Sociology working group, shed light on these questions during his presentation at the Global Governance Colloquium series. 

Dr. Esquerra, whose research focuses on the knowledge politics of the environment, explored the making of private authority from a dramaturgical perspective. In other words, how certain actors perform knowledge claims in an effort to convince specific audiences. 

Examining the formation of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Dr. Esguerra highlighted the important role that actor convictions, knowledge controversies, and institutional dynamics play in the early stages of private governance formation. 
Dario Piselli, Ph.D. candidate in International Law and Research Assistant at the Graduate Institute’s Centre for International Environmental Studies, kicked off the discussions, connecting the “politics of beginning” when the FSC was established, and the “politics of now” including a reflection on contemporary narratives and implementation challenges.

Nearly forty participants joined for the online event and contributed to a stimulating discussion on the broader implications of how objects of expertise and private authority can affect our daily lives. 

Our next colloquium, the last of the autumn 2020 semester, will take place on 24 November. Birgit Müller, Director of Research at the CNRS / France (HdR) will present on “Responsible agricultural investments. How are agricultural futures governed at the international level?