Western politicians often travel to sites of violent conflicts, humanitarian emergencies, and international interventions in order to ‘see the situation with their own eyes', ‘witness problems first hand’ or ‘personally assess the situation on the ground’, as these official visits are publicly justified. Drawing on the example of German politicians' field trips to theatres of international intervention, this presentation explores what, if anything, a study of these largely neglected travel activities can contribute to our understanding of foreign/international politics. I start with empirical observations of the practice and political uses of politicians’ journeys both in the conflict zone and in the domestic arena, before turning to the question of theoretical sense-making, which I discuss through lenses such as discourse analysis, social performance theory, the liminality concept, and ideas on affect in politics.

Bliesemann de Guevara is a senior lecturer in Peacebuilding, Post-War Reconstruction and Transitional Justice at the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University, Wales, UK.