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Keywords:

  • International organizations;
  • diplomacy;
  • the United Nations Security Council;
  • informal processes;
  • anthropology of policy

How do small states behave once they have a seat at the table? In this article, I describe how one small state—Norway—operated when it was a member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2001–02. From my anthropological fieldwork in this period, I present a number of arguments. The first one is that, substantively, Norwegian diplomats at the Council were caught in a bind between representing national interests, on the one hand, and being “team players” vis-à-vis the permanent members, on the other. I also argue that institutionally organizational designs shape political decisions in significant and often unexpected ways. Finally, in terms of theory and method, even in highly formalized diplomatic settings, such as the UNSC, informal processes are central to understanding how states operate, as well as how the Council functions.