A particular relationship with space, usually called territoriality, is one of the essential characteristics of the modern state. This statement was long considered a commonplace. Recent debates, however, have raised new fundamental questions about both space and the state which require a re-examination of both terms, and thus of the connections between them as well. This introduction maps out some of the terminological and theoretical ground for research into these questions. We successively examine the conceptual history of the state, of public administration, and of space, pointing out reifying uses of all three notions which have been repudiated in theoretical debates but remain influential in many historiographical accounts, as well as in popular discourse. We highlight alternative approaches suggested by newer authors. In particular, we describe both the state and administration in terms of assemblages of people, institutions, and objects. Given that this perspective is also used in some current socio-cultural theories of space, we conclude that states and administrations not only exist in space, use space, and create and shape spaces, but that they are themselves spaces and can be analyzed using the methodological tools which apply to spaces of any kind.
Files may seem an obvious topic for historians of public administration, but that is by no means self-evident. Despite the interest in files from sociologists and archival scientists in the early 20th century, historians have engaged more with the contents of files than with their genres, materialities and functions. After tracing the theoretical and methodological engagements with files from Max Weber and Heinrich Otto Meisner to Cornelia Vismann and Bruno Latour, we argue firstly that files are defined by their relation to other records they compile. At the same time, they transmute these documents into cases and bureaucratic objects. Secondly, just as files bring documents together, they connect the activities of individuals and organizations. However, we argue that the degree to which files are instruments of formal administrative control and organizational coherence has been exaggerated, obscuring the agency of users and the potential for files to serve other ends.
Can emotions be observed throughout the years at the regional scale of continents and countries? Does variation in their intensity correlate with historical events and with the evolution of diplomatic and administrative practices? If so, who is the subject of emotion? We seek answers by a remote reading analysis of the reports of Swiss ambassadors in the first half of the 20th century. We examine the conditions under which super-individual subjects of emotion can be aggregated from large textual datasets, and propose a theoretical framework for their interpretation. In specific examples, we show how algorithmic sentiment analysis let us identify the exceptionally expressive language of the Swiss ambassador in Tokyo during World War 2, or the posture of the Swiss administration with regard to the social movements in Scandinavia. Our findings yield both methodological recommendations and theoretical bridges between various disciplines concerned with emotions and their expression in written documents.