Dr David Clarke, University of Bath

 

States often undertake ‘cultural diplomacy’ to improve their image with foreign populations and further their foreign policy aims. This can involve the promotion of cultural products abroad, such as literature, art, film, theatre and so on. States have traditionally been willing to invest considerable sums of money in such activity. Furthermore, following a recent period of greater willingness to resort to military intervention in order to further foreign policy aims (e.g. Iraq and Afghanistan), many governments are now considering again how they might influence other countries without resorting to military means.

International Relations experts have talked about cultural exchange in terms of exerting ‘soft power’ over other countries and their populations. However, such research has not adequately taken into account how cultural products promoted as part of cultural diplomacy are received abroad and how foreign audiences engage with those products. This project aims to developing new methodologies for understanding this process. It seeks to develop those methodologies by bringing together specialists in Cultural Studies with researchers in International Relations. Cultural Studies has long been interested in questions of reception and the interaction of audiences with the cultural products they encounter. In this sense, International Relations can learn from Cultural Studies by applying Cultural Studies theories to its study of cultural diplomacy. Equally, however, Cultural Studies researchers have not traditionally found it easy to adapt their approaches to address questions of importance to policymakers in the field of cultural diplomacy.

By facilitating an interaction between researchers from International Relations and Cultural Studies, the value of both disciplines to policymakers in this area will be enhanced. The project will also provide the theoretical underpinning for the development of future research, which will focus on the practical application of insights from Cultural Studies in the field of cultural diplomacy.

 

Dr David Clarke

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