Week 3: What kind of “cultural diplomacy” do you think would be most effective as a component of a larger public diplomacy program?

Cultural Diplomacy is different from Public Diplomacy, in that it often is not as strategy oriented as it aims relationship building and fostering mutual trust and understanding by exchanging ideas, art and information – as defined by Milton C. Cummings (In Schneider, 2009).

One of the main arguments opposing forms of public diplomacy deal with the propagandistic perception associated to it, however cultural diplomacy tackles exactly that issue. According to Schneider’s article, MIT, Harvard the New School and other institutions have studied brain processes in determining attitudes towards people, societies, organizations etc., and have come to the conclusion that these attitudes are more likely dependent on emotional stimuli and perception than rational information digestion. These findings point towards the importance of cultural diplomacy as a bridge between different people and nations.

Schneider mentions the great success cultural diplomacy has had during the cold war period, when African-American Jazz artists were sent to play around the world (especially the Socialist countries), where they were deeply admired for their music, and the expression of Jazz, as well as their dissident attitudes towards the United States in the segregation era. This unusual diplomatic task has had very positive effects in signaling the level of freedom of expression as a cultural value of America. After the Cold War these initiatives have been reduced, and shortsightedly seen as unnecessary. Schneider gives many current examples where cultural diplomacy is being an effective diplomatic tool, and areas in which it should be used more, such as the divide between Western and Eastern (Muslim) viewpoints.

According to Rugh, education exchanges, along with American spaces and culture exchanges have similar positive impact on relationship building between the US and foreign publics. While cultural diplomacy might lack in the diplomatic strategy component, these means offer the ethos of emotional bonding to strategic diplomacy for smaller more targeted audiences.

I believe the most effective cultural diplomacy policy includes a good coordinated mixture of all of these components within the public diplomacy realm, which would offer an efficient policy program where each element compliments the others.

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One thought on “Week 3: What kind of “cultural diplomacy” do you think would be most effective as a component of a larger public diplomacy program?

  1. I agree, Nertila, that one of the major challenges faced by public diplomacy efforts, is that it can easily turn propagandistic in nature. As you pointed out in Cummings definition of Cultural Diplomacy, such tactics are geared towards the relationship building component of diplomacy. Sports, arts and culture are significant tools in creating the ideal exchanges that are highlighted in successful diplomacy efforts. I read a fantastic article: “Was the Minnesota Orchestra’s trip to Cuba Good Diplomacy?” that discussed the quality of a recent trip by the Minnesota Orchestra to Cuba. The author of the article, Mark Porubcansky, most notably commented that cultural diplomacy is important, but is only really impactful when “both governments involved want them to matter”. Cultural diplomacy in effect is more of a starting or continuing point in the betterment of international relations. Cultural diplomacy nurtures further engagement and conversation between the governments involved. The article goes on to exemplify ping pong diplomacy as a key door opener for the United States into China. It was only when the Chinese officials invited the US table tennis team, after competing at the world championships in Japan, to visit China that the US and Chinese governments were able to renew diplomatic conversations. Read the full article here: https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2015/05/was-minnesota-orchestras-trip-cuba-good-diplomacy

    Next I would like to comment on your reference to Schneider’s recognition of Jazz as a successful form of cultural diplomacy during the Cold War era. It was interesting to consider how the artists were encouraged to express their dissident attitudes towards the United States during following the Civil War as a means of reflecting a freedom of expression to foreign publics. I also would like to consider where and when certain mediums and genres of arts forms have been most appropriate or effective in engaging foreign publics. For instance today one of the successful diplomacy efforts of the State Department is the program Next Level. Next Level is intended to address conflict resolution through hip hop. Hip hop as an American form has spread to be popular and form communities all over the world who share this art form; this has been made possible by content accessibility on the Internet and social media sites such as YouTube. The Next Level program sends hip hop artists of various mediums to 6 countries: India, Serbia, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, and Bangladesh (this past year selections) to collaborate with local artists, provide professional development, and encourage youth involvement. In exchange the foreign artists visit the United States to do collaborative workshops and engagements. I end with the notion that it is compelling to consider at what time and where certain cultural practices are most fruitful in successful diplomacy efforts. Learn more about the Next Level program here: https://www.facebook.com/NextLevelUSA

    -Samantha Sobash

    Liked by 1 person

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